Cougars to play Salt Lake City
The Western Nebraska Community College softball team will enter the NJCAA national tournament with a goal of making school history. The road, however, won't be an easy one as the Cougars earned the No. 15 seed with a 45-24 record.
The Cougars open the tournament on Thursday at 1 p.m. against No. 2 seed Salt Lake Community College (55-7). WNCC and Salt Lake meet in the tournament's first game last year.
Mariah Shepherd, a freshman from Grantsville, Utah, said it is exciting to be going to nationals and keeping up the tradition. This is the Cougars third straight trip to the national tournament and the fourth in five years.
"Our goal is to make a tradition down there and come back with a couple wins and just do our best," Shepherd said.
Shepherd and a lot of the girls have played against the Salt Lake players while in high school, so it could be a reunion of sorts on the field. The Cougar players, however, want to get a win against the Utah junior college team.
"I think we just need to be confident and trust ourselves that we can compete with them," she said. "They are a beatable team. We just have to be confident. I am pretty excited to be going back to Utah."
WNCC enters the tournament on quite a roll, capturing their last 16 games. It is that winning attitude that has the team going in with confidence. The one thing that the Cougars have managed was winning several 1-0 games this year. Shepherd said that should help them heading into the tournament.
"Oh for sure the tough schedule and close games will help us," she said. "We know how to handle those close games and perform under pressure."
Shepherd and the rest of the Utah girls on the roster, Aria Agle, Bree Bitton, Shalese Connary, Brandi Percival, and Jocelyn Stubbs, they are excited to be going home and playing on a field they have played on a number of times before.
"I am very excited to be going back home," she said. "I think we have worked hard we earned the trip to nationals, so it is exciting. "
Other first round matchups in the tournament has No. 1 Chattonooga State College (56-4) facing No. 16 Aiken Technical College 932-29); No. 9 Wallace State-Hanceville (54-10) vs. No. 8 Seminole State (44-19-1); No. 5 State College of Florida (48-11) vs. No. 12 Temple College (44-15); No. 13 Butler Community College(40-15) vs. No. 4 Pima Community College (53-13); No. 3 Blinn College (49-8) vs. No. 14 Gordon College (37-17); No. 11 Crowder College (44-16) vs. No. 6 Northeastern Oklahoma A&M (38-13); and No. 7 Howard College (47-15) vs. No. 10 Lake Land College (51-5).
If WNCC wins its first-round game, they will ply Thursday at 7 p.m. against the winner of the Howard and Lake Land contest. A loss sends the Cougars into a elimination game at 4:30 p.m. Thursday. The tournament is double elimination with the championship game slated for Saturday. Tournament action can be heard live on the NJCAA website at njcaa.org.
NJCAA Softball Tournament
First Round Pairings
Game 1 - Chattonooga State CC (Tenn) vs. Aiken Technical College (SC)
Game 2 - Wallace State CC-Hanceville (Ala) vs. Seminole State College of Florida
Game 3 - State College of Florida - Manatee-Sarasota vs. Temple College (Tex)
Game 4 - Butler County CC (Kan) vs. Pima CC (Ariz)
Game 5 - Blinn College (Tex) vs. Gordon College (Ga)
Game 6 - Crowder College (Mo) vs. Northeastern Oklahoma A&M
Game 7 - Howard College (Tex) vs. Lake Land College (Ill)
Game 8 - Western Nebraska CC vs. Salt Lake CC (Utah)
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