Cougars one win away

TRINIDAD, Colo. – The Western Nebraska Community College volleyball team is just one way from a 15th straight regional title after claiming two wins in the Region IX South Tournament Friday in Trinidad, Colo.

The Cougars opened the tournament with a sweep over host Trinidad State Junior College 25-20, 25-13, 25-15. WNCC then moved into today's championship by dropping Northeastern Junior College in straight sets 25-19, 25-17, 25-15.

WNCC will play the winner of the third place match today at 1 p.m. for the Region IX championship.

WNCC coach Giovana Melo was pleased with how her team played after a slow start in the Trinidad State match.

"We were a little bit nervous and there was some jitters going on. But we were able to calm down, breath, and go back to our normal selves and have fun and confidence and play," she said.

The NJC match was pretty impressive in how WNCC played, where they didn't allow NJC many runs and they hustled after ball after ball. Melo said her team stayed in the game throughout against NJC.

"It is regionals and we knew they were going to come at us like they have nothing to lose. If we made an error, we wanted to snap out of it quick," Melo said. "We got better doing that from the first of the season where we would make two, three, four, five, six errors in a row before we would snap out of it. I thought they did a better job of snapping out of making an error than what we have."

Hustling was also a big part in the Cougars' win and Melo preaches to go after every ball.

"After all those hustle plays that we went after, we came back and scored on them. Those hustle plays were the difference in the set," Melo said. "We took off after that. I preach that every day to go after every ball and always believe that you can go get it and that made a huge difference."

In the Cougar's tourney opener, WNCC was in a battle with Trinidad in the first set before flexing its muscles to claim sets two and three with somewhat ease.

Leticia Silva paced the Cougars with nine kills and four blocks, followed by Kyle Fa'amoe with eight kills and six blocks. Priscila Mendes added seven kills, three blocks, and four digs, followed by Allora Tanner with five kills and four blocks, Lindsay Wehkamp with five kills and seven blocks; Gabriele Varela with two kills and three blocks; Rachael McCracken with six eight points; Luiza Martins with 13 set assists; Morgan Broussard with 13 set assists and nine points; and Erika Goodwin with seven points and an ace.

Against NJC, WNCC raced out to a 13-6 lead and led 18-11 on a Tanner kill. The Cougars went up 22-16 on a Varela kill before NJC sliced the lead to 22-18. WNCC won the first set on a Leticia Silva kill.

The second set saw WNCC lead from start to finish, bolting to a five-point lead at 9-4 on a Varela kill and led 12-7 on a Mendes solo block. NJC came back to cut the deficit to 14-13 before the Cougars went up 19-15. The Cougars won the second set as Mendes served the final four points for the 25-17 win.

NJC started the third set, grabbing a 3-0 lead and led 5-2. After that WNCC heated up after a Kayla Martin kill. Then Rachael McCracken served five points behind the strong front row play of Martin and Silva for an 8-5 lead. WNCC pushed the lead to 16-9 on two Wehkamp points and went up 21-12 after two points from Mendes. WNCC went on to win 25-15.

Mendes paced the Cougars with 12 kills and six blocks, while Silva had 11 kills. Tanner also hammered down nine kills with four blocks, while Varela had four kills. Kayla Martin finished with five kills in playing just the set. Martin has been sidelined while healing a foot injury.

Martins finished with 26 set assists and six points, while Broussard had 19 set assists and three points. McCracken had six points, while Goodwin had seven points

In earlier action in the Region IX South Tournament, NJC escaped Otero in five sets 25-19, 23-25, 19-25, 25-19, 15-6; Otero eliminated Lamar 27-25, 25-10, 25-22; Trinidad took out McCook 25-11, 25-19, 25-21, 25-22.

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