WNCC volleyball earns No. 7 seed, will play Arizona Western in first round
     2014-11-20      By The Gering Citizen   
Courtesy photo - The WNCC volleyball team show off the individual medals and the Region IX trophy as they get ready for a 16th straight national tournament appearance. The team members include, front row from the left, Fuatino Manu, Kealo Kaio-Periz, Amanda Schoene, Rachael McCracken, Cassandra Hernandez, and Fabiana Andrade; back row, Head Coach Binny Canales, Pepe Laloulu, Karina Martin, Kylie Fa'amoe, Leticia Silva, Stephanie Massanet, Katy Ernest, Santanna Mitchell, and Assistant Coach Jacquelynne Matula. 
CASPER — The Western Nebraska Community College volleyball team knows that if they want to win a national title they will have to play some of their best volleyball of the year.
That will definitely be the case after the pairings for next week’s NJCAA national tournament in Casper, Wyo., were released on Tuesday. The Cougars’ side of the bracket is not easy by any means if they want to win a third national title.

WNCC, 28-7 and making their 16th straight trip to the national tournament, open up play Thursday, Nov. 20 at 11 a.m. against Arizona Western College. The Cougars earned the No. 7 seed while the Matadors are the No. 10 seed with their 19-5 record.

WNCC coach Binny Canales said the No. 7 seed is a good place for his Cougar team to start.
“I think it is a realistic spot for us,” Canales, who captured his career 500th win at the Region IX tournament, said. “There are some good teams ahead of us and there are some really good teams behind us. We are happy to be there and we are happy to go to the national tournament and represent Western Nebraska, Region IX, and the whole community.”

Arizona Western is a somewhat unknown opponent for the Cougars. Canales said it doesn’t matter, the Matadors have their full attention. However, this will be the seventh time the two squads have met. WNCC is 4-2 against Arizona Western

“It wasn’t who we expected to play, but we are going to prepare for them just the same,” he said. “We don’t know a lot about them. We are looking to see what we can find on them and go from there. I know they are a good team. They have done well in the past. We were at the same tournament in Utah and saw them play a little bit but not a whole lot. They are a good program.”

The Cougars aren’t looking past anyone just yet; it is one match at a time. But, waiting on their side of the bracket are teams like Blinn College, Salt Lake Community College, and the College of Southern Idaho.

“Right now we are not looking past Arizona Western; they have our full attention,” he said. “We are preparing to play them and then move on to the next step after that.”
Iowa Western Community College (42-1) earned the top seed and will face No. 16 Wallace State (35-8). Blinn College (36-1) captured the second seed and will play No. 15 Hutchinson Community College. The winner or loser of that match will face the winner of WNCC and Arizona Western at 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 20.

The rest of the top five seeds include No. 3 College of Southern Idaho (32-2) taking on No. 14 New Mexico Military (20-18), No. 4 Tyler Junior College (35-4) facing No. 13 Hill College (28-12), and No. 5 Miami Dade College (27-3) meeting No. 12 Polk State College (19-22).

The remaining first-round pairings have No. 6 Salt Lake Community College (21-9) meeting No. 11 Missouri State-West Plains (25-12), and No. 8 State College of Florida (27-5) taking on the Region IX North champion and No. 9 seed Northwest College.
WNCC has faced eight of the tournament teams this season while Arizona Western has only faced only one national tournament team, falling to Southern Idaho in straights games. WNCC lost in five games to CSI.

The other two common opponents between Arizona Western and WNCC include North Idaho College and Western Wyoming Community College. The Matadors beat Western Wyoming 3-1 and fell to North Idaho 3-2. The Cougars won all three match-ups between North Idaho and Western Wyoming, topping North Idaho 3-2, and then winning twice against Western Wyoming 3-2 on the road and then 3-1 at Cougar Palace.

Canales said his team needs to play like they did in the Region IX championship match if they want to have success at the national tournament.

“We have to get better and we need to step it up,” he said. “We had to be a little better for regionals and we did. We stepped it up especially in our Region IX final. Now for the national tournament, every match we will have to play a little bit better and get a little bit mentally tougher, more disciplined, have less errors, play with a little more energy and intensity, and be prepared for every battle. We played really strong and had a different frame of mind at regionals and it was nice to see the girls step up to that. We are hoping we can step it up again and continue to improve.”

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