It was a battle of Ogallala High School graduates Thursday night as the 7th-ranked Western Nebraska Community College volleyball team hosted McCook Community College in a South Sub-Region contest as the Ogallala graduate Jenna Curtis-led Cougar women put together a solid performance Thursday night against McCook Community College in posting a 25-13, 25-14, 25-16 win.
Curtis was playing against two other Ogallala 2022 graduates in Gracen Tuttle and Gabby Caskey.
In the end, it was the solid performance from WNCC that helped the Cougars move to 19-3 on the season with the win as they get ready to host Lamar Community College Friday night at 6 p.m. in another South Sub-Region contest.
Curtis said they played well on the night and it was fun to play against some of her high school teammates. Ogallala volleyball has been one of the top high school programs in the state for the past 20 years or more.
“Yes, it was an Ogallala reunion tonight. We all had been looking forward to this game for a long time,” Curtis said. “It was really fun to play with them again. I played with both of them for most of my volleyball career and to be on the same court with them again was so exciting. One of them is my best friend and we were so excited to finally match up tonight on opposite sides of the court.”
Another Cougar that had a big game was sophomore Juliana Oliveira, who led the team with nine kills and 11 points. Oliveira said they played much better than in Tuesday night’s win over Casper College.
“We played really well tonight,” the sophomore from Brazil said. “We were disciplined and we managed to achieve our goal, which was to play well and win the game. The key to the win was keeping the lead and staying aggressive.”
Oliveira added the big difference between the two nights was energy.
“On Tuesday, our energy was really low and we couldn’t play our game,” she said. “Tonight we were connecting more, we limited our errors, we had more energy, and we played together.”
Curtis agreed with Oliveira that Thursday’s performance was a marked improvement from that Casper win on Tuesday when the team won, but didn’t play to their capabilities.
“Tuesday we didn’t prepare like we should have. Casper put up a good fight and we weren’t ready for it,” Curtis said. “Tonight we came way more prepared and just took care of things on the court more efficiently. I would say overall, we did well. We did still have some errors that we needed to control but we were pretty consistent on the night and played well together.”
WNCC had plenty of hitting in the contest but also strong serving and the strong serving started in set one when Shanelle Martinez had a 3-point service run for a 4-1 lead and then Curtis had a 5-point run for a 10-2 lead.
McCook cut the lead to 13-7 after two points from McKenna Crews, but the Cougars got big kills to lead 20-12. Oliveira then had two points for a 23-12 lead and then Fava ended the first set with a kill and then a service point for the 25-13 win.
The second set started out a little rough as Crews had two points to give McCook a 5-3 lead. Fava got a kill and then Oliveira had five service points for a 9-5 lead. WNCC doubled up McCook 14-7 on a Curtis kill and two Anakaren Chavez points and led 20-9 after Curtis had four points with big kills from Oliveira and Fava. Oliveira closed out the second set after she served three points with kills from Jayla Brehmer and Curtis for the 25-14 win.
McCook started the third set with two points from Alexis Pontine but a kill from Curtis put the service into Martinez’s hands and the freshman from San Antonio, Texas, served seven points for an 8-2 lead.
WNCC would lead 21-10 on an Oliveira kill, but McCook came back to cut the lead to 21-14 on three points from Victoria Thomas. Oliveira stopped the run with a kill and then with the score at 23-16, Curtis got a kill and then Chavez had an ace serve for the 25-16 win.
Martinez had a triple-double on the night with 15 digs, 11 points, 28 assists, and two aces. Fava led the team on offense with 12 kills, seven digs and four points, while Curtis had eight kills, eight digs, and 12 points.
Also for the Cougars, Chavez had 23 digs and four points with an ace; Alex Hernandez had five kills, two points and a solo block; Lexi Keoho had three digs; Emmalei Mapu had two kills, and Charli Blackman and Brehmer each had a kill.