The second-ranked Western Nebraska Community College volleyball team started slow before a furious rally before falling in five, heart-pounding, energy-packed sets 25-20, 25-18, 26-28, 22-25, 17-15 to Northeastern Junior College in a Region IX South Conference contest Thursday in Sterling, Colorado.
The loss halts an 18-match winning streak and moves the Cougars to 24-3 overall. WNCC falls to 5-1 in South Conference play, just a half-game ahead of NJC at 4-1.
Thursday’s match-up was all about starting slow in the opening two sets, where NJC led 14-6 in the first set before winning 25-20. The second set saw NJC lead 21-15 at one point and pushed to the 25-18 win.
With their backs to the wall, the Cougar players responded with more emotion in the third and fourth sets. The third set was a back and forth tussle. WNCC led 11-7 only to watch the Plainswomen come back to knot the score at 22. From there both teams had set points. The Cougars won the set as Kadara Marshall hammered home a kill and then served the final point for the 28-26 win.
The fourth set was another donnybrook slugfest. WNCC led 7-4 only to watch NJC take a 19-18 lead. The Cougars went ahead 23-19 on four Jayme Commins service points and then won the set 25-22, forcing a fifth set.
The fifth set was no different than the previous two. WNCC led 3-0 and 9-7 at one points. The Cougars pushed the lead to 13-12 on a Brooke Kaawa kill. Teams traded sideouts with both teams facing match points. WNCC tied the fifth at 15-15 on a Sarena Bartley kill. A missed serve gave the ball back to NJC and they won the set 17-15 on a controversially ending after a lengthy huddle between the chair judge, floor judge, and the two lines people.
WNCC had three players with double-doubles. Brooke Kaawa finished with 14 kills, 13 digs, six points and two assist blocks. Syenna Masaki tallied 10 kills, 13 set assists, seven digs, and six points, while Jayme Commins had 12 points, 36 set assists, five digs, three kills, and two aces.
Also for the Cougars, Kadara Marshall had 10 kills, three digs, and five points; Genesis Benitez had 22 digs and six points; Kirstee Trees had six digs and three points; Joise Maldonado had eight kills; Kaile Tuisamatatele had four kills, two solo blocks, and six assist blocks; Sarena Barley had five kills and two assist blocks, and Aneta Faksova had two assist blocks.
While the Cougars had a lot of positive offensive weapons, the Cougars also tallied 26 hitting errors compared to 54 kills. The Cougars also missed eight serves on the night.
WNCC will look to rebound next week when they hit the road for the 3-day southern Colorado Region IX South trip where they will play Otero on Thursday, Lamar on Friday, and Trinidad State on Saturday.
WNCC will then return home the following weekend with five home matches in four straight days, including a rematch with NJC on Oct. 25.