Lady Cougars looking good at early volleyball practices
     2013-08-08      By The Gering Citizen   
Courtesy photo - WNCC volleyball player Morgan Broussard, of Gering, sets the ball during the opening practice on Friday. 
SCOTTSBLUFF — The Western Nebraska Community College volleyball team’s first day of practice last Friday was all business. Their mission, and motto, is “Unfinished Business.”

That is exactly how the returning sophomores are looking at the season after the Cougars lost in the NJCAA national tournament championship game last November.

“We want to finish the season. We want to be champions,” Luiza Martins said. “The unfinished business is because of the sophomores and now the freshmen who are now Cougars. They need know what we have been through [since the championship match loss]. They need to know that we need to finish this not only for us sophomores but also for them.”

The Cougars went through one 2-hour practice on Friday and then left for a team-bonding weekend trip. After that, they will endure two-a-days until school starts. Martins said she is excited to get going in her sophomore year at WNCC.

“I am a lot excited because it is my last year and each day is my last day over here,” the Brazil native said. “I am really excited to work together to as hard as we can.”

Even head coach Giovana Melo is excited for the season.

“This season will be exciting because of the group coming back. They were a little bit bitter after they lost in the final and I think they have a lot of heart and they want it a lot,” Melo said. “The freshmen coming in is a big group and they are a pretty athletic group and they are willing to work hard. I am pretty excited and ready to get excited with them.”

The Cougars return six players from a year ago in All-American Martins, Priscila Mendez, Allora Tanner, Lindsay Wehkamp, Kasey Lafitaga, and Gering native Morgan Broussard.

The freshmen include Erika Goodwin, 5-8 of Milford, Kan.; 5-8 Amanda Schoene and 6-0 Kayla Martin of Bakersfield, Calif.; 5-7 Rachael McCracken of Weldona, Colo.; Kylie Fa’Amoe of West Jordan, Utah; 6-0 Leticia Silva of Brazil; 6-0 Gabriela Varela of Puerto Rico; and 5-4 Cassandra Hernandez of Aurora, Colo.

Melo likes the size of this year’s team, which includes five players that stand 6-foot or taller.

“I think we are a little bit more physical than what we have been in the past and we are a pretty tall team,” Melo said. “I think that will help, but at the same time we are known by having good ball control and playing fast. We will see how that will combine since we have a little taller group. I think the group is a pretty good mix with people coming from all over the place.”

Last season the Cougars finished with a 42-3 record, but to duplicate or even improve upon that sizzling mark will not be an easy task. In the opening weekend Aug. 23-24 at the Reiver Invite in Council Bluffs, Iowa, the Cougars will face four teams that were at the national tournament last year in San Jacinto College, North Idaho College, Barton Community College, and Iowa Western Community College.

“This season will not be easy, but we need to work hard and work together,” Martins said. “Last year I remember our first game was horrible but then we got second in the nation. We just need to work hard and work together and stay together as a group.”

More importantly, though, the 2 1/2 weeks of pre-season practice should get the team ready and seasoned for the season opener. The Cougars will have a blue and gold scrimmage on Aug. 17 and their first home game is Aug. 27 against Casper College.

“I think we have a great team and we just need to work together,” Martins said. “We have great players and each one of them has a different talent. We just need to work hard together not just inside the court, but we have to work hard outside the court with studying and in the community.”

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