Cougars sweep Otero

There is no doubt that Danika Youngblood loves to hit and it doesn't matter if it is from the front or the back row. Thursday night, Youngblood flashed her intense hitting with nine kills including several from the back row, to help the second-ranked Cougars sweep past Otero Junior College 25-11, 25-13, 25-16.

Youngblood, who comes from South Jordan, Utah, said as much as she likes to power home a kill from the outside, it is those back row kills that gives her that adrenaline rush.

"Honestly, those back row kills are my favorite to hit," the fourth-best hitter in the NJCAA at 3.87 kills a game average said. "I just can't wait to hit one of those back row hits. It is the most fun hits to hit. I just feel like I Have a lot of power. "

And there is nothing better that puts a smile on Youngblood's face when she gets one of those back row kills that leaves a dent in the Cougar Palace floor. To be honest, Youngblood said that she has always smacked those thundering kills since high school.

"I have always hit like that from the back row and it is nothing new for me here," she said. "I just like the fact that I can jump forward and I have a lot of room to move around. The back row kill is my favorite by far."

More importantly, though, Thursday's win was a team effort for the 23-2 Cougars. Megan Johnson pounded home 10 kills to lead the team followed by Allora Tanner with eight kills. Youngblood said the team is playing well as they are in the midst of a 17-match win streak.

"I think we are playing really strong," she said. "It is hard to go from a high level of play constantly to dropping to a lower level against some team but we just have to learn to keep our level high."

WNCC definitely looked like the No. 2 team in the nation on Thursday in the opening set as Luiza Martins served seven straight points for a 7-1 lead. Youngblood then picked up the pace from the service line with four points along with two kills from Johnson for an 18-5 lead.

Later, Youngblood hammered home one of those back row kills for a 20-8 lead and Johnson finished off the set with a kill and the 25-11 win.

Strong serving once again paid dividends in the second set. After Otero held a 2-1 lead, Johnson served four points for a 5-2 lead. Moments later, Morgan Broussard had the hot hand from beyond the line with four points, including two aces for a 10-3 lead.

Youngblood followed with three straight points, including her second back row kill of the match for a 13-4 lead. Otero, however, came back to slice the lead to 15-10. Johnson stopped the run with a kill and then Priscila Mendes had four points for a 20-10 lead before Youngblood finished off the set with a kill.

The third set was a battle. WNCC held a 9-5 lead before Ana-Marija Kasijevic served three points to tie the set at 9-9. Tanner came back to hit a kill to put the Cougars back in front and then Martins served six points for a 16-9 lead.

Otero sliced the lead on a kill my Kasiljevic only to watch Lauren Knox serve three points, powered by two kills by Tanner for a 23-14 lead. Tanner finally finished off the Rattlers with a kill to give the Cougars their sixth straight sweep.

Youngblood had a near double-double on the day, finishing with nine kills, 10 digs and six points, while Johnson had 10 kills and six points. Mendes finished with four kills, six points, and 15 digs; while Kat Agson had six kills and three blocks.

Also for the Cougars, Yoro Tovar ahd three kills, two blocks and five points; Martins had 11 points, three aces, four digs, and 30 set assists; Alex Rivera had 11 digs; Knox had three kills, two aces, and five points; Lindsay Wehkamp had two kills; and Broussard had four points, two aces, four digs, and nine set assists.

WNCC will continue its home stretch of games with a contest against Lamar Community College on Friday at 7 p.m. Lamar fell to NJC in four sets on Thursday 27-29, 25-12, 25-13, 25-15. The Cougars will then host Trinidad State Junior College at 1 p.m. to finish off the nine-straight home schedule.

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