The Western Nebraska Community College volleyball team will be busy this weekend as they get set to host McCook Community College on Thursday and then the Wyo-Braska Invite on Friday and Saturday.
The Wyo-Braska Invite will have a different format than in past years. Instead of matches at WNCC and Eastern Wyoming College, matches will only be held at Cougar Palace beginning at 11 a.m. on Friday.
But, before the tournament, the Cougars will open the Region IX South conference slate by hosting McCook on Thursday at 6 p.m.
“We are very excited for the home matches. It has been a while since we have been at home,” Kaile Tuisamatatele, the sophomore middle hitter said. “I know our support system is really great here. We have a lot of things to work on and we need it. We are getting better and we are working hard on the court.”
The McCook match is crucial in the conference race but for the Cougar team to do well, they just need to worry about their side of the net.
“We really haven’t talked about who is on the other side of the net; right now we are focusing on us and keeping our game up and not worrying about them,” Tuisamatatele said. “We are working to play our level and not down to the other team’s level.”
When the Wyo-Braska Invite tips off Friday, the Cougar players know what they have to do, play together as one.
“We just need to keep up our energy and intensity,” Logan Belford, a sophomore from Loveland, Colorado, said. “We also need to work as one team and not 14 individuals.”
The 2-day Invite is down in teams from previous years, but it still will be tough competition. Tuisamatatele said they want to perform well for the home fans.
“We are hoping to get a lot of people to come out and support us,” Tuisamatatele said. “I know our support is really great. Our student section is awesome and the community comes and supports us.”
Action in the 2-day invite will have five matches on Friday and then six matches on Saturday.
Eastern Wyoming College tips off the invite at 11 a.m. when they face Trinidad State Junior College. The Lancers will play twice more on Friday, facing McCook at 5 p.m. and then WNCC at 7 p.m.
The Cougars will only play the one match on Friday.
Other action on Friday pits McCook against Dawson at 1 p.m. and Trinidad State against Dawson at 3 p.m.
Saturday’s action has WNCC playing twice. The Cougars will battle Dawson at noon and then Casper College at 4 p.m.
Saturday’s other contests has EWC facing Dawson at 10 a.m., McCook meeting Laramie County at noon, Trinidad State and Laramie County going at 2 p.m., and Casper taking on McCook at 2 p.m.
Tuisamatatele said it would be nice to go 4-0 this weekend, but they just need to play their game.
“We just need to focus what we need to do on our side and never stop,” she said.
Tuisamatatele, a sophomore from Kapolei, Hawaii, said they have undergone plenty of adversity in the first 16 matches with injuries and the like. Overcoming all that adversity can only make them a better team.
“It is hard, but you just have to work through it,” she said. “We are all a family and we are always there to support each other.”
Last week, the Cougars went 4-2, including splitting four matches in the Las Vegas tournament. In the Las Vegas tourney, the Cougars swept Chandler-Gilbert Community College and fought back to earn a 5-set win over Utah State-Eastern.
WNCC then dropped its next two, falling to Salt Lake Community College in three sets and then to Arizona Western in four sets.
Belford said that team plays well when everything is clicking.
“The team is playing well together,” she said. “When the team clicks we can accomplish some pretty amazing things. Last week went well, but it could have gone better. As a team, we made progress and growth.”
Tuisamatatele said it was a rough weekend in Las Vegas, but the tough competition that they have played at the first three away invites in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Salt Lake City, and Las Vegas has helped the team get better.
“It was a good [playing in Las Vegas],” she said. “We had our ups and downs. We definitely had a lot of ups and a lot of downs. It showed a lot of our weakness but it showed a lot of our strengths too.
“These games shows a lot of our strengths and weaknesses and things we need to work on. All these games we have been playing last week shows us what we need to work on and we came back and worked on it. All we can do is go on from there.”