Two Cougars named All-American's

Youngblood and Martins

Western Nebraska Community College volleyball players Danika Youngblood and Luiza Martins were honored by the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) and the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) last week with first-team All-American honors.

Youngblood, a 5-8 sophomore outside hitter from South Jordan, Utah, and Martins, a 5-9 freshman setter from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, helped lead the Cougar women to a 40-3 record and a runner-up finish at the NJCAA Division I national tournament in November. The two were just part of a Cougar team that had could have had a number of others receive the honor, according to head coach Giovana Melo.

"It [the honors] says a lot about the program but I give the credit to all the other players as well," she said. "They get better because of each other. We had an extremely talented team this year and they made each other better every day."

The NJCAA selects first and second team selections as well as honorable mention in each of the divisions of one, two, and three. The AVCA's selection is a combination of all the two-year college no matter division or state association. The only other first-team all-American was Morgan Heise of Central Community College-Columbus.

Melo said it was an honor to watch Youngblood and Martins on the court this season.

"My memories are of them enjoying playing with each other and as a team," she said. "They are both hard working kids and brought a lot of energy to this team."

Melo said that Youngblood really stepped up her game this season, both on and off the court.

"Danika had a great season," she said. "I think she matured as a player and as a person."

Youngblood finished her sophomore season with 474 kills, 401 digs, 37 blocks, and 24 ace serves. She finished the season third in the nation in kills, kills per set and total attacks. She was also 8th overall in points per set at 4.4 while accumulating 520 points (kills plus aces plus solo blocks).

Youngblood and Martins each were selected to the NJCAA national tournament all-tournament team. The two were also on the Region IX South all-region team. Martins was also picked as the Region IX Setter of the Year and Freshman of the Year.

Martins had an outstanding season finishing with 10.26 assists per set. She also had 55 kills, 282 digs, and 36 ace serves. Melo said Martins became more comfortable her style of play as the season went along. Martins was third in the nation in total assists (1,334) and fifth in assists per set.

"Luiza struggled a little bit in the beginning with the language, getting used to a new game, and the different culture but I think by the end of the season she was able to pull all together," Melo said. "She is a great setter and still has a lot of room to improve."

Youngblood and Martins selection as first-team all-Americans by the NJCAA marks the third time in the last four years that WNCC has had two first-team all-Americans. Last year Fernanda Goncalves and Debora Araujo earned that honor and both players now playing at NCAA Division I Cal State-Bakersfield.

Kaleinani Kabalis and Sabina Piegza were tabbed first team all-Americans in 2009, while Fatima Balza and Nayka Benitez were all-Americans in 2008. All four played at Division I schools after WNCC. Piegza just finished her senior season at St. Johns University, while Kabalis played her final season at South Dakota State after playing a year at Washington State.

Balza, who is now the assistant coach for WNCC, won two national championships at Penn State. Benitez went on to play at Creighton and is now playing professionally in Puerto Rico.

Melo said it is an honor to see this success with this program.

"Honestly, I try to teach them [the players] to strive for success as becoming better people and getting better each day," she said. "The accomplishments come as consequence of their hard work."



Western Nebraska Community College volleyball players Danika Youngblood and Luiza Martins were honored by the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) and the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) last week with first-team All-American honors.

Youngblood, a 5-8 sophomore outside hitter from South Jordan, Utah, and Martins, a 5-9 freshman setter from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, helped lead the Cougar women to a 40-3 record and a runner-up finish at the NJCAA Division I national tournament in November. The two were just part of a Cougar team that had could have had a number of others receive the honor, according to head coach Giovana Melo.

"It [the honors] says a lot about the program but I give the credit to all the other players as well," she said. "They get better because of each other. We had an extremely talented team this year and they made each other better every day."

The NJCAA selects first and second team selections as well as honorable mention in each of the divisions of one, two, and three. The AVCA's selection is a combination of all the two-year college no matter division or state association. The only other first-team all-American was Morgan Heise of Central Community College-Columbus.

Melo said it was an honor to watch Youngblood and Martins on the court this season.

"My memories are of them enjoying playing with each other and as a team," she said. "They are both hard working kids and brought a lot of energy to this team."

Melo said that Youngblood really stepped up her game this season, both on and off the court.

"Danika had a great season," she said. "I think she matured as a player and as a person."

Youngblood finished her sophomore season with 474 kills, 401 digs, 37 blocks, and 24 ace serves. She finished the season third in the nation in kills, kills per set and total attacks. She was also 8th overall in points per set at 4.4 while accumulating 520 points (kills plus aces plus solo blocks).

Youngblood and Martins each were selected to the NJCAA national tournament all-tournament team. The two were also on the Region IX South all-region team. Martins was also picked as the Region IX Setter of the Year and Freshman of the Year.

Martins had an outstanding season finishing with 10.26 assists per set. She also had 55 kills, 282 digs, and 36 ace serves. Melo said Martins became more comfortable her style of play as the season went along. Martins was third in the nation in total assists (1,334) and fifth in assists per set.

"Luiza struggled a little bit in the beginning with the language, getting used to a new game, and the different culture but I think by the end of the season she was able to pull all together," Melo said. "She is a great setter and still has a lot of room to improve."

Youngblood and Martins selection as first-team all-Americans by the NJCAA marks the third time in the last four years that WNCC has had two first-team all-Americans. Last year Fernanda Goncalves and Debora Araujo earned that honor and both players now playing at NCAA Division I Cal State-Bakersfield.

Kaleinani Kabalis and Sabina Piegza were tabbed first team all-Americans in 2009, while Fatima Balza and Nayka Benitez were all-Americans in 2008. All four played at Division I schools after WNCC. Piegza just finished her senior season at St. Johns University, while Kabalis played her final season at South Dakota State after playing a year at Washington State.

Balza, who is now the assistant coach for WNCC, won two national championships at Penn State. Benitez went on to play at Creighton and is now playing professionally in Puerto Rico.

Melo said it is an honor to see this success with this program.

"Honestly, I try to teach them [the players] to strive for success as becoming better people and getting better each day," she said. "The accomplishments come as consequence of their hard work."

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