The Western Nebraska Community College volleyball team had to dig deep into their hearts Tuesday night in a match against Casper College at Cougar Palace.
Trailing two sets to one, the Cougars needed a lift. Ogallala’s Jayme Commins provided that lift at setter as the former Indian finished with 21 set assists in the fourth and fifth sets, lifting the sixth-ranked Cougars over Casper 25-17, 24-26, 19-25, 25-17, 15-8 for their eighth win of the season.
“Coming in was hard but the team I have, I can’t even describe them,” she said. “The support I get from them is great and they have all the confidence in me. I knew as soon as I went in, we needed to pick it up and go.”
The Cougars started the match strong, capturing the first set 25-17 behind service runs that lasted three and four points before Genesis Benitez serve the final two points on back-to-back kills from Sarena Bartley for the win.
Casper made an adjustment in games two and three and used strong service runs of their own. WNCC overcome a 6-2, second set deficit to lead 23-19. Casper came back to tie the set on three Emma Rogers points. The Cougars led 24-23 but couldn’t get the set point as Casper won 26-24.
The third set looked good after Lauren Shaul served up two ace serves for a 4-2 lead. Things changed as Giuliana Irvine served six points for an 8-4 lead. WNCC couldn’t get untracked with the Thunderbirds taking the third set 25-19.
WNCC trailed 9-6 in the fourth set until a thundering Kaile Tuisamatatele kill sparked the team. Kirstee Trees then served three points on two aces to put WNCC up 10-9. Commins pushed the lead to 15-10 with a setter dump and then four points on two Masaki kills for a 15-10 lead. Casper tried coming back, cuing the lead to 20-17, but a Tuisamatatele kill and then four Trees points gave WNCC the 25-17 win, setting up the crucial game five.
WNCC trailed early, 4-3, and then went ahead 7-5 on a Bartley kill. WNCC pushed the lead to 13-6 on five Benitez points and two kills apiece from Bartley and Tusiamatatele. WNCC won the match on a Brooke Kaawa kill and Trees point.
Commins said the difference in the match was the team knew they were making mistakes and they had to let the negative vibe not get them down. The fourth and fifth sets, they just did that.
“Sometimes we get really intense where every mistake is getting down on us,” she said. “But then we realize that we have to let it go and move onto the next point. I think we picked each other up and that was a big deal tonight.”
WNCC had three players finish with double-digit kills. Bartley led the team with 14 kills followed by Tuisamatatele with 13, and Kaawa with 12. Joise Maldonado had seven kills while Aneta Faksova had five.
While the Cougars finished with 55 kills as a team, they also committed 33 hitting errors with the majority coming in the second and third set. When the team settled down, those hitting errors became less and less in the final two sets.
WNCC also picked up the blocking game in the sets they won. Faksova had three blocks while Masaki had two.
Masaki also finished with 29 set assists, nine points, 11 digs, and ace, while Commins tallied 21 set assists, four points, and two digs.
Also for the Cougars, Benitez had 13 digs and 11 points; Trees had 10 digs, eight points, and two aces; Kaawa had 11 digs, seven points, and an ace; Tuisamatatele with seven points and an ace; and Shaul with three points and three aces.
WNCC, 8-2, will be back in action this weekend when they head to the Blue Mountain Inn Invitational in Rangely, Colorado, where they will face Utah State-Eastern, Colorado Northwestern, Colby, and Sheridan.