4 WNCC volleyball players head to next level
     2016-04-22      By Media Report    editor@geringcitizen.com
Fabiana Andrade, Katy Ernest, Keala Kaio-Perez, and Vaniriz Vazquez pose during the signing ceremony last week. 
The Western Nebraska Community College volleyball team will be sending four players from last fall’s national championship runner-up team to the next level to continue playing volleyball, including two that will join former Cougar volleyball coaches.

Fabiana Andrade will be heading to the Division I level after signing with Cal-State-Bakersfield. Former Cougar coach Giovana Melo was the one that recruited Andrade to WNCC.

Keala Kaio-Perez will also be joining a former Cougar coach, inking with Chris Green and the Seawolves of the University of Alaska Anchorage.

Katy Ernest, who starred at Leyton High School, will continue her volleyball career at the University of Nebraska Kearney as a walk-on player.

The final Cougar moving on is Vaniriz Vazquez, who played one season at WNCC. Vazquez will be joining Montana State University-Northern.

All four players said it will be tough to leave WNCC after gaining new friends and memories.

“I am extremely excited actually [to be playing at UNK,” Ernest said. “I sat in here [this room] two years ago and now I get to set here again to make my decision in my college career. High school was an amazing thing because I played with my best friends and we were very successful there. Then I was able to come to a school at WNCC where we were just as successful and I got to meet new people. That was the greatest experience in meeting new people and teammates like that I did.”

Ernest came to WNCC as a setter and last season was a defensive specialist. When she goes to UNK, she will be a defensive specialist.

Ernest said there was a learning curve to switching to a defensive specialist from setting.

“It was a huge learning curve,” she said. “I had to deal with players next to me instead of transitioning from the back to front row. That was a really big challenge for me since I never re3ally serve received before and I think I was able to do that with my abilities.”

Learning isn’t too hard for Ernest, who is learning all the time. She recently was named to the Nebraska All-State Academic Team on April 12. Ernest is also president of Phi Theta Kappa.

“It is definitely not easy [doing sports and school] but it is all about knowing when you have to get things done and setting time aside for that. I have class here soon,” Ernest said during her the press conference on Thursday at 12:45 p.m. “Sadly I had to miss out on all my teammates signing but that is what you have to do when you are a student athlete; you have to put the student first.”

Ernest is one of many local players that has spent two years at WNCC and then went on to play four-year volleyball. Some of the more recent players include Morgan Broussard, who played at Division I Texas-San Antonio; Brook Blomenkamp at Grand Canyon University, and Whitney Roth at Texas A&M-Kingsville.

“During my decision it was actually school first,” she said. “I really enjoyed the fact that Kearney was big enough that I could be my own person and small enough that I could get to know my teachers. It had really good class sizes in the program I was thinking about. As far as walking on, I felt really confident going into my tryouts. It felt like the right decision.”

Andrade and Kaio-Perez are also headed to familiar territory in a sense with the last two Cougar coaches at CSU-Bakersfield and Alaska Anchorage.

Andrade becomes another in a long line of volleyball players at the Division I level. In fact, Andrade is the third straight Cougar setter to play for Cal State Bakersfield, following in the footsteps of Fernanda Goncalves and Luiza Martins.

“I am going to California State Bakersfield because it is in California and I love the weather and because of Coach G and I always wanted to play for her,” she said. “I am so excited about it. I talked to her a lot before coming here and that made me decide to come here when I was looking for a junior college.”

Andrade is just hoping that she can following in the footsteps of Goncalves and Martins at CSU-Bakersfield.

“Fernanda started here and had the same dorm parents as me. Luiza came after her and had the same dorm parents and both of them went to California,” she said. “I am following them. It is cool to have three Brazilian setters following the same path.”

Another reason she picked Bakersfield is the opportunity to play sand volleyball.

“I always wanted to play sand volleyball,” she said. “I don’t know if I am good at it, but I always wanted to play. I know it will make me better on the court. One of the reasons I choose there was the opportunity to play sand volleyball.”

The hardest thing for Andrade when she leaves WNCC is leaving the new family that she made at WNCC. Her dorm parents Randy and Karna Kleager were the same ones that “adopted” the two previous setters.

“It will be hard because I am leaving family that I made here,” the setter said. “When I got here I couldn’t speak English. The people treated me and my dorm parents and everyone that helped us. It will be hard to leave.

Kaio-Perez, who came to WNCC as an outside hitter her freshman year from Hawaii and played libero last year, is also headed to a program at Alaska Anchorage that has been on the climb upwards.

“I decided to go to the University of Alaska Anchorage because they have a good volleyball team, and the coaches and players are really nice,” she said. “They bring good competition to the floor and that is what I like.”

Kaio-Perez, who finished with 499 digs a year ago and 838 for her 2-year career, was focused attending Alaska from the start.

“I was focused on Alaska Anchorage since day one,” she said. “What really helped me was coach Amy Winters, who help guide myself to go over there and play.”

Kaio-Perez is one of those versatile players. She had 179 kills her freshman year and finished with 232 in her career. She also had career totals of 77 set assists, 52 aces, and a hitting percentage of .149.

Vazquez played just one year at WNCC and is moving on to the NAIA offer. Vazquez said she was looking at several schools but decided that MSU-Northern was the best fit.

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