CHEYENNE, Wyo. – The Western Nebraska Community College volleyball team finished the season with 28 wins after falling to No. 18 Laramie County Community College in four sets in the Region IX District D championship contest Saturday afternoon at the Region IX tournament in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
The Cougars battled in the contest but came up on the wrong side of the scoreboard, falling 25-15, 17-25, 25-14, 26-14 to the Golden Eagles. LCCC will represent Region IX at the national tournament as the District D representative. NJC will represent Region IX in District C after topping WNCC on Friday.
The loss ends WNCC’s 19-year streak at competing at the regional tournament unless they can get one of the two at-large berths.
WNCC coach Binny Canales said it is a bus ride back where there are a lot of sad faces.
“It was a tough loss,” he said. “Everybody is sad on the bus right now. We will work through it and hopefully it will make us stronger.”
WNCC, who finished the season at 28-9, might have come up short of their goal of a regional title in a tournament that was combined this season, but Canales said the team had an excellent season.
“It is not what we wanted [the end result] but we did have some success and we did turn some corners,” he said. “We are looking to regroup with recruiting and work out the problems that we had this year and get Better for next year.”
But, the one thing this year’s volleyball team did was battle. They had to battle through injuries and other issues and they competed against some of the best teams in the nation and taking them to the limit.
Saturday was one of those matches where they battled. LCCC used key service runs to capture the first set 25-15.
The second set was reversed with WNCC grabbing a 5-2 lead early on three Jayme Commins service points. WNCC pushed the lead to 16-10 on a Leslie Mamai-Lagafuaina kill and Commins point. Enna Masaki followed with three points for a 23-15 lead before Kaile Tuisamatatele finished off the set with a kill and a 25-17 WNCC winner.
The third set went the Golden Eagles way with service run, where LCCC had five service runs of three points or more to grab the 25-14 win.
The fourth set was a battle between two teams that were ranked in the top 20 at different times in October. WNCC enjoyed a 10-9 lead before a LCCCtimeout helped the Golden Eagles to a 15-12 lead.
WNCC kept fighting like they did all season, hoping to force a fifth set like they did eight other times this season, winning five of them. WNCC came back to lead 23-22 late and led 24-23 before the Golden Eagles took the final three points for the win.
WNCC finished the match with 41 kills. Sarena Bartley led the way with 11 kills followed by Amryi-Grace Paris with nine and Masaki with seven.
Commins finished with a double-double, tallying 31 set assists, 11 digs, four points, two kills, and two ace serves. Masaki had five set assists with six points and six digs.
Tuisamatatele added five points and three digs to her five kills, while Mamai-Lagafuaina had six kills.
Also for the Cougars, Aloni Jordan had one kill and three assist blocks; Adia Sherbeyn had seven digs and four points; Ana Costas had 20 digs and three points; and Terri Takita-Robins had two digs.
WNCC will lose six sophomores next year – Commins, Masaki, Tuisamatatele, Bartley, Jordan, and Logan Belford. He said all six were special to the team.
“The six sophomores made a huge difference in our roster,” Canales said. “We will have to replace them with the best players that we can find.”
As of next year, there is plenty of talent returning and Canales said they will get better over the off season.
“We have a really good freshmen class and we will work through some things,” he said. “We hope that will help us to get back to where we need to be.”
Several Cougars earned post-season awards. Those making the all-region team include Tuisamatatele, Masaki, Costas, and Mamai-Lagufuaina. Cougars that earned all-tournament honors were Masaki and Tuisamatatele.