Lady Cougars finish third at nationals
     2011-11-24      By The Gering Citizen   
Courtesy photo Front row from left, Danika Youngblood, Alyssa Olson, Debora Araujo, Alyssa Ostrander, Alex Rivera, Tasha Meyer, Fernanda Goncalves, and Lais Soares; back row, Assistant Coach Fatima Balza, Assistant Coach C 
WEST PLAINS, Mo. – The Western Nebraska Community College volleyball team didn’t capture a national championship, but what they did was finish in the top three for the sixth straight season with a impressive four-set win against San Jacinto College 25-15, 19-25, 25-16, 25-19 Saturday afternoon at the NJCAA national tournament in West Plains, Mo.

The Cougars win was a complete team effort as three players finished with double digit kills, led by Danika Youngblood with 15, followed by Debora Araujo with 14 and Lais Soares with 10.

The win came a day after the Cougars fell to Western Wyoming Community College in four sets in the semifinals. Blinn College went on to capture the tournament championship with a four-set win over Western Wyomng Community College.

WNCC coach Giovana Melo was pleased with how her team rebounded and came away with the third place trophy.

“Our goal was to be in this final match. It isn’t the case but I am happy to get out of here with a win and make the girls a little bit happy,” she said. “In that second set when we were down, I asked them to play with heart and go get the win because we deserved it.”

The Cougars placed two players on the all-tournament team in Araujo and Fernanda Goncalves. Both players also were members of the all-tournament team as freshman.
Araujo and Youngblood, who each finished with a double-double, each said that this win means a lot to get that sour taste of that semifinal defeat out of their mind.

“This win means that we did a good job. Actually, our goal was first place, but third place is a good one, too,” the sophomore outside hitter said. “We played really good tonight. We played as a team and everyone helped each other. We played our game.”

Another factor that might have gave the team a lift was an unexpected visitor to the game as former Cougar Kathryn Stock, along with her mom and sister, made a stop to watch the contest. Stock helped the Cougars win a national title last year.
Youngblood said that taking third gives her plenty of incentive to return and try to get to that championship contest.

“Being so close to a national title, it makes me really want to get there next year again,” she said. “This win just feels great. It feels like we won a national championship in a way. It was fun.”

Youngblood said the big key for this team tonight was they went out and had a lot of fun and played a lot more together. She added that the whole tournament they played well; they just had that one speed bump on Friday night.

“Actually I thought we played really well in the whole tournament in playing as a team,” she said. “I had a lot of fun with my teammates and I trusted them.”
The Cougars definitely had fun in this contest. WNCC led from start to finish in the opening set. WNCC held a slim 10-8 lead before Jodi Huddleston hammered home a kill. WNCC then scored 10 of the next 13 points to hold a 20-12 lead. Alex Rivera then served the final two points as Megan Johnson recorded a solid block for the win.

The second set was all San Jacinto as they led from start to finish. San Jac at one time held a 21-9 lead before WNCC mounted a mini comeback behind four service points from Youngblood, but it wasn’t enough as San Jac won 25-18.
The third set was back and forth as WNCC held a slim 10-9 lead. Lais Soares then hammered home a kill and Araujo had three service points, including two aces to put the Cougars up 14-9. WNCC led 19-16 and that is when Araujo served the final six points for the win.

The fourth set was another back and forth set as both teams led by more than two points. WNCC went up 20-18 on a Soares service point and after San Jac cut the lead to 20-19, Youngblood hammered home a kill and then served the final five points. Araujo capped off the win with a booming kill.
Melo said that fourth set was unreal with how both teams battled back and forth with sideout after sideout.

“It has been a while that I have been able to participate in a game like that,” she said. “I think it says a little about the junior college teams that they are competitive and in the same level and that is what is fun about playing and competing in the junior college.”

Youngblood finished the contest with 15 kills, 10 digs, two blocks and six points; Araujo had a triple-double with 14 kills, 13 points, 15 digs and four aces; Taylor VanderWerff with five kills; Soares with 10 kills, three digs, and four points; Jodi Huddleston had nine kills, two solo blocks, three assist blocks, and five digs; Megan Johnson had two kills and three blocks; Alex Rivera had 22 digs and five points; Dani Grace had 11 digs; and Fernanda Goncalves had 50 set assists, 13 digs and six points’

WNCC finishes the season at 41-2 and loses five sophomores – Araujo, Goncalves, Soares, Huddleston and Grace. Araujo said she has had a outstanding two seasons at WNCC. “I had awesome teammates, great players, and awesome coach,” she said.

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