WNCC volleyball captures 17th Region IX title Defense keys Cougars; now they get ready for national stage
     2015-11-12      By The Gering Citizen    editor@geringcitizen.com
Years from now when the players on the Western Nebraska Community College volleyball team look back at the 2015 season, the players will realize what they accomplished.

Friday afternoon (Nov. 6), the top-ranked Cougars continued to make history by capturing their 17th straight Region IX title in heart-pounding fashion, dropping Northeastern Junior College in five sets, 25-16, 22-25, 25-21, 17-25, 15-9. The win earns the Cougars a berth in the NJCAA national tournament in Casper, Wyo., on Nov. 19-21.

WNCC’s Fabiana Andrade, who posted a double-double with 47 set assists and 11 digs, also picked up plenty of hardware. Andrade was named Region IX South Setter of the Year. She was also tabbed the Region IX Tournament MVP.

Andrade said this win is huge and she couldn’t be more proud to have won the regional title.

“It is a good feeling to be Region IX champs because we are playing together,” Andrade said. “We have been working hard, having to practice seven times in the week and sometimes twice in a day. We deserve it.”

A big key in the win was the loss to NJC on Oct. 28. The five-game loss to NJC at Sterling before Halloween actually might have been a good thing, according to Andrade.

“[NJC] played very well and they are a pretty good team,” she said. “They made us understand that it wasn’t going to be easy. Today we were ready to play. We knew they were a really good team.”

The championship match was definitely not a cake walk. Both teams were national tournament caliber teams and the Cougars survived with plenty of heart. Andrade knew it wasn’t going to be easy.

“That match was tough. It was a battle and not easy at all,” she said. “I think on our team each person is different and when we put everything together, we have a good result. So, that was what made the difference.”

The first set was tight as WNCC held a slim 10-9 lead before Andrade had five points to push the lead to 16-9. Barbara Rabanal then had a four-point run for a 24-15 lead before Jady Gerotto closed it out, 25-16.

In the second set, NJC led 18-17 before WNCC went up 21-18. NJC battled back to tie the game at 21-21. NJC went on to win the set, 25-22.

The third set was another battle. NJC held an 11-10 lead before WNCC vaulted to a 19-14 lead behind two Keala Kaio-Perez points. WNCC pushed the lead to 22-15 before NJC came storming back to cut the deficit to 22-20. Kills by both Rabanal and Gerotto allowed WNCC to take the set, 25-21.

The fourth set, like the previous three, was also back and forth. This time NJC held the lead most of the way with margins as much as 18-14, then later at 21-15 before winning the set going away 25-17.

That set up the deciding fifth set NJC held a 4-2 lead before Rabanal had a kill. Kaio-Perez came through with three points for a 6-4 lead and later Katy Ernest had two points, including an ace for a 9-5 lead. WNCC stretched the lead to 12-6 on two Rabanal points before winning the match 15-9.

Andrade said the key in the win was passing and the team was playing together.

“Every single player out there was playing as a team, playing as a group,” she said. “Whoever went out and came in did their job and we wanted to win. We had fire in our eyes.”

Defense was huge for the Cougars, as well, with plenty of players getting digs. Kaio-Perez finished with 17 digs to lead the team followed by 11 from Andrade and Rabanal with 12.

With the win, WNCC improved to 39-4 on the season and will be making its 17th straight national tournament appearance.

Last year, the Cougars lost in the first-round at nationals. Andrade said this year is different.

“We need to be together,” she said. “It is most important for us being together because I know we are able to do it. We need to focus and play for each other.”

That is what they did this week at regionals and they had plenty of players standout on the night.

Rabanal, who was named Region IX South Player of the Year and Freshman of the year, finished with a triple-double of 21 kills, 12 digs, and 11 points in the win against NJC.

Also for the Cougars, Keala Kaio-Perez had eight points, two aces, and 17 digs; Fautino Manu had five points and nine digs; Gerotto had 12 kills, seven points, two aces, and two digs; Ernest had 11 points, six digs, four aces, and four set assists; Lara Picht ahd 14 kills, and Shaney Tiumalu had seven kills.

WNCC picked up several honors during the tournament. Second year coach Binny Canales was the South Coach of the Year and four Cougar players earned all-region honors: Rabanal, Andrade, Gerotto, and Kaio-Perez.

NJC had the Libero of the Year in sophomore Jasmin Montes.

Other members of the all-region team include NJC’s Yuting Qi, Anais Vargas, and Montes; Lamar’s Karina Grajeda, TaNille Williams, Tanaia Hansen, and Andreia Bomfim; Otero’s Karina Erreguin and E’lexias Patterson; and Trinidad’s Hannah Reynolds and Dorian Ray.

The all-tournament team saw four Cougars make the selection, including Rabanal, Andrade, Gerotto, and Picht. Andrade was named the tournament MVP.

Also making the all-tournament team from the other teams were NJC’s Allison Majerus, Zoey Qi, Jasmin Montes-Pedrego, and Anais Vargas; Otero’s Karina Erreguin and E’Lexies Patterson; Trinidad’s Hannah Reynolds, Dorian Ray, and Emmy Gazaway; McCook’s Shaela Jenkins; and Lamar’s TaNille Williams.

Trinidad State was awarded the Sheila R. Worley tournament sportsmanship award.

WNCC release

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