Special to The Sun
A make-shift lineup didn’t slow down Central Oklahoma in a three-set trouncing of Mid-America Christian Saturday night as the Bronchos completed a sweep of two intrastate rivals at Hamilton Field House.
UCO kept standouts Tate Hardaker and Barbara Jackson on the bench in a 25-15, 25-13, 25-14 rout of the Evangels after blitzing Northwestern Oklahoma 25-16, 25-19, 25-20 earlier in the day.
“It was a good day for us and we got to play a lot of people,” said head coach Edgar Miraku, whose team improved to 18-7 on the season while taking a break from its Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association schedule. “We tried some different combinations and mixed things up, but we still played pretty well in both matches.”
Hardaker missed the first match of a stellar four-year career, ending her streak of 437 consecutive sets played. The senior libero, who ranks second on UCO’s career digs list with 2,003, leads the MIAA and is among the NCAA Division II national leaders in digs with 5.64 a set.
Jackson tops the Bronchos in kills (289) and is second in digs (211).
But Central Oklahoma didn’t need either player against the Evangels, getting a season-high 10 kills from Mallory Fox. Allison Barr hit .417 with eight kills, while Bonnie Vernon chipped in six kills and Joanna Huckabee and Juliette Smith five apiece.
Mikayla Bangasser, one of three players who shared libero duties in place of Hardaker, finished with a season- and match-high 14 digs and Carissa Ophus had three of UCO’s eight service aces.
The Bronchos led just 9-8 in the first set against MACU before a Fox ace and back-to-back hitting errors by the Evangels put UCO in control.
Huckabee had two kills and Fox one in staking the Bronchos to a quick 3-0 lead in the second-set romp, while Smith had two kills and Ophus a pair of aces in an early 6-0 run that gave UCO a big lead.
Smith hit .750 with 10 kills and just one error in 12 attacks while adding four blocks and Barr hit .500 with 10 kills and one miscue in 18 to lead UCO’s sweep of the Rangers in the afternoon match.
UCO hit .355 as a team, also getting a .385 effort from Fox (seven kills and two errors in 13 attacks). Hardaker led the defense once again, collecting 11 of her match-high 23 digs in the first set.
and Taylyn Schwartz had 34 assists, six digs and two aces.
The first set went back and fourth through most of the early going and the Bronchos trailed 12-11 before ripping off eight unanswered points to take control. Smith had two kills and two blocks during that run to give UCO a 19-13 lead en route to taking the set.
Smith opened the second set with a spike at the middle and a solo block to give the Bronchos a quick 2-0 lead and Ophus had consecutive aces later as UCO cruised to the easy win.
The Bronchos used a 7-0 run to turn an 11-9 lead into an 18-9 cushion in the third set en route to closing out the match.
UCO returns to league play next week, hosting Fort Hays State on Friday and No. 9-ranked Nebraska-Kearney on Saturday.