MAC Volleyball

Freshman outside hitter Cailey Bracken (1) recorded six kills for the Mineral Area volleyball team during a first-round loss to No. 4 seed Miami-Dade at the NJCAA national tournament Thursday in Casper, Wyo.

Matt King, File Photo

CASPER, Wyo. – The Mineral Area volleyball team competed well through two sets against the No. 4 seed at the NJCAA national tournament on Thursday.

But the power of Miami-Dade (Fla.) assumed control down the stretch as the Lady Cardinals faltered with ball handling during their first appearance at the event in five years.

Massiel Matos hammered down 15 kills and Sun Wenting added 13 more for the Sharks, who scored 11 of 13 points during a closing stretch to achieve a 25-19, 25-21, 25-14 sweep.

Miami-Dade (18-5) advanced to face No. 5 Salt Lake later on Thursday. Every higher-seeded team won its opener at the event, but not before No. 1 Panola was pushed to five sets.

Freshman hitter Jane Kickham totaled 10 kills and six digs to pace Mineral Area (25-8), which dropped into a Friday consolation bracket clash against Wallace State (Ala.)

Setter Pam Zuluaga dished out 26 assists and provided a team-high nine digs. Cailey Bracken finished with six kills and Jessica Lindsey made seven digs in defeat.

Miami-Dade obtained early momentum and a 12-6 lead in game one when Matos’ reaching save created a kill from Naimir Garcia.

The Lady Cardinals trailed 23-13 before taking three straight points on a Bracken kill, Zaluaga ace and missed attack by the Sharks.

MAC responded with solid defense and generated 14 kills in game two, holding a brief 5-3 lead. Kickham put away four attacks while middle Taylor Covington and Bracken terminated three times each.

Covington and Kickham combined for a block to stay within 11-9, and Bracken answered a Miami-Dade dig with deep diagonal spike that made it 12-10.

But the Sharks bolted farther ahead with a 5-0 spurt that included the most active rally of the match. It ended on a partially deflected kill after Mineral Area libero Hunter Vargo made a brilliant save behind the referee’s chair.

Kickham answered a back-set smash by Wenting, and Covington rifled a quick swing down the middle for a 23-20 margin, but the Lady Cards unleashed an ensuing service error.

Matos dominated the third set with seven separate kills, and Miami-Dade stayed aggressive to remove any offensive consistency by the chasing Lady Cardinals.

Leidy Vargas made 41 assists and nine digs for the Sharks.

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