The Western Nebraska Community College volleyball team enters this weekend’s Region IX South volleyball tournament at Cougar Palace knowing what they have to do in order to capture a 19th straight regional title — play consistent.
The Cougars, who finished the regular season ranked fourth, struggled last week in five tough matches, going 2-3. WNCC enters the regional tournament with a 29-6 record.
The good thing, though, is those losses to No. 17 Northeastern Junior College, No. 12 San Jacinto, and No. 2 Iowa Western, helped refocus the team and should be a positive factor when WNCC hosts the South tournament beginning Thursday.
Tournament action begins Thursday with two matches. No. 3 Otero takes on No. 6 Trinidad State at 5 p.m. followed by No. 4 McCook taking on No. 5 Lamar at 5 p.m.
The Cougars open play on Friday at 9 a.m. when they face the winner of the Otero and Trinidad contest. NJC, who earned the No. 1 seed in the tourney, will open at 11 a.m. on Friday against the winner of the Lamar/McCook contest.
WNCC head coach Binny Canales said his team will be ready come breakfast time Friday morning.
“We will have to be ready to go,” Canales said. “We have been practicing pretty hard. We are trying some new things and right now if we do the things that we are supposed to, we will be OK.”
The tournament continues through Saturday with the championship. The winner qualifies for the national tournament Nov. 16-18 in Hutchinson, Kansas.
Canales said the tournament is up for grabs with any team capable of beating anyone.
“A lot of schools have beat each other,” Canales said. “We lost some games and we know we have to play better. We have to stay within system and I can’t say that enough. If we stay within system, we are really tough to beat.”
Canales said they just need to take care of business.
“We have to eliminate our errors,” Canales said. “We have to serve aggressively and stay in system.”
The Cougars have plenty of talent on the team. During the season, the Cougars were ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation and at one time had an 18-match winning streak and also won 35 straight sets.
During that winning stretch, the Cougars stayed in system, which is something that they have been doing for a good part of the season except for the few hiccups along the way.
“Staying in system is something we have been trying to do, but that always doesn’t happen that way,” Canales said. “That is our goal to try to stay in system. It is tough.”
Last week, the Cougars competed well in four of the five matches. After suffering the heart-wrenching, straight-set loss to NJC on Wednesday, the Cougar team came back to battle well against No. 12 San Jacinto before falling in five sets and the same way to No. 2 Iowa Western.
Canales thinks the way they played last weekend in the WNCC Classic should be a plus for the team.
“I think the way we played at the end of the classic last week is giving the kids a little bit more confidence,” he said. “It is giving us comfortable in what we are doing. We are being aggressive and we are having success in being aggressive and that adds to their game. We know we can’t play tentatively and we can’t over think what we are doing. It is the end of the year and the kids just have to go out and perform.”