Lady Cougars top North Idaho in five sets, capture fifth at nationals
     2013-11-27      By The Gering Citizen   
Courtesy photo - Gering's Morgan Broussard serves the ball for the Cougars in a match against Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, Colo., last month. The captured fifth place in the national tournament in Casper last weekend. 
CASPER, Wyo. – Kayla Martin and Leticia Silva combined for 35 kills and the Western Nebraska Community College volleyball team captured fifth place at the NJCAA Division I National Volleyball Tournament at the Casper Events Center with a heart-pounding five set win over North Idaho College 25-22, 20-25, 25-17, 23-25, 15-9 Saturday afternoon.

Martin pounded home 18 kills, 10 of which came in the fourth and fifth sets to lead the Cougars. Silva finished with 17 kills followed by Allora Tanner with eight kills.

WNCC coach Giovana Melo said she was most pleased with how this team came back after Thursday’s emotional loss in the quarterfinals to Salt Lake Community College to extinguish the team’s national champion hopes. The way they came back, she said, is the mark of a champion.

“Obviously it hurts that we really wanted to be playing for the national championship, but I am just proud of the way the tourney turned out after losing that match,” she said. “We came in playing with a lot of heart and just pushing through it. I know in their minds they were a little upset after losing. It is just learning for them and learning for me. It is a big learning experience and you just have to keep getting better. Any day anybody can win at the junior college level. With the freshmen they have another chance and we have some pretty good ones coming back and we look to be back here again next year.”

The Cougars had several players step up once again at different times and it was definitely a team effort, even though Martin and Silva combined for kills. This was a match that featured a number of service runs, some one-handed digs, and some crucial blocks and every player on both sides of the net gave it their all.

Morgan Broussard, one of five sophomores that played their last match as a Cougar, said finishing off the year the way they did takes away some of that sadness they experienced Thursday.

“Finishing off the year with a win and coming back after that big loss takes a lot for a team to come back from a loss like that,” she said. “That shows how much heart we have and how much passion we have for the sport and each other. We just wanted to play for each other, our coaches, and community. We just wanted to show that we are proud to be a Cougar.”

The Cougars played with a lot of passion on the day.

North Idaho had an 18-14 lead in the opening set before Luiza Martins served up four points for a 19-18 lead. The set was tied at 21 before Broussard and Rachael McCracken had service points and Martin pounded home a kill for the 25-22 win.

WNCC managed just two leads in the second, an early 2-0 lead and then 10-8. North Idaho controlled the set, leading 18-13 before Lindsay Wehkamp to tie the set at 18-18. The Cardinals, however, regrouped and flew to the 25-20 win.

The third set was close early as WNCC held a slim 12-11 lead. Things changed quickly as Broussard served six straight points for a double-digit 21-11 lead, North Idaho tried making a comeback, cutting the lead to 22-17, but a Wehkamp kill and her two service points gave the Cougars the win 25-17.

The fourth set was a series of service runs early on. North Idaho put together a run of four points to lead 9-3, only to watch Erika Goodwin to string together five straight to tie the set at 9-9. From there the teams were tied nine times before the Cardinals escaped with a 25-23 win forcing a fifth set.

The fifth set had plenty of emotion as each team went back and forth. North Idaho held a 9-8 lead before Martin ignited with a blue-light special kill to notch the tie. After that, Martins served out the final six points with help from kills from Silva and Martin for the win.

WNCC had a plethora of help in the game from several players. Martin finished with not only 18 kills but had five points, four digs, and three blocks. Silva had 17 kills, eight blocks, and two blocks. Tanner finished with eight kills and three blocks, while Gabriela Varela had three kills.

Also for the Cougars, Martins had 35 set assists, 16 points, and eight digs; Broussard had 14 set assists, 11 points, and five digs; Priscila Mendes had four digs and two points; Wehkamp had eight points, two kills, and six blocks; Kylie Fa’amoe had two kills and seven blocks; Ravhael McCracken had five points and 25 digs; and Goodwin with six digs and six points.

WNCC finishes the year at 40-4, which is the 14th straight year that the team has registered at least 40 wins in a season.

The Cougars say goodbye to five sophomores – Broussard, Martins, Mendes, Tanner and Wehkamp – and Melo said this hard working group of sophomores deserved to go out as winners.

“I think it is bittersweet because they [the sophomores] have worked extremely hard and I don’t know a group that has worked has hard as they did,” Melo said. “They deserved to go home with a win.”

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