The Western Nebraska Community College volleyball team earned their fate for next week’s NJCAA national volleyball tournament as the Cougars earned the fourth seed at the national tournament when the pairings were released Thursday morning.

WNCC’s opening match will be against Blinn College who earned the 13th seed for the national tourney. WNCC enters with a 32-3 record while Blinn is 33-9. The Cougars will open play Thursday, Nov. 17 at 2 p.m. MST in West Plains, Missouri.

A win in the first round will advance WNCC to the quarterfinals where they will meet the winner of the No. 5 Missouri State-West Plains and No. 12 Northeastern Junior College game at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday night.

If WNCC falls in the first match, they will face the loser of the MSU-West Plains and NJC match Friday at 11 a.m. MST.

WNCC sophomore Alex Hernandez, who is making her second trip to the national tournament with the Cougars in two years, said the team doesn’t know much about Blinn at this point, but she said they have to be good to make the national tournament.

“I do not know much about Blinn except that they are from Texas,” the El Paso, Texas, native said. “I do know that all the teams at nationals will be good and will competitively.”

Hernandez was a part of the WNCC regional championship team back in April 2021 when they competed at nationals in West Plains, Missouri. That year the Cougars faced Blinn in the first round, falling to Blinn in straight sets. The Cougars then topped Lawson State in five before falling to Missouri State-West Plains.

Hernandez said that this year’s team has the potential to go further than the April 2021 team did.

“This is my second time going to nationals with WNCC and I feel so blessed to be able to be a part such amazing teams,” Hernandez said. “I feel like this year’s team has so much more potential to go further at nationals this year. I’ve never been on a team where so many of us want the same thing as bad as we do. We all really want and believe that we will go far. I love this team so much and no matter how we do week, I will forever be proud of us.”

The Cougars earned one of the top four seeds for the tournament. Florida SouthWestern earned the top seed and will face No. 16 Wallace State. Indian Hills earned the second seed and will face No. 15 Monroe College, while Salt Lake Community College garnered the third seed and will face No. 14 Eastern Arizona.

WNCC could face Florida SouthWestern in the Final Four with two wins on Thursday. The Final Four is slated for Friday with the championship set for Saturday night on ESPN+ this year.

To make some noise at nationals, Hernandez said they need to play hard and have fun with plenty of energy.

“We just need to play hard and have fun. This is what we’ve been working for all season, so we just need to focus on our goal and have energy throughout the whole tournament,” she said. “Also, I think serving to score points will help us win games.”

The rest of the pairings will have No. 5 Missouri State-West Plains facing No. 12 NJC; No. 6 Miami Dade taking on No. 11 Seward County; No. 7 Trinity Valley meeting No. 10 New Mexico Military; and No. 8 Utah State-Eastern taking on the third Region IX team No. 9 Central Wyoming College.

WNCC will depart for the national tournament Monday morning and Hernandez said the team is working hard for a strong run at nationals. She added they are getting more excited as the week gets closer.

“The team and I are super excited as nationals comes closer,” she said. “We’ve all worked so hard this season and to be able to go to nationals as the four seed goes to show that our hard work has paid off.”