By MIKE MONTFORT
TYLER — Seventh-ranked Navarro (20-2) faces more nationally ranked challenges at the Tyler Junior College Invitational that begins Friday at Floyd Wagstaff Gym.
Coach Ronda Shirley’s Region XIV East-Zone-leading Bulldogs test the No. 6 Seward County Saints (17-2) at 11 am Friday — the first of four matches scheduled during the two-day meet.
The Navarro-Seward match pairs squads among the NJCAA’s top 8 in kills (NC 884, Seward 883). First-year coach Tony Trifonov’s Saints own an NJCAA-best .397 hitting percentage that meets a Bulldog squad leading the nation in block total (214) and block-assists (293 / 13.32 per match).
The Kansas Jayhawk Conference West leaders, led by sophomores Luz Sierra (6-6), Giovanna Tapigliani and freshman outside hitter Djuly Schmorantz, are riding a recent wave of success that includes wins over ranked Mineral Area College, No. 2 Iowa Western and Missouri State-West Plains last weekend at the Blue Dragon Invitational in Hutchinson, Ks., plus a 3-0 sweep of 18th-ranked Colby Monday in a Jayhawk West battle.
Navarro is enjoying its most successful runs in years, en route to the program’s highest-ever NJCAA volleyball ranking. Riding a two-match win streak overall and three in conference play, the Bulldogs are 7-2 against ranked opposition and 3-2 against Top-10 teams. NC has posted three-game sweeps in 15 of their victories this season.
Five Bulldogs have more than 100 kills, led by Viktoria Velika’s 155, Bailey Foy’s 146, Natalie Garcia’s 142, Hannah Barosh’s 133 and Deja Arnold’s 104. Velika, Foy, Arnold, Garcia and assist-leading setter Emily Witt create varying block-assist combinations.
NC wraps up play Friday at 3 pm against Region V foe North Central Texas (9-10). The Bulldogs return Saturday to clash at 9 am with the Missouri State-West Plains Grizzlies (8-8) and at 1 pm against the College of Central Florida Patriots (11-8).
Navarro returns to Region XIV East Zone play at the Wolens Special Events Center on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 3, when its hosts the Tyler Apache Ladies.