After 15 matches on the road, the No. 20 Western Nebraska Community College volleyball team will finally be at home when WNCC and Eastern Wyoming College cohost the WyoBraska Invite on Friday and Saturday.
The Cougars, who are 8-7 on the season will play twice on Friday and Saturday and the players are looking to playing in front of the home crowd according to assistant coach Brooke Kaawa, who played at WNCC in 2016 and 2017.
“It’ll mean a lot for the girls to finally play at home this weekend,” Kaawa said. “After being on the road for the past several weekends and having to deal with other home crowds, they’re more than excited to be playing in front of their friends and family and community.”
Hyleigh Fronstrom, a second-year player from Pine Bluffs, Wyoming, said being at home will be nice instead of the rigors of being on the road the past four weekends.
“To play at home this weekend means that the Cougs have a chance to prove themselves,” the 6-foot middle hitter said. “We’ve had a rocky start at the beginning of the year, but this weekend is our chance to turn it around and show everyone what we can do.”
There will be five games at each site each day. On Friday at Cougar Palace, WNCC will play at 12:30 p.m. against Colorado Northwestern Community College and then wrap up the day with an 8 p.m. contest against No. 13 Central Wyoming College.
Other games on Friday at Cougar Palace will have Lake Region State College taking on Casper College at 10 a.m., Central Wyoming facing Lake Region at 3 p.m., and Colorado Northwestern facing Casper at 5:30 p.m.
Saturday’s slate of games at WNCC has Lake Region facing McCook at 9 a.m., WNCC meeting Casper at 11:30 a.m., Western Wyoming meeting Lake Region at 2 p.m., McCook facing Casper at 4:30 p.m., and WNCC wrapping up the invite against Western Wyoming at 7 p.m.
Action at Eastern Wyoming College on Friday will have Barton Community College facing Northeastern Junior College at 10 a.m., Western Wyoming meeting McCook at 12:30 p.m., EWC facing Barton at 3 p.m., Western Wyoming facing NJC at 5:30 p.m., and EWC taking on McCook at 8 p.m.
Saturday’s action in Torrington will have Colorado Northwestern facing Barton at 9 a.m., NJC meeting Central Wyoming at 11:30 a.m., EWC facing Colorado Northwestern at 2 p.m., Barton taking on Central Wyoming at 4:30 p.m., and EWC finishing up the invite at 7 p.m. against NJC.
Kaawa said the thing that WNCC needs to do to be successful is take care of their business on their side of the net.
“I think the number one thing that the girls need to do to win this weekend is to leave it all on the court,” the second-year assistant coach said. “There are things that this team can do that shock us every day in practice, as long as they are doing their best and giving it everything they have, that’s all we can ask from them.”
Fornstrom said they have struggled at times, but there is plenty of potential on this team and they want to show the good Cougar team to the home fans.
“I know that the four teams this weekend aren’t expecting a lot out of the team. They all have a lot of doubt in us but aren’t going to overlook us,” she said. “Even though our record isn’t great, we still bring a big target on our back. I know that each and every one of the teams are going to want to see us lose and are going to do everything in their power to bring us down.”
Practices, however, are going well this week after the team came off a big win against top 10 Utah State Eastern on Saturday. Fronstrom said practices are intense.
“Our practices have been more intense than before recently,” she said. “The team is getting more and more out of each practice every day. I’m seeing a lot of improvement with every game.”
WNCC has plenty of prove, too. The Cougars are not used to losing. They are 8-7 on the year and the most losses by a team since 2000 came in 2003-04 when the Cougars went 43-12.
Kaawa said she is seeing a lot of progress in practices recently.
“The girls are doing well! Practices are starting to be a lot more competitive and intense with having everyone back from their injuries and it’ll definitely show during games,” she said. “Although they have been working really hard this week, we expect it to get much better as we get into conference play.”
WNCC has been on the road for all 15 matches this season and 10 of the matches have been against ranked teams. It has not been an easy schedule so far and this weekend will not be easy either.
Kaawa said they just have to continue playing any team as that team is ranked No. 1 because every team will want to beat WNCC.
“We know that we cannot take these teams lightly. They are going to come out fighting but We have to play every game as if we are playing the number one team in the nation,” Kaawa said. “The keys to winning for this team would definitely have to be competing as a team. There are times when individuals are going to struggle and have their bad days and we even have days where the whole team struggles, but as long as they can stay mentally tough and compete as a team rather than just individuals, they will go far.”
WNCC will have a big match against Central Wyoming, who the Rustlers defeated the Cougars on September 28 at Riverton. WNCC won the first set 25-20 and then watched the Rustlers come back to win the next three 25-14, 25-17, 25-13.
Fornstrom said she has faith in the team to pick up wins this weekend.
“I think to win against Central Wyoming this weekend we need to come together as one unit,” she said. “I think we have to keep our heads on straight and continue to keep our composure. Overall, I have complete faith in our girls to pull through.”