WNCC volleyball captures Region IX South title
     2014-11-13      By The Gering Citizen   
Courtesy photos - WNCC sophomore, Gering's Santanna Mitchell, goes up for a kill against Casper last month. 
LAMAR, Colo. — Led by Region IX South MVP Leticia Silva, the No. 7 Western Nebraska Community College volleyball team punched its ticket to the NJCAA national tournament for the 16th straight year with a commanding sweep over Northeastern Junior College in the Region IX South tournament championship match Saturday afternoon in Lamar, Colo.

Silva pounded home 14 kills as the Cougars swept the Plainswomen 25-22, 25-14, 25-14. Rachael McCracken also set a new school record for digs tallying 11 in the match to break the career dig mark that was set by Bianca Rivera. McCracken now has 1,432 digs, eight more than Rivera.

WNCC coach Binny Canales was pleased with how his team played today.
“It is great to win Region IX and we are excited to represent not only the region but the entire community,” the first-year WNCC coach said. “We will work hard to make everyone proud at nationals. I am thankful to our athletic department, administration, and to everyone that has embraced this team.”
The Cougars took care of business in the championship against the Plainswomen. Silva said this team wanted this win and they got it.

“I think for all of it feels good. We have overcome so much,” she said. “A lot of things have happened to us. I am really proud of our team.”
While Silva finished with 14 kills, the Cougars received a balanced offensive output. Stephanie Massanet tallied nine kills, Kylie Fa’amoe had seven, Santanna Mitchell six, and Keala Kaio-Perez had five. Mitchell, the Gering High graduate, had three huge kills in the second set that really changed the tone of the match.

Mitchell said it’s a wonderful feeling right now for the team.
“It is the 16th year in a row and it is a tradition so we are glad that we lived up to it,” the Gering graduate said. “It is a amazing that we have the opportunity to go to nationals.”

On Friday, the Cougars didn’t play their best in earning a sweep over Lamar Community College and then topping NJC in four games. It was a different story 24 hours later.
Mitchell, who had 14 kills in two matches on Friday, said they wanted to play a complete match on Saturday.

“It was our first games Friday and I think we hit the rough patch of the course,” she said. “But we overcame all the struggles we had [on Friday] and we really played together today.”

Friday’s contest with NJC was a battle and it was a battle that Silva and Mitchell said they didn’t want to repeat. The players wanted to make a statement.
“We just tried to play together and prove to some people who said that we couldn’t do this,” Silva said. “We just tried to prove to them and ourselves that we could do this.”

Mitchell added that they knew what had to be done and accomplished it.
“We knew we had competition against NJC and going into the championship match we knew we couldn’t get big headed,” she said. “We went in with the mentality that we are going to win and we were going to do anything it takes to win.”

The first game was a back and forth battle until late. Tied at 18-18, WNCC got a big block and then two SIlva kills to go up 21-18. Silva pounded home two more kills for a 24-20 lead before Silva got the game-winner with another kill.
McCracken started out the second game with two service points and WNCC led 5-2. NJC sliced the lead to 6-4 but things changed after that as Silva had a block and then Fabiana Andrade ahd two points for a 9-4 lead.

NJC came back to get the lead to 11-8 and later 13-9, but a Massanet kill and then three Massanet service points pushed the lead to 17-9 and the Cougars cruised to the 25-14 win as Massenet had a kill and McCracken the final two points of the set.
The third set was tied at 8-8 when Silva hammered down another kill and then the Region IX South Player of the Year served three points for a 12-8 lead. WNCC kept its foot on the accelerator pedal as Massanet had a kill and three service points for a 22-12 lead. Mitchell came through with a big kill from the middle to make it 24-14 before Andrade served the final point for the championship.

WNCC had a balanced attack in the contest. Silva led the way with 14 kills and three kills, followed by Massanet with nine kills, 11 points, and three digs.
Also Andrade had 38 set assists, 12 digs, and four points; Kaio-Perez had five kills, nine digs, and six points; Fa’amoe had seven kills, two blocks, and three digs; McCracken had seven points and 11 digs; Cassandra Hernandez four digs; and Fuatino Manu with three digs.

The Cougars will now compete at the national tournament Nov. 20-22 in Casper, Wyo. Mitchell said they are going to keep working to accomplish their next goal.
“We are going to come to practice and go hard and be ready to go,” she said. “We are going to work and become better and better to be ready to go when it comes to nationals.”

Several Cougars were also rewarded with post season honors. SIlva was named the Region IX South MVP, Andrade was named the Setter of the Year, and SIlva, Andrade, McCracken, and Fa’amoe were all named to the All-region team.
SIlva, Andrade, Fa’amoe, and McCracken were also named to the all-tournament team.
Other all-region honors included coach of the year to McCook’s Scott Weston, Libero of the Year to NJV’s Jazmin Montes, and Freshman of the Year to NJC’s Anais Vargas.
The rest of the all-region players included NJC’s Montes, Vargas, Yuting Qi, and Tyler Chrisman; Otero’s Diana Etienne and Paitton Heltenberg; Trinidad’s Taylor Mansfield, Hannah Reynolds, and Rylee Abert; and McCook’s Destanie Micklich..

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