Lady Cougars gearing up for season with two-a-days
     2014-08-07      By The Gering Citizen   
Courtesy Photo - Gering graduate Santanna Mitchell serves during an afternoon practice for the Western Nebraska Community College volleyball team. Mitchell is one of two local players on team with the other being Leyton's Katy Ernest. 
SCOTTSBLUFF — The Binny Canales volleyball era started with a bang Monday as the Western Nebraska Community College volleyball team hit the court for a two-a-day practice.

Canales, who took the reins of the program from sixth-year head coach Giovana Melo in July, is excited for the coming season.

“Practice went really well. The girls are real coachable and they learn very quickly,” Canales said. “The pace was a little choppy but that was expected with the new drills and we all are getting to know each other with the common terminology that I use, but they are learning and they picked it up very quickly and I am very happy.”

The Cougars return six players from a team that went 40-4 a year ago and finished fifth in the nation. Canales sees plenty of talent on this team in all aspects.

“I see our strength in attacking, athletic ability, and coach ability,” he said. “And when you put those three together you have a dangerous combination. I am pretty excited about this year.

“We are deep at setting and deep at defensive specialist. We are also deep at outside. We have a lot of strengths. We probably could use one more middle blocker but we are happy with the middle blockers that we have and we have other options we could do in case we need to change our middles a little bit.”

Canales said the six returners has made the transition between coaches a lot easier.

“I think they [the returners] are very strong,” he said. “I think they have a lot leadership qualities, athletic ability, It is like having a second or third coach out there.”

The Cougars’ returners include Region IX Libero of the Year Rachael McCracken of Weldona, Colo., Kayla Martin and Amanda Schoene of Bakersfield, Calif., Leticia Silva of Brazil, Cassandra Hernandez of Denver, and Kylie Fa’amoe of Salt Lake City, Utah.

McCracken, who earned a spot on the NJCAA national tournament all-tournament team last year, said things went well for the first practice.

“I think the first day went really well,” she said. “We go to know each other and we got to know coach,” she said. “I think it will be a great year. We are still a little rough right know, but we are all doing really good and it was a great day.”

For McCracken and the other returners, they see some similarities in Melo’s and Canales’ practices — mainly in intensity.

“The way he runs practices and the way Gi ran practices is completely different,” she said. “But, at the same time, they [the practices] are both pretty intense and they are both hard, so in that aspect they are pretty much the same.”

McCracken said this team, however, should be good with plenty of depth.

“We are pretty well rounded,” she said. “We have a really strong middle offense, the setters are awesome, and our defense and outsides are awesome, too. we are pretty well rounded.”

Besides the six returners, the Cougars also have six newcomers that add plenty athletic ability to the squad. The newcomers include a pair of freshman setters in 5-10 Katy Ernest of Leyton High School and 5-7 Fabiana Andrade of Brazil.

The Cougars also have 6-2 Stephanie Massanet of Puerto Rico, 6-0 Karina Martin of Brazil, 5-7 Keala Kaio-Perez of Hawaii, and 5-8 Santanna Mitchell of Gering.

Canales said there is plenty of strengths for this team this season.

“We have a lot of strengths and we want to keep improving,” he said. “Just because there are strengths that doesn’t mean we can’t get any stronger. we are excited to keep working and get better.

The Cougars will have a blue and gold scrimmage on Aug. 16 before starting the season for real at the Iowa Western Invite Aug. 22 and 23. The Cougars open the season against Polk State Community College out of Florida before taking on Iowa Western on Friday. They will then face Cowley County Community College and Johnson County Community College on Saturday. Their first home match will be Tuesday, Aug. 26 when they host Eastern Wyoming College.

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