Make it 15 in a for the Cougars

TRINIDAD, Colo. – The Western Nebraska Community College volleyball team continued its dominance at the regional tournament, claiming a 15th straight title in thundering fashion.

The Cougars captured the title in amazing fashion as they swept Northeastern Junior College 25-21, 25-15, 25-12 to earn a berth in the NJCAA national tournament Nov. 21-23 in Casper, Wyo. WNCC enters nationals with a 37-3 record.

What makes this win special is the Cougars swept through all their sub-region opponents in both the regular season and the tournament for the first time since 2007.

Sophomore Allora Tanner, who was named to the regional tournament all-tournament team along with Rachael McCracken, Priscila Mendes, and Leticia Silva, this win is special after the heartache the team went through at nationals last season. This team was focused.

"Winning regionals was honestly amazing to have our whole team me in sync and come together and win like they did and be on top," Tanner said. "To put everything we had, our hearts and our blood, just put everything on the table and leave it on the floor in coming out like that is great."

For Tanner and the other sophomores on the team that experienced that national tournament championship loss last November, the dominance they had in the regional tournament was sweet. But, they know they have to stay focused and as they head to their 15th straight national tournament, the longest active streak of any junior college team.

"Honestly, we cannot under estimate anybody no matter if we beat them before or lost to them," Tanner said. "We just have to play our game and put all we have on the floor and have no regrets. We need to leave it all out on the floor. What we came here to do after working so many hours and so hard in practices, winning the national tournament is our goal."

What really stood out for the Cougars is the depth that this team showcased not only at the regional tournament but all season. Erika Goodwin, a freshman from Junction City, Kan., played a huge role on defense and serving in spot situations. For her, this win tops everything.

"It feels great to know we got this far together as a team and that we worked so hard all season and to achieve our goal of winning Region IX," Goodwin, who had had two clutch serves late in the third set, said. "I think we did really well. We were pretty consistent today and working together as a team. We had a few laurels but we picked it back up and got our energy up and I think that is what helped us."

WNCC, like they have done all season, used their depth to race to the win. Priscila Mendes paced the Cougars with 11 kills, two blocks, eight points, and nine digs. Leticia Silva followed with eight kills and two blocks; Tanner finished with six kills and two blocks; Kylie Fa'amoe had three kills and two blocks; and Kayla Martin had five kills and three blocks.

The Cougars also received three blocks from Lindsay Wehkamp; 25 digs and six digs, including the game winning ace from Rachael McCracken; 14 set assists from Morgan Broussard; 23 set assists and nine points from Luiza Martins; and two digs and four points from Goodwin.

Tanner said this depth the team has makes this team special and hard to beat.

"We all have our strengths and weaknesses, but we come together and work together to help each other," she said. "We just come out and get the job done. We just do it together as a team. That is a huge thing for us because we have grown together and it shows on the court.":

WNCC and NJC battled tough in the first set as NJC held a 16-15 lead before a Mendes kill and two McCracken points put WNCC up 21-17. WNCC went up 24-19 before a Tanner kill ended the set for WNCC.

NJC started the second set strong, leading 7-4 and 9-8. But WNCC responded with a flurry has Broussard went on a five point run and Wehkamp added two points for a 21-13 lead. McCracken finished off the set with a service point.

The third set was all WNCC with Martins serving four points for a 4-0 lead and WNCC never looked back, bolting to a 12-3 lead on two Broussard points. McCracken sealed the championship on an ace serve.

WNCC had plenty of post-tournament honors. Four Cougars made the South All-region team. Martin was named Freshman of the Year, Martins was named Setter of the year, and McCracken was Libero of the year. Silva, along with those three players, were al on the South All-Region team.

WNCC head coach Giovana Melo was named South Coach of the Year.

Four Cougars were also named to the all-tournament team. They were Silva, Tanner, McCracken, and Mendes.

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