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Cougars win 11th in a row

Freshman Allora Tanner was the spark the No. 3 Western Nebraska Community College volleyball team needed Thursday against No. 13 Western Wyoming Community College.

Tanner, from South Weber, Utah, came off the bench and powered home a team-leading 12 kills to help the Cougars to a four-set win over the Mustangs 23-25, 25-14, 25-11, 25-18.

Tanner said she didn't realize she had that many kills, all she was doing was executing. The 6-foot-1 rightside hitter finished the night without a hitting error on 21 attempts. She also had three blocks on the night.

"Coach told us what to do and I just went for what she said and got scores," she said. "I didn't think I had 12 kills; I was just playing. I wasn't playing attention to the score or anything; I was just playing the game."

Tanner was just one of a handful of Cougars that stepped up on the night. In fact, Tanner said the big reason they came back after dropping the first set is because they were playing with energy.

"We came back stronger [after losing the first set]," Tanner said. "I think we came back more as a team and we played together. It was just a fun game. We were all energized and everyone was playing together. I really liked it."

Right behind Tanner in kills was Danika Youngblood with 10 kills and four blocks, followed by Priscila Mendes with nine kills, and Megan Johnson with eight kills. Taylor VanderWerff finished with five kills, but it was her presence at the net with five blocks that stood out.

Tanner said Thursday's win was a solid team effort.

"That depth is a plus because we are playing well as a team and it shows that we are having fun and working hard. That is showing on the court," she said.

WNCC needed this kind of energy-packed contest after what the Mustangs did in the first set. The Cougars held a comfortable 16-10 lead. That was before Western Wyoming's Jocelyn Harper and Cindy Davis went to the service line. Harper had three straight points and then Davis served up seven points to give the Mustangs a 22-17 lead before they won 25-23.

The loss awakened the Cougars as they next three sets their energy level was taken to a new level. Tanner said when they play at that high level, they can beat anyone. Plus, she said, they were having fun.

The second set saw the Cougars jump out to a 9-3 lead behind strong serving from Luiza Martins and Mendes. WNCC kept playing strong, forging out to a 20-11 lead on a Tanner kill. WNCC finally won the set on a Youngblood kill at 25-14.

WNCC kept excelling like a well-oiled machine as they combined for 10 kills and 14 service points for the easy victory of 25-11.

The fourth set was a little scary to start. Western Wyoming grabbed a 5-2 lead behind a kill from Caitlin McInerney and later led 10-9 behind a block and kill from McInerney. Things quickly shifted as Martins and Mendes served WNCC to a 17-11 lead.

The Mustangs cut the lead to 17-14 before Johnson had two big service points for WNCC to push the lead back to 21-14. WNCC kept excelling, especially the frontline play as Tanner came up big with a kill and a block. WNCC won the match as VanderWerff and Mendes each back back-to-back kills.

Serving and hitting played a big part in the Cougars win Thursday. The Cougars had 10 ace serves, led by Mendes with three and Tasha Meyer and Johnson with two each. On the hitting side, WNCC finished with a 47 kills, five solo blocks, and 12 assisted blocks. They also had just 13 hitting errors.

Martins finished the match with 42 set assists, an ace, eight digs, two kills and two blocks. Also for WNCC, Alex Rivera had three set assists and 15 digs; Youngblood adds eight digs; Mendes had nine digs; Johnson had six digs; and Meyer had seven digs.

WNCC, 17-2 and winners of 11 straight, will return to action Friday and Saturday when they co-host the Wyo-Braska Invite with Eastern Wyoming College. The Cougars will face Sheridan College at noon and Laramie County Community at 4 p.m. on Friday.

"It feels great [to have won 11 straight matches," Tanner said. "We just need to keep playing hard at practices. Everything starts at practice and if we play hard at practice it will show up on the court during games."

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