No. 1 Cougars win opening matches

The Western Nebraska Community College and Iowa Western Community College volleyball teams played like the No. 1 and 2 teams in the nation Friday evening and the Cougars received clutch serving from freshman Rachael McCracken to topple Iowa Western in four sets Friday in the Reiver Classic.

The Cougars captured the first two games against the Reivers 26-24, 25-20 before falling in an epic third set 36-34. WNCC then came back from a 13-5 fourth set deficit to win the fourth game 25-23.

The Iowa Western win capped off a perfect day for the Cougars after WNCC won the season opener against No. 4 San Jacinto College 25-17, 25-22, 25-23.

McCracken, who had a double-double in the Iowa Western contest with 18 digs and 12 points, said this team kept believing in the IWCC contest to get the win.

"We really had to come together as a team and really fight and fight. We just wanted the game that much and came together as a team and we pulled it back together," she said. "The win says a lot about us that we don't give up. No matter the situation, we will always come back and fight in the next game. We were just going to forget the last game and keep going."

The Cougars didn't play perfect in neither match, but what matters is getting the win in the end. McCracken said it felt good to come out of this national-power tournament with two wins. They, now, need to keep playing strong in Saturday's contests against Barton at 11 a.m. and No. 6 Salt Lake Community College at 3 p.m.

"I think we were a little bit nervous whenever we started and then as we kept playing all the nervous went away," she said. "[Saturday] we need to keep playing our game and come out strong and don't expect anything less from the other teams."

The Iowa Western contest was the match of the night. WNCC battled from several deficits int eh first set, including a 22-19 deficit to tie the game at 23-23 on three Lindsay Wehkamp points. The Cougars then won the contest on an Allora Tanner kill and Priscila Mendes service points.

WNCC trailed a couple times in the second set at 13-12 and 19-18, before both squads were tied at 20-20. Wehkamp then hampered home a kill and served four straight points and the frontline play of Leticia Silva to win 25-20.

The two top-ranked teams in the nation battled tooth and nail in the third set. The Reivers had an 18-15 lead before WNCC game back to tie the game at 21-21 on a Mendes kill. Iowa Western took a brief 22-21 lead before the Cougars were one point from the match at 24-22. Iowa Western fought back to grab a 25-24 lead and from there both teams went back and forth before the Reivers won 36-34.

Iowa Western continued its momentum in the fourth set, vaulting to a 13-5 lead behind seven points from Kassidy Sullivan. McCracken brought the Cougars back, serving five straight points to 13-11. WNCC finally tied the game at 17-17 on a Wehkamp service point.

Iowa Western came back to grab a 22-18 lead by a Kylie Fa'amoe kill stopped the run. The Reivers held a 23-21 lead before a Kayla Martin kill and then McCracken served the final three points, including a crucial ace serve to help the Cougars capture the win.

McCracken said she wasn't nervous at all in the fourth set. In fact, she said, coming back from the deficits shows that this team has plenty of fight.

"When I went back to serve, I was just thinking to get the ball in and then play defense," she said. "I just wanted to do my part and help my team out and count on them to back me up with my serve."

Silva led the team with 14 kills and seven blocks, Martin had 11 kills, three blocks, eight digs, and four points; Mendes finished with 10 kills, three blocks, six digs, and six points; Fa'amoe had seven kills, 14 blocks, and four solo blocks; Wehkamp had 5 kills, seven blocks, four points, and two digs; Luiza Martins had 29 set assists, three digs, and four points; and Morgan Broussard had 10 set assists.

The Cougars were balanced in the San Jacinto win. Martins led the team with nine kills, four blocks, and three points; Mendes had eight kills, four points, and three digs; Silva had five kills and three blocks; Tanner had five kills and four blocks; Fa'Amoe had four kills and four blocks; WehKamp had three kills and five blocks; Martins had 16 set assists, five points, and four digs; Broussard had 12 set assists and four digs; and McCracken had qi digs, six points, and two aces.

Reiver Classic First Day Results

Iowa Western def. Salt Lake 25-20, 18-25, 21-25, 25-17, 15-7
Western Nebraska def. San Jacinto 25-17, 25-22, 25-23
Western Wyoming def. Barton 25-15, 25-15, 25-19
Polk State def. Jefferson 25-22, 23-25, 19-25, 25-17, 15-9
Salt Lake def. San Jacinto 25-19, 22-25, 25-14, 25-21
Western Nebraska def. Iowa Western 26-24, 25-20, 34-36, 25-23
Western Wyoming def. Polk State 25-8, 17-25, 25-20, 19-25, 15-6
Jefferson def. Barton 25-16, 25-17, 25-20

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