Even without its ace on the court, the second-ranked Blinn Buccaneer volleyball team was able to escape with a win.

The Buccaneers beat Hill College here Friday night without sophomore star Bruna Evangelista, 21-25, 25-22, 26-24, 19-25, 15-8.

Coach Erin Mellinger opted to give Evangelista a night off for rest with a Wednesday night match looming against San Jacinto, one that will determine who takes the No. 1 seed out of the Region XIV South Zone.

The Bucs had their struggles throughout the match Friday night that allowed Hill to stick around, but with the match on the line, Blinn pulled its game together when it mattered most.

“We really came together tonight and everyone contributed in helping pick the team up,” Mellinger said. “And it’s a lot harder to do that when things are tight and there’s a lot of pressure. But the girls weren’t going to go down without a fight.”

Helping the Bucs’ cause was sophomore Kariana Castanon-Hill, the Region XIV Conference Player of the Week, and freshman Rachel Sharp, who filled in at middle blocker for Evangelista. Castanon-Hill and Sharp combined for 27 kills and four blocks.

With a 2-1 match lead going into the fourth set, the Bucs couldn’t find any consistency in their serve receive, which allowed Hill to take an 18-10 lead in the set. While Hill went on to win the set, Blinn scored nine of the final 16 points to snatch the momentum back in its favor.

The Bucs carried that wave of momentum into the fifth set.

“That was the difference-maker in the match,” Mellinger said.

Blinn stormed out to a 10-5 lead and never allowed Hill back in the match.

 Trinity Alualu followed up her strong play against Tyler Junior College Tuesday night with another good outing Friday. Alualu posted 10 kills, and Rebecca Reeve had nine. Jaeda Allen, who helped rally the Bucs going into the fifth set, blasted six kills.

Setter Crystal Young, who was banged up on a play in the fourth set, posted a double-double with 47 assists and 18 digs. Young took an elbow to the eye going for a block, but finished out the match.

Alyssa LaMont led the defense with 19 digs.

“The team is a little banged up right now, but players stepped up when they needed to,” Mellinger said. “We’re a family, and we have to take care of each other. Tonight, the girls did that.”

For more information on Blinn volleyball, visit www.buccaneersports.com.

(Courtesy: Matt Kaiser, Blinn Information)

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