After four scrimmages, the Western Nebraska Community College volleyball team is ready to open the season on Friday and Saturday when they compete in the Reiver Invite in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
The pre-season fourth-ranked Cougars open the season on Friday at 2 p.m. against Indian Hills Community College and then face No. 3 Iowa Western Community College at 6 p.m. WNCC will wrap up the Reiver Invite on Saturday against Jefferson College and Barton Community College.
WNCC head coach Binny Canales said his team is ready to compete.
“I hope we are ready to go,” Canales said. “We are playing well, doing a lot of good things, and we just have to make sure we can do it against other good teams. We play Indian Hills and Iowa Western and they are both strong teams. We just have to take care of things on our end of the court and if we do that it increases our chances to be successful.”
Friday’s opponents will be good tests. Indian Hills sports a team of 15 players, 14 of which are international including 12 from Brazil. A year ago, the Warriors went 37-5. Iowa Western, who finished in the top 8 at nationals last year, have 15 players on the team including eight sophomores.
Canales said he really doesn’t know too much about either team.
“Indian Hills is prominently international and I don’t know a whole lot about those kids,” Canales said. “Right now it is what we can do. If we can stay in system and be on the attack, I think we will be fine.”
That is the key early on, too. It is not so much as what your opponent does, it is what the Cougar team does. So far, Canales likes what he has seen from his team.
“We can maintain a good amount of energy for a good amount of time and we are working on it to be longer,” he said. “Our ball control is solid, we have very good setters, and we can attack. We can attack the ball in-system and out-of-system and that helps us.”
A big key for the Cougars success is the two returning setters, Jayme Commins of Ogallala and Enna Masaki of Hawaii. Both setters saw plenty of time last year and they have showed plenty of leadership on the court in the four scrimmages the team had this month.
“It is great to have two returning setters because they have been in the system for a year and they know exactly what I want them to do,” Canales said. “A lot of time they are finishing sentences for me. It is a blessing to have returning setters that know your system.”
Commins and Masaki are only two key returners. The Cougars also have four other returners back from a 33-8 team a year ago. The other returning starters include Sarena Bartley of Ridgefield, Washington, and Kaile Tuisamatatele of Kapolei, Hawaii. Bartley is a rightside hitter while Tuisamatatele is a middle hitter. Also returning are Aloni Jordan of St. Louis, Missouri, and Logan Belford of Loveland, Colorado.
A big boost to the Cougars is a freshmen class that has plenty of depth on defense and attacking. The Cougars defense will be led by Adia Sherbeyn of Torrington, Wyoming, Ana Costas of Gurabo, Puerto Rico, and Terri Takita-Robins of Miliani, Hawaii.
The freshman hitters include Gabriela Canavati of Laredo, Texas, Camille Esselin of Thionville, France, Amryi-Grace Paris of Nanakuli, Hawaii, Santana Monroe of Greenwood Village, Colorado, and Leslie Lagafuaina of Tacoma, Washington.
WNCC has been practicing since Aug. 2 and have played four scrimmage games, going 3-1. The Cougars only defeat was to the University of Nebraska-Kearney in Ogallala back on Aug. 11. WNCC did defeated NCAA Division II Metro State in Ogallala before earning 5-0 wins over Eastern Wyoming College and the WNCC Alumni.
After this weekend, the Cougars will not have an easy time the following week. WNCC hosts No. 12 Laramie County Community College on Wednesday, before heading to the Crystal Inn Invite in Salt Lake City, where they will face No. 2 College of Southern Idaho and No. 15 Salt Lake Community College.
Canales said he loves playing the national powers because it makes his team better.
“We like to play the tough games to know where we are,” he said. “This type of schedule helps us. We are continuously getting better. This tournament will expose some things that we need to work on and that is a plus.”