WNCC volleyball ends season at national tournament
     2014-11-27      By The Gering Citizen   
Courtesy photo - The WNCC volleyball team after the NJCAA national banquet include (front) head coach Binny Canales, Fabiana Andrade, Leticia Silva, Rachael McCracken, Katy Ernest, bus driver Bill Schmidt, Keala Kaio-Perez, Cassandra Hernandez, Amanda Schoene, Karina Martin, and Stephanie Massanet; (back row) Kylie Fa'amoe, Pepe Laloulu, Santanna Mitchell, Fautino Manu, and assistant coach Jacquelynne Matula. 
CASPER, Wyo. – The Western Nebraska Community College volleyball team’s season came to an end at the NJCAA national tournament Friday evening, but it wasn’t without a fight.

The Cougars, after dropping a five-set first round contest to Arizona Western on Thursday, had two more five-setters on Friday. WNCC opened the day by getting past Hutchinson Community College in five sets 25-22, 25-23, 25-19, 19-25, 15-9 before putting up a gallant effort against Salt Lake Community College before falling 12-25, 25-23, 23-25, 26-24, 13-15.

The Cougars end their season at 29-9 but the players realize that they left everything on the court today. “We fought hard, but just some things didn’t come our way in the end,” an emotional Kylie Fa’amoe said. “We gave it our heart and played with plenty of heart and passion to the end. But I am happy with how we played and the season played out. I am proud of how we came to nationals and tried to win a title.”

Cassandra Hernandez, a sophomore from Denver, said this was an emotional way to end a season that this team fought through to make it to their 16th straight national tournament.

“It is a tough loss but we fought to the very end we didn’t give up at all. We didn’t quite get there, but we fought. It was a tough tournament, but we did all we could,” Hernandez said. “With a new coach, a new assistant coach, a new team it was like we did everything we needed to do to make it here. We fought hard.”

The Salt Lake match was a testament of how hard this team fought all season as they had to overcome plenty during the season. WNCC dropped the first set rather easily 25-12 but it was then that they said they didn’t want to go out like this.

“I think after losing that first set, it made us really realize that we need to push ourselves as hard as we can so five or 10 years from now we can look back and say we gave everything we had.,” Hernandez said.

And that is what they did. After losing the first set, the Cougars and Bruins battled tooth and nail, toe-to-toe in an epic five-setter. What really was the story of the final four sets was how wide-spread the Cougar hitting was.

In the second set, Leticia Silva, Stephanie Massanet, and Fa’amoe each had three kills and Santanna Mitchell had two big one. WNCC had a 20-16 lead after a Keala Kaio-Perez ace serve and led 22-18 on a Massanet service point. Salt Lake came back to cut the deficit to 24-23 before Kaio-Perez and Mitchell put up a brick wall for a block for the win.

The third set was identical for the most part as the second set. This time Salt Lake had a 17-13 lead and led 22-18 only to watch the Cougars come back to cut the Bruins lead to 22-21 and then 24-23 before Salt Lake won the set 25-23.

And if the second and third sets weren’t nail-biters, then the fourth set was the icing on the top of the cake. Both teams battled back and forth until WNCC took an 18-16 lead on three Kaio-Perez points and timely hitting and blocking from Fa’amoe.

WNCC pushed the lead to 23-18 only to watch Salt Lake come back to tie the set at 23-23. WNCC prevailed as Silva hammered home a kill for the 24th point, Massanet had a kill for the 25th point and then Rachael McCracken had an ace serve to force the fifth set.
The fifth set say Salt Lake and WNCC trade points just like two prize fighters in a boxing ring. WNCC held a 10-8 lead before the Bruins scored three straight to take an 11-10 lead. Fabiana Andrade then had a setter kill and then served two points for a 13-11 lead. After that, the Bruins took advantage of a close tip call and scored the final points for the 15-13 win.

WNCC had many outstanding performances in the Salt Lake match. Three players had double figures in the loss. Andrade tallied 50 set assists, 11 digs, six points, four blocks, and two kills; while Fa’amoe had 12 kills and 11 points; and Massanet finished with 18 kills, 11 points, and five digs.

Also for the Cougars, Kaio-Perez had three kills, four aces, 13 digs, and seven points; Silva had 17 kills and five points; Mitchell had eight kills and two digs; Fuatino Manu 12 digs; Amanda Schoene three digs; McCracken 28 digs, six points, and two aces; and Hernandez with five digs.

In Friday’s opener against the Blue Dragons, the Cougars didn’t start out with a world of fire, dropping the first set 25-22 after trailing 18-11 at one point. WNCC’s came back, however was too late in the opener.

After that the Cougars woke up, taking the next two 25-23 and 25-19. The second set was the dandy as WNCC trailed 12-7 and later 15-11. Santanna Mitchell and Rachael McCracken changed all that. Mitchell recorded a kill and McCracken had four points to put WNCC up 16-15. WNCC moved to 21-19 on a Silva kill and evened the match at a set apiece on a Massanet kill.

WNCC had a complete third set behind mainly timely serving. WNCC went up 10-4 on four Massanet points and then pushed the lead to double digits, 16-6, on five Kylie Fa’amoe points, including four aces. Fitting enough, Fa’amoe ended up finishing off the set for the Cougars at 25-19 as she delivered another ace serve.

Hutchinson came back to capture the fourth set 25-19, but the Cougars controlled the fifth set, thanks to eight points from Massanet including two ace serves to lead 11-3. Hutchinson sliced the lead to 11-6, but WNCC got four side outs, including the match winner off a Keala Kaio-Perez kill.

WNCC had two players finish with double figures. Massanet had 16 kills, 13 points, four aces, and four digs, while Kaio-Perez had 16 digs, 11 points, eight kills and three assists.
Also for the Cougars, Silva had 22 kills, nine digs and two points, while Fa’amoe had nine kills, six points, four aces, and three digs. Andrade tallied 51 set assists, six digs, six points, and three kills; Santanna Mitchell had three kills; and McCracken had two aces, eight points, 14 digs, and two assists.

WNCC will say goodbye to six sophomores – McCracken, Fa’amoe, Silva, Hernandez, Massanet and Schoene.

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