Cougars win twice in Salt Lake Saturday

SALT LAKE CITY , UTAH -- After dropping its first match of the season on Friday, the Western Nebraska Community College volleyball tam roared back on Saturday with authority, dropping the number three and eight teams in the country at the Salt Lake Invite.

Priscila Mendes was a big reason on the offensive side in leading the Cougars to the wins. The sophomore had 13 kills as the Cougars opened the day taking down No. 8 Missouri State-West Plains. After dropping the first set 25-22, the Cougars roared back taking the next three 25-23, 25-17, 25-8 behind 10 blocks from Kylie Fa'amoe.

WNCC continued its impressive play against the College of Southern Idaho, who defeated the Cougars in straight games last November for the national title. This time Mendes pounded home 10 kills and the Cougars swept past the No. 3 College of Southern Idaho Golden Eagles 25-25-21, 25-17, 25-12. CSI has now lost three matches this season, including being swept by not only WNCC but Central Arizona College on Saturday in the Salt Lake tourney.

What impressed head coach Giovana Melo the most about Saturday's wins was how her team put the loss to Snow College behind them to get back on the winning track.

"That was huge [how they came back from the loss]," she said. "It showed how much heart they have."

While Melo didn't think the team played perfect, it was enough to get the win.

"I felt like there was a lot of things that we are still doing that we need to get better at in the win, but obviously the returners had a little bit of heart in this game," she said. "The sophomores knew, even though we weren't playing for a national title, it [the loss] was in the back of their minds. I didn't think we played as well as we could have, but i thought it was enough to win."

The CSI match was a classic match-up between last's national championship teams. CSI held a 17-16 lead before Morgan Broussard served four points, including an ace to put the Cougars in front 20-17. After that the Cougars would never trail again in either the rest of the first set or games two and three.

WNCC won the first set 25-21 on a Mendes kill. Then, in game two, Mendes served five straight points for a 6-0 lead. After CSI sliced the lead to 10-9, Luiza Martins went on a six=point service run for a 17-8 lead and the Cougars cruised to the 25-17 wind.

The Cougars started the third game even hotter. Martins six straight points for a 6-0 lead and the Cougars kept chugging along like a steam locomotive. WNCC led 12-5 at one stretch before Kayla Martin went on a four-point run to put the lead to double digits at 18-6. The Cougars stayed strong for the 25-12 win.

WNCC had balanced offensive and defensive showings. Mendes paced the team with 10 kills, seven digs, four points, and two blocks. Martin also rattled home nine kills, three blocks and four points; Lindsay Wehkamp had four blocks, while Leticia Silva had six kills and three blocks.

Fa'amoe and Allora Tanner, who both returned to their home state for the tournament, contributed five kills each. Tanner also had six blocks while Fa'amoe had nine blocks.

Also for the Cougars, Rachael McCracken had 21 digs, Martins had six digs, 16 set assists, eight points, and two aces; Broussard had six digs, nine set assists, and six points; and Kasey Lafitaga ahd three digs.

In the opener against No. Missouri State-West Plains, it took WNCC awhile to wake up. WNCC dropped the first game 25-22 after leading 9-2 on Wehkamp's six service points. WNCC even held a 14-9 lead before West Plains ran off seven straight points for a 17-14 lead and the 25-22 win.

West Plains led the second game 12-11 before WNCC decided to wake up. Gaby Varela started things with a kill and then Broussard had three points for a 15-12 lead. West Plains cut the lead to one point on several occasions before a Martin kill gave them the win.

WNCC won the third game quite easily at 25-17 and then completely dominated game four as Wehkamp went on a seven point service run for a 9-2 lead. Later, Mendez served up six points for a 24-7 lead. WNCC won the match on a Wehkamp kill.

Mendes paced the team with 13 kills, seven digs, seven points, and two blocks, followed by Martin with nine kills, four blocks, two digs, and six points. Wehkamp finished with seven kills, six blocks and 16 points, Leticia Silva had eight kills and eight points, Fa'amoe had five kills and 10 blocks; and Varela had three kills and six blocks.

Also for the Cougars, McCracken had 11 digs; Martins had six digs, 22 set assists, and seven points; Broussard had five points and 10 set assists; and Lafitaga had two digs.

Melo said that this team can be dangerous when they are playing well. The problem is getting the woke up.

"I don't what happened to our team today that it took a while for them to get started," she said. "Yesterday was not a great day and today it took us a while to wake up. But once they wake up they can be good."

The Cougars will be back in action Tuesday when they travel to Torrington, Wyo., to face Eastern Wyoming College at 7 p.m. After that, the Cougars will compete in the Western Wyoming tourney next weekend.

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