The Western Nebraska Community College volleyball team received 18 kills each from Enna Masaki and Gaby Canavati and the Cougars topped No. 19 Otero Junior College in four sets Thursday night at Cougar Palace in a Region IX South conference contest.
WNCC’s win was highlighted by plenty of fight, in coming back from deficits all night lone to get the 26-24, 25-27, 25-21, 28-26 win to move to 5-1 in conference play and 19-7 overall. Otero drops to 4-2 in conference and 21-3 overall.
Jayme Commins, who guided the offense with 52 set assists, said it was a big win for the team.
“I think we played together more as a team and having everyone back on the team, after having a couple players out with injuries, really helped us tonight,” Commins said. “This is a big win. We have been on a little bit of a win streak and it is really nice to get this win at home and going into the weekend games starting with a win.”
It was a big team win considering the last time they played Otero two weeks ago, the Rattlers swept the Cougars. Thursday night, the Cougars fought to the end in all four sets.
Commins said the key between Thursday and the first time they faced Otero was playing as one.
“I think down there we just shut down as a team and weren’t playing together,” she said. “This time we kind of knew we can’t win without each other. We just played as a team.”
The game featured plenty of stellar play along the net and the back row from both teams. The two top teams in Region IX South battled tooth and nail.
Otero jumped out to a 7-1 lead in the opening set and led 13-7 at one point. WNCC came back to cut the lead to 13-12 on four Ana Costas points. Otero jumped back in front 23-18 and seemed to be in the driver’s seat for the first-set win.
WNCC came storming back. First it was a Masaki kill and then the sophomore served three points to cut the deficit to 23-22. Otero got a sideout to come within a point of taking set. WNCC got a kill from Cavanati and then Camille Esselin served the final three points, including back-to-back kills from Masaki to claim the set 26-24.
The second set started identical to the first with Otero leading 9-1. WNCC came back to take a 16-15 lead. From there it was back and forth until Otero led 22-20. WNCC came back to lead 25-24 on a Masaki point, but the Rattlers came back to even the match with the 27-25 win.
Otero jumped out to an 11-7 lead in the third set. After a miss serve, Adia Sherbeyn served six points behind four kills from Masaki for a 14-11 lead. During that string of service points, Ana Costas made a one-handed save and there were other defensive gems from both teams.
Otero, however fought back for a 16-14 lead before WNCC took the lead for good at 19-16 on four Costas points. WNCC won the set on a Leslie Mamai-Lagafuaina kill 25-21.
The fourth set was a humdinger, too. WNCC led 17-13 after two Canavati kills and three Masaki points. Otero came back with Kelsey Garcia serving six points for a 20-17 lead. Otero led 23-19 on a Shelbi Chino ace serve and looked to be cruising to force a game five leading 24-20.
Masaki slammed home a kill change the momentum. Sherbeyn then served three points to knot the set at 24-24. Both teams went back and forth with set and match points until WNCC finally came through with a kill at the end for the 28-26 win.
Masaki finished with a triple-double with 18 kills, 11 digs, 11 points, and two solo blocks. Sherbeyn, Costas, and Commins each had a double-double Commins had 52 set assists, 16 digs, eight points, and two kills, while Costas had 25 digs, 12 points, two aces, and five set assists. Sherbeyn had 16 digs and 10 points.
Amryi-Grace Paris hammered down 10 kills with three digs, while Kaile Tuisamatatele had six kills, three digs, and four solo blocks. Mamai-Lagafuaina finished with 10 kills and two digs.
WNCC, 19-7, will be back in action on Friday when they host Lamar Community College at 6 p.m. in another Region IX South Conference contest. Lamar fell to Northeastern Junior College on Thursday in straight sets 25-19, 25-15, 25-23. The Cougars will wrap up the weekend home stand on Saturday against Trinidad State Junior College at 1 p.m.
Commins said they need to continue focusing as a team.
“I think just focus on the game and not worry about anything else,” she said. “We just need to focus on playing as a team. Tonight, we just realized that this is our sophomore year and last time at playing at home this year and we weren’t going to let it down. We wanted to go out of this gym with a win.”