TAYLORSVILLE Carrying a 21-game win streak into this past weekend, the newly top-ranked Lady Bruins from Salt Lake Community College extended the streak to 23 by sweeping both North Idaho College and eighth ranked College of Southern Idaho in three straight to tally two more conference wins.
The Lady Bruins (8-0 in conference play and 37-1 overall), who have been ranked No. 2 in the nation for most of this season, took over the No. 1 ranking with former top-ranked Western Nebraska's loss to Frank Phillips College from Borger, Texas.
"It's so exciting. It's a little more pressure, but mostly just exciting," sophomore Samantha Richard said.
By taking over the No. 1 spot, the Lady Bruins became the first team in Salt Lake Community College's history in any sport to hold a first-place national ranking.
"Being No. 2 kept us humble and gave us something to work for, but once you're at No. 1, you realize it's just the same. Except now we have a bigger target on our backs," sophomore Megan Metcalf said with a smile. "Everyone wants to take down No. 1."
Richard and Metcalf are two of SLCC's nine sophomores. As a veteran team, the Bruins have played with steadiness and strength since the first game of the season, and with depth at every position in the lineup, they are primed to continue.
"We always start out with the same goals win the tournament, win the conference, win the national tournament, but it wasn't until after our first tournament that I had an idea of how good we could really be," Metcalf said. "If there was ever a year to do it, this is it."
The increased national presence has led to bigger crowds at home, and the fans are definitely getting their money's worth. The Lady Bruins play each game with energy, power and excitement.
Sophomore setter Michaela Hanakova controls the tempo of the matches for the Lady Bruins. She is 17th in the nation in both assists per game, averaging 10.655, and hitting efficiency at 47.37 percent. Fellow sophomore Talita Santos is right behind Hanakova in hitting efficiency, ranked 19th in the nation at 46.8 percent.
Although the Lady Bruins have finished their conference home games, they still have two more on the road, traveling to Colorado Northwestern in Rangely on Oct. 26 and the College of Eastern Utah in Price on Oct. 27. After that, according to the conference rules, they have to have a playoff game against Snow College the fifth matchup this season between the Bruins and Badgers.
"It doesn't matter what we do for the rest of the season because if we lose that game to Snow, that's it," head coach Shay Goulding said. "It's scary, but at the same time, we've beat them pretty soundly every time," Metcalf said.
SLCC will host Snow College in the playoff game on Oct. 29 at 7 p.m., and then the Bruins have earned the right to host the District A Championship, which will be held at Salt Lake Community College on Nov. 3 at 7 p.m. Not only will that be the final time to come out and catch the Bruins at home, it will also be their final game before the national tourney, which will be held Nov. 15-17 in Council Bluffs, Iowa.