Cougar bid for title falls short

WEST PLAINS, Mo. – The Western Nebraska Community College volleyball team had hopes of bringing home another national title, but it wasn't in the cards as the Cougars had to settle for a –runner-up finish at the NJCAA national tournament on Saturday in West Plains, Mo.

College of Southern Idaho played an almost flawless contest in earning the national championship with a sweep over the Cougars 25-20, 25-21, 25-20. The Golden Eagles finished the season with a 33-1 record with their only loss coming to the Cougars back on Aug. 31.

"Obviously we fought as hard as we could, but it didn't seem to be our night," fifth year WNCC coach Giovana Melo said. "But I am happy with the team. We have come a long ways and the players learned so many other things besides on the volleyball court and that is what I am so much proud of. The people they have become, the family we have created is more important to me than winning a national title."

The WNCC players need not be upset with a runner-up finish with the season they had. The Cougars finished with s another 40-win season and they have the longest streak of attending the national tournament at 14 straight.

Luiza Martins and Danika Youngblood each put in stellar performances to be placed on the all-tournament team. In the championship match, Martins finished with 27 set assists and eight digs, while Youngblood 11 kills and six digs.

Youngblood, who already committed to play at Cal State-Bakersfield and will join former Cougars Debora Araujo and Fernanda Goncalves, cherished being a part of the all-tournament team.

"That honor feels good because I was working on it all season and I wanted to be a part of that just because I saw Debora and Fernanda get it last year," she said. "And as a player, I wanted to work for that also."

WNCC also had plenty of outstanding performances during the tournament. Saturday night in the championship match, the Cougars just couldn't buy a break as Southern Idaho was on the top of its game.

Youngblood said they had a good season and they just couldn't get that final win.

"We just didn't have tonight what we had all tournament. I mean that is a good team {CSI) but I still think we were strong enough that we could have had it," she said. "The loss is frustrating and it is hard. But our team is a family and we are there for each other and we played like we are three for each other. We at least can leave saying that we left together as a family."

WNCC did start the match out strong, jumping to a 7-4 lead on a Youngblood kill and two service points. WNCC then pushed the lead to 14-10 on a Priscila Mendes kill and two service points and later led 17-13. It was after that the wheels started to fall off and it started as Marie Fujie served three points to tie the match at 17-17.

Martins stopped the run momentarily, but the Golden Eagles came back to take their second lead of the night on two service points by Eseta Makia before finishing off the set to win 25-20.

Makia started the Golden Eagles off with a four=point service run only to watch WNCC come back to tie the the second set at 5-5. The two teams would be tied at 17-17 after two Tasha Meyer points.

Southern Idaho jumped back in front 21-17 only to watch WNCC came back to tie the set at 21-21 on a Taylor VanderWerff kill and three Youngblood points. But Fujie served the final three points for the win.

WNCC came out in the third set and played well to start, holding an 8-6 lead. Southern Idaho came back as Kaylee Holmstead served three points for a 10-8 lead. Fujie then had a four-point service run for a 15-9 lead.

Rivera finished with 17 digs while Mendes had 10 digs and Tasha Meyer had 13 digs. Agson pounded home nine kills while Tovar had six kills followed by VanderWerff with three kills, and Lauren Knox with two kills.

The tournament MVP went to Southern Idaho's Keani Passi while the coach of the tournament went to CSI's Heidi Cartisser. All-tournament team selections included Marie Pierre-Bakima and Oni Lattin of San Jacinto, Vanessa Benke of Central Florida, Martins and Youngblood of Western Nebraska, Helena Peric of MSU-West Plains, Jaqueline Santos of Tyler, Andrea Tauai of Hillsborough, Yulia Voronko of Iowa Western, and Yang Yang of North Idaho.

Youngblood said the team has nothing to hang their heads about with the season they had.

"It was a good run and we had a good season and we stayed strong," she said.

Saturday's Results

9th Place – MSU-West Plains over Temple, 20-25, 25-11, 25-14, 25-18

7th Place – Hillsborough CC over North Idaho, 25-23, 25-20, 29-27

5th Place – Tyler JC over Central Florida, 25-14, 25-21, 25-18

3rd Place – San Jacinto over Iowa Western, 23-25, 28-26, 25-13, 25-22

Championship – Southern Idaho over Western Nebraska, 25-20, 25-20, 25-21

© 2014 Rural Radio Network. All rights reserved. Republishing, rebroadcasting, rewriting, redistributing prohibited. Copyright Information