The fifth-ranked Western Nebraska Community College volleyball team received 13 kills from Jenna Curtis and 11 points from Erica Fava as the Cougars swept past Northwest College 25-15, 25-13, 25-19 to open up the WyoBraska Invite that is being played at WNCC and Eastern Wyoming College during the weekend.

The other Thursday match in the WyoBraska Invite saw Northeastern Junior College top EWC 25-17, 25-9, 25-17.

Action in the tournament continues Friday and Saturday with matches beginning at 9 a.m. WNCC’s contests Friday will see the Cougars battle Casper College at 1 p.m. and Western Wyoming Community College at 5 p.m.

WNCC freshman setter Shanelle Martinez said the team played well in getting their 14th win of the season.

“I think we played well today but I think we could have run our middles a little bit more,” the Cougar setter said. “We just have to get into our system a little bit more but I think overall, we did pretty well.”

Martinez said a big part of the win was the team’s defense, where the Cougars hustled for balls, including several pancakes and some big blocks. WNCC had five solo blocks in the match with Emmalei Mapu recording two.

The first set saw the Cougars come out strong as Martinez served three points for a 4-0 lead and then Curtis added three points for an 8-1 lead. WNCC went up 13-4 after Ale Meoni had three points, including two aces and led 17-7 on a Curtis kill.

Northwest came back to cut the lead to 17-10 on two points from Megan Pannell, but the Cougars doubled up the Trappers 22-11 on two Anakaren Chavez points and won the first set 25-15 on a Fava kill and then service point.

The second set went back and forth. Northwest led 9-7 after two points from Kamri Hutchings. Juliana Oliveira stopped the streak with a kill and then Fava served seven straight points for a 15-9 lead. Oliveira followed with three points for a 19-10 lead.

WNCC went up by double digits after Martinez had three points including kills from Mapu and Charli Blackman for a 23-11 lead. WNCC won the second set 25-13.

The third set started the same way as the second set and Northwest led 3-2 and later tied at 4-4. WNCC went up for good on a Fava point and a Meoni ace serve for a 6-4 lead. WNCC expanded the lead to 10-5 on a Fava kill and then Fava had three points for a 10-5 lead that was aided by two Curtis kills and a Fava ace serve.

WNCC doubled up Northwest 18-9 on a Chavez point. Northwest battled back as Hutchings had two points to cut the deficit to 19-13 and then Kimberly Pannell had two points to make it 21-16. Northwest trailed 23-18 after a point from Mia Sorensen, but WNCC held on to get the win 25-19.

Curtis led the way for the Cougars with a double-double of 13 kills, 11 digs, six points and an ace serve. Fava had 11 points with eight digs and six kills, while Martinez had 30 set assists with eight points and five digs.

Meoni had a good night with eight kills, five points, four aces, and four digs, while Mapu had three kills and two solo blocks. Blackman finished with three kills while Oliveira had a kill with three points.

Also for the Cougars, Chavez had 13 digs with five points; Hernandez had three points, two digs, and an ace serve; Autumn Bennett had two digs and a service point; Lexi Keoho had seven digs; and Shae Hardy had three assists with a dig.

WNCC soccer teams ready for home openers

                After three weeks on the road, the Western Nebraska Community College men’s and women’s soccer teams will be home for four straight matches beginning this weekend.

                The Cougar women and men will host Northeastern Junior College on Friday and then Lamar Community College on Saturday in two of the team’s four home matches over the next two weekends. The Cougars only have four regular season home matches this year slated with the next two home matches September 23 and 24.

                Friday’s soccer contests begin at 1 p.m. for the Cougar women and 3:30 p.m. for the Cougar men with the same start times for Saturday.

                WNCC freshman Natalya Baird-Watson, from New South Wales, Australia, said the team is excited to be at home and they have been working hard this week.

                “The team has been putting in the work week in and week out and I know we all want to win because we have that drive and determination as a team,” Baird-Watson said. “Last weekend wasn’t our best performance however, we went back and accessed our strengths and weaknesses as a team. We are all ready for this weekend’s first home games of the season. I couldn’t be more excited.”

                For the Cougar women to add more conference wins to their already impressive record, Baird-Watson said they need to execute the game plan.

                “To come away with the win this weekend, we need to apply what we have been working on and execute the game plan,” she said. “Most importantly, we need to be confident, cohesive and positive and I think that’s what will push us over the edge to get the win.”

                The Cougars already have faced Northeastern Junior College this season in non-conference tilts. Friday’s contests will count in the conference standings.

                The Cougar women defeated the Plainswomen on August 28 at Sterling, Colorado, 4-2. In that match, freshman Tania Razo score two goals and Lesley Vasquez and Andrea Jimenez each had one goal.

                “NJC would be considered our rival opponents ever since I’ve been here. Whenever we face this team, we play the game with personal matters. The game normally gets pretty intense and when we face them it’s usually a challenge,” Jimenez said. “The first time we faced them we got scored on first but we bounced back with 4 goals in total. Despite our results, we will be coming strong in this game!”

                The Cougar men weren’t so lucky in the first meeting against Northeastern, falling 1-0 on a goal in the 73rd minute.

                Then, on Saturday, the Cougars will face a Region IX school in conference action when Lamar comes to town. It is Lamar’s first year of having soccer. The Runnin’ Lopes women’s team are 1-2 on the season having beat Hesston College 2-0 before losing conference games to Northwest 3-0 and Casper 2-0.

                The Lamar men are 0-5 this season and have been outscored 24-5 so far this season. The Lamar men are 0-2 in conference play, falling last weekend to Northwest 3-1 and Casper 7-1.

                The Cougar men are 1-3 and the Cougar women are 4-2 on the season. In conference play, the Cougar men are 1-0 while the women are 1-1.

Jimenez said they don’t know much about Lamar, but they just need to worry about themselves.

“This is a new team in the conference and we haven’t faced them yet,” she said. “Regardless of who we face this year we have to keep in mind that every game is a fresh start. It doesn’t matter what previous games we won because it’s the present that guides us towards the Region 9 tournament.”