Cougars sweep Otero

Kayla Martin and Priscila Mendes combined for 27 kills and the fourth-ranked Western Nebraska Community College volleyball captured its 29th win of the season with a sweep over Otero Junior College Thursday night at Cougar Palace.

Thursday's contest was Think Pink night and for the Cougars, who wore pink uniforms, the 25-12, 25-21, 25-20 win was more than a win for the team, it was also for all the Breast Cancer Survivors and families that lost loved ones, Martin said.

"It feels so great to get this win tonight on Think Pink night because we were all playing for someone that has had cancer or is dealing with cancer right know," Martin said. "So a win for that means a lot right know."

Martin hasn't had anyone in her family with cancer yet, but she said she was playing for assistant coach Fatima Balza's mom.

"I played this game for Fatima's mom and it was pretty emotional out there tonight," she said.

Martins racked up plenty of kills in the win, finishing with 43 kills in the three sets. Martin paced the way with 14 kills, with a majority of them coming in the second set. Mendes chipped in 13 kills, while Gabby Varela chipped in 11.

Martin said this win was certainly needed to bring back some of the mojo to the team that was lost the past few weeks.

"I thought today we needed this win to help boost our confidence a little more," Martin said. "It just feels good to win. We played with no pressure and we wanted to hard and win this in three and that is what we did."

A big key to the win was the Cougars were relaxed and that is what they need to do as they try to get back to the national tournament.

"We are not playing scared. We want to get to nationals and to get nationals you can't play scared," she said. "We are using these games as practice and just swing away and see what we can do."

While the hitting was superb, the serving was also on. The Cougars also showed some hustle on defense. Rachael McCracken finished with a double-double of 12 points and 10 digs in the win, while Mendes and Martin each had vital service runs to spearhead the serving.

The Cougars started somewhat lukewarm in the first set as Otero's Kayla Carroll served three points for a 4-3 lead. Then the Rattlers' Diana Etienne hammered home a kill to knot the set at 6-6. After that, things changed in a heartbeat as Martin hammered home a kill and then served five straight points for a 12-6 lead.

WNCC's serving kept was still hot later when a Varela kill put the service in McCracken's hand. McCracken then served seven straight points, including three straight kills from Martin for a 23-10 lead. Martin finished off the first set with a kill.

McCracken continued her strong serving in the second set four straight points for a 6-3 lead. Otero came back to take an 8-7 lead and then tied the game at 12-12. Mendes then served three points to put WNCC up 16-13.

Otero battled back, slicing the lead to 18-17 couldn't get any closer as Mendes had a couple huge kills before Varela hammered home the set winner.

The Cougars led from start to finish in the final set, jumping out to a 5-1 lead on two service points from Lindsay Wehkamp. The Cougars then didn't allow Otero a major service run the rest of the way as they chipped away to the 25-20 win on a Martin kill.

WNCC had a variety of players contribute. Martins finished with 24 set assists, two points, and eight digs; Morgan Broussard had 14 set assists and two digs; Mendes had seven points and six digs; Martin had six points, a block, and two digs; Wehkamp had three points, an ace, and two digs; Amanda Schoene had two digs; McCracken chipped in an ace and five set assists; Varela had two solo blocks; Leticia Silva had three solo blocks; and Kylie Fa'amoe had two kills.

WNCC will be back in action today when they host Lamar Community College at 7 p.m. followed by a home contest on Saturday against Trinidad State Junior College at 1 p.m.

Martin said they are going to go out and continue playing the way they played tonight the rest of the season.

"We definitely are going to keep playing at this high level," she said. "We are not going to let it drop at all. The intensity was good tonight and we are going to keep it like that."

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