The No. 19 Western Nebraska Community College rebounded from a first set loss and rolled through the next three in topping No. 20 Northeastern Junior College 24-26, 25-12, 25-18, 25-14 to win the Region IX South Conference Wednesday night at Cougar Palace.
The win was the Cougars eighth straight and moved WNCC to 22-7 overall and 8-1 in South Conference play. NJC drops to 20-6 and 6-3 in conference play. Both teams have one conference game left, WNCC travels to McCook on Friday and NJC goes to McCook on Tuesday.
“I think we played very well tonight,” sophomore Enna Masaki said. “We really wanted it and we showed it.”
It was a night where the Cougars were on top of their game in collecting the No. 1 seed from the South in next month’s Region IX tournament in Cheyenne. Masaki said it feels good to win the conference after last season finishing second.
“For us it [winning the conference] means everything because we were ranked and then we got out of the ranking. It was hard for us to come back into the ranking. We now just have to stay in the ranking and maintain our playing right now.”
It wasn’t just one player that was hot, it was a majority of players that stepped up in different capacities. WNCC finished with a 55 kills and had nine solo blocks. The team also had three service aces and four players finish with double-figure digs.
Four Cougars had double-double performances. Masaki finished with 16 kills and 16 digs, while Jayme Commins had 13 digs and 42 set assists. Adia Sherbeyn tallied 11 digs and 13 points, while Ana Costas had 32 digs and 13 points.
Gaby Canavati led the way offensively, putting down 18 kills, while Amryi-Grace Paris had 11 kills.
The night didn’t start out well for the Cougars as they enjoyed a 14-10 lead in the first set before falling 26-24. After that, though, the Cougars took control of the match in the next three sets behind solid play offensively and defensively to thwart the Plainswomen’s rallies.
“A big difference in the last three sets is they took out their starting setter,” Masaki said. “Also our passing was rough in the beginning [first set] and we knew we had to pick it up and we did pick it up. We were running more offensive plays too, so that helped us a lot.”
The next three sets were a total difference. WNCC led from start to finish in set two, grabbing a 3-0 lead behind Sherbeyn’s serving and pushed the lead to 15-7 on three more Sherbeyn points. Costas got into the serving game later, serving six points for a 22-9 lead to help them to the 25-12 win.
WNCC led 10-4 in the third set and went ahead 17-7 on five points from Sherbeyn and never looked back, winning 25-18.
The fourth set was the third straight set that WNCC never trailed. WNCC led 6-4 before running to an 11-4 lead behind four Camille Esselin points. WNCC pushed it to 18-10 and later to 23-12 before winning 25-14.
WNCC also received six points and two solo blocks from Masaki on the night; four digs from Canavati; five kills from Leslie Mamai-Lagafuaina; three kills, five digs, and seven points from Kaile Tuisamatatele; and three digs and eight points from Esselin.
WNCC will look to win their ninth straight when they travel to McCook to face McCook Community College on Friday at 5 p.m. Masaki said they have to keep playing with plenty of energy and keep playing hard.
“We just need to keep the same energy that we have,” she said. “After every win that we have, we need to keep the same energy, maintain it, and stay high.”