MAC Volleyball

Sophomore Amy Leftridge and the 14th-ranked Mineral Area volleyball team extended the best start in program history to a perfect 21-0 after defeating four opponents from Texas this weekend in Hutchinson, Kan.

Matt King, File Photo

HUTCHINSON, Kan. – The Mineral Area volleyball team has an ultimate goal of making two separate trips this season to the Hutchinson Sports Arena, host site of the NJCAA Division I tournament in November.

The initial visit ended according to plan for the Lady Cardinals, who swept four opponents from Texas over the weekend to extend the longest win streak in program history.

Action began on Friday morning, and 14th-ranked Mineral Area surged back from one set down against both No. 17 Navarro and Odessa to earn a pair of hard-fought victories.

Jane Kickham recorded 19 kills with 12 digs, and was involved in six blocks as the Lady Cardinals turned back Navarro 22-25, 25-17, 25-20, 25-16.

Sophomore setter Pam Zuluaga achieved two season highs with 45 assists and 20 digs, and also served up three aces in the win.

Cailey Bracken totaled 17 kills plus 15 digs, and Anica Popadic knocked down a season-best 10 kills while sharing five double-blocks in the win.

Farmington graduate Ainslee Finch set a new collegiate high with 18 digs, and libero Shelby Meyer led the Lady Cards with 21.

Mineral Area faced a greater degree of pressure in a five-set marathon against Odessa, but dominated the decisive stanza to secure a 23-25, 25-21, 25-19, 19-25, 15-10 outcome.

The Lady Cardinals went the distance for the first time this season after dropping only one set during their first 17 matches, but jumped ahead 9-3 after Odessa took game four to square the contest.

Bracken compiled 18 kills with 12 digs, and Kickham easily surpassed her season high in digs with 22 while sending down 16 kills.

Zuluaga dished out 44 assists while making 15 digs, and Meyer was especially active with 30 digs while earning seven assists on back-row passes.

Melissa Avendano spiked nine kills and Raylyn Dodd added seven to a more balanced Mineral Area attack. Popadic provided three big solo blocks along with six kills.

Finch finished with nine digs, and Amy Leftridge collected two aces.

Blocking spurred the Lady Cardinals in two contests on Saturday. Their most decisive performance of the weekend was a 25-21, 25-14, 25-14 result over Frank Phillips.

Kickham walloped a season-high 19 kills on just 26 attacks, and added 14 digs in the straight-set victory. Popadic tallied three of her team’s nine solo rejections.

Zuluaga had 40 assists with 10 digs, and Bracken provided 11 kills, 13 digs and two aces. Avendano and Dodd chipped in five kills each, while Meyer brought up 14 digs and Finch produced eight more.

Mineral Area capped its tournament with a 25-20, 25-21, 23-25, 25-17 win over Tyler after Dodd posted three solo blocks and eight kills.

Zuluaga delivered one of her most diversified statistical matches to date with 45 assists, 16 digs, two blocks and two aces.

Meyer registered 25 digs along with two aces, and Finch bolstered the defense with 16 digs as the Lady Cardinals safely improved to 21-0 overall.

Bracken smashed a team-high 16 kills while making 14 digs, and Kickham accounted for 14 kills plus 22 digs. Popadic and Avendano added seven kills each.

Mineral Area – one of three remaining unbeaten junior college teams in the nation – will travel to MSU-West Plains for a pivotal Region 16 battle on Wednesday.

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