WNCC volleyball players ink commitments to continue play
     2014-04-24      By The Gering Citizen   
Courtesy photo - Morgan Broussard of Gering (center), along with sophomore teammates Priscila Mendes and Luiza Martins celebrate after signing to continue their college volleyball playing days. Broussard, a Gering High graduate, signed to play at Division I University of Texas-San Antonio, a volleyball program that made the NCAA tournament last year. 
SCOTTSBLUFF — Morgan Broussard, Luiza Martins, and Priscila Mendes all made it official Wednesday night as the three Western Nebraska Community College volleyball players inked to continue their playing days at the next level.

Broussard and Martins will be headed to Division I while Mendes is headed to Division II Oklahoma Baptist University. Martins will be joining former WNCC coach Giovana Melo at the California State University Bakersfield. Broussard inked her Division I scholarship to attend the University of Texas-San Antonio, a program that made the NCAA tournament last year.

Broussard, who was a 3-sport athlete at Gering High where she earned the outstanding Senior Athlete of the Year award, said after spending two years at WNCC and now going on to Division I, it is unbelievable.

“It is crazy because I wasn’t planning on playing in college; I was just planning on going to Wyoming where my brother and sister went and play intramural sports for fun,” Broussard said. “When I was down at state volleyball I was like ‘do I really want to be done with this game?’ So, I texted coach and asked her if she still wanted me and she said of course. I said, ‘I am ready to go.’ From that one decision it has made my journey amazing. The people I met and the experience here was great.”

It was an easy decision for Broussard to pick Texas-San Antonio.

“From the very beginning they were No. 1 on my list. They were always contacting me and that is why I chose there because from the very beginning they wanted me. When I went on my visit, it was perfect. Honestly, I was thinking ‘how am I going to leave here because the coaches were amazing.’ But they [UT-San Antonio] have a good coaching staff and their game is the same and the way they run practices is the same. It will be a comfortable move.”

Broussard’s experience at WNCC definitely has made her elevate her game. Last fall, Broussard tallied 676 set assists with 27 aces and 220 digs in 148 games played. Broussard and Martins were part of the 6-2 offense that ran the show for the Cougars. Broussard said playing alongside Martins helped her grow and vice versa.

“The first year I said I have my work cut out for me,” she said. “I remember the first day that Luiza and I met, we were at summer camp and I knew I would just love her. We pushed each other and made each other grow. It was a good experience to set with Luiza.”

In fact Broussard’s entire experience at WNCC has been one that she will cherish as she gained a new set of friendships that will last a lifetime.

“It is an amazing experience to be in right now,” she said. “It is crazy to think that now because, honestly, I didn’t think I would be where I am today. With all support I get from everybody, it has really helped me push through the two years here. There is always the doubters that you want to prove wrong, but the support outweighs the doubters.”

That support comes from a wide range of people, but former Cougar coach Giovana Melo, who left in March for Cal State Bakersfield was one of Broussard’s biggest supporters.

“She means the world because she contacted me asking if I wanted to play,” she said. “I first said no and she was so persistent and would not stop. If she would have given up on me I would not be here today. So, I think her, Fatima [Balza], and Clebar [Alves] are the ones that I am thankful to that I could be a part of this program and to be coached by them.”

With that, Broussard cherishes her two years wearing the blue and gold.

“I am very proud to say that I am a Cougar and I believe that we are part of the best program in the nation and to be able to say that we were Cougars means so much,” she said. “I am sure people have an idea of what we go through, but we go up and down [in emotion] and go through conditioning. We break as a team, we grow as a team, and we cry as a team.”

That is why, Broussard said, that while they will part ways, the players will remain together one way or other.

“It is going to be tough leaving here,” she said. “The short period of time we have here we use it so much. It doesn’t even take one month for us to become a family. I know everyone will go their separate ways, but we will always have each other. No matter how far we are from each other, we will always have each other.”

When Broussard heads to UT-San Antonio, she will continue to work hard. She said that she loves the weight room and she wants to make this area proud.

“It means a lot of all the support I have had,” she said. “I really thank the Panhandle and the community for being behind me every step of the way. I am going to go down there and work has hard as I can to make sure to make my town proud and continue on the tradition.”

While Broussard grew up in the area and is headed to Division I, Martins and Mendes have made the biggest journey to play at the four-year level. The two came to WNCC from Brazil and have gained so much friendships and love for the community that it will be hard to leave.

“The people I know here is the one thing that I will remember,” Martins said. “When I first came here I was from a big city and I was saying Scottsbluff, where is Scottsbluff. They don’t realize how great this experience is and I will not change anything. I thank the people that I have met are the most people I will remember.”

The one reason Martins came here was because of Melo. Now, Martins will have another two years with her as Melo recruited Martins to Cal State Bakersfield. Martins will also team up once against her former Cougar Danika Youngblood, who will be a senior on the Roadrunner team next fall.

“Coach Gi means a lot to me so I am excited to go with her again,” she said. “Just like Morgan said, that she was going to stop playing volleyball [after high school] and if I wouldn’t have come here I would have stopped playing in Brazil. Coach asked me to come and I decided to keep playing and I am very excited to do what I love.”

Mendes has grown the most in her two years at WNCC. When she first game to the states, she couldn’t speak English. Now that has all changed.

“Just to come to this college was a big experience for me because I couldn’t speak English and I learned in steps,” she said. “Now I can speak English and it is an important step in my life.”

Another important step in Mendes’s life is the friends she made here, which will make it hard to leave Scottsbluff.

“I know coach is not here and I don’t want to cry, but this was an amazing experience to be a part of this program and being a Cougar,” she said. “I will miss the girls because we are like a family. I will miss the dorm parents as well and I know that life at a university is hard. I am just happy and sad. When I came here, I said, ‘Wow.’ I met a lot people that helped me with my English, my volleyball, and to be a better person.”

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