Karen Cordero pounded home 19 kills and the 16th-ranked Western Nebraska Community College volleyball team needed five sets to get past Northeastern Junior College Monday night in PAWZitively Pink night at Cougar Palace.
The Cougars won the first two sets with authority 25-15, 25-18, before watching NJC come back to win the next two 25-23, 25-14 to force a fifth set. The fifth set saw the Cougars pick up the energy and cruised to the 15-7 win to improve to 24-5 on the season while winning their 13th straight match.
WNCC moves to 7-0 in conference play with the win and holds a 2-game advantage over second place Otero.
WNCC head coach Binny Canales said they came out ready to play.
“We started off really hot. NJC was a little sluggish coming off the bus,” Canales said. “We knew they were going to fight later on. We just had to fight back.”
The Cougars first two sets were outstanding and then the next two the energy went down on the Cougars side, despite a furious third-set comeback that almost saw the Cougars come back from a 23-16 deficit to win in three.
Canales said they lost energy and weren’t communicating in the third and fourth sets. The fifth set was a different story.
“The energy went down and they weren’t talking,” he said. “We had to remind them why we were here and we were here to compete. They got together and had a little communication themselves and decided they were going to start competing and start being more aggressive. That was the biggest difference.”
The first set saw the Cougars lead from start to finish. After the two rivals were tied at one, two, and three, WNCC took control behind three Leslie Mamai-Lagafuaina points. WNCC pushed the lead to 16-9 on two Cordero points and went up 22-13 on three Andrea Tsvetanova points. Cordero sealed the first set with a kill and the 25-15 win.
The second set saw WNCC put together strong, early service runs including two from Adia Sherbeyn to start the set and then five straight from Ana Costas for an 8-2 lead. WNCC never look back they went up double digits at 19-9 on a La’Treva Kennedy kill and won the set on a Cordero kill.
The third set was the exciting set. WNCC started out fine, leading 6-2 before the Plainswomen caught fire, taking their first lead of the contest by two points from Julia Gutierrez Mas for an 11-9 lead. MacKenzie Wells added four points for a 17-11 lead.
NJC led 23-16 before Gabriela Canavati hammered home a kill and then Costas had a 5-point service run to bring the Cougars back to 23-22. After a sideout, Canavati pounded down another kill to bring the Cougars to 24-23, but NJC got the final point to force a fourth set.
The fourth set saw NJC roll to a 7-2 lead behind four points from Devin Ruble. WNCC came back to trail 7-5 on two Canavati points and only trailed 12-10 at one point. NJC came back, though, to win 25-14 to force the deciding fifth set.
The fifth set started out as a back and forth slugfest. NJC led 4-3 before Kennedy slammed home kill to tie things at four. Olivia Transfiguracion came back to score two points for a 6-4 lead. NJC called a timeout and got a sideout to come back to 6-5.
Canavati came right back with a kill and Sherbeyn had a four point service run, including an ace serve for a 11-5 lead. WNCC kept the foot on the gas pedal to push the lead to 12-6. NJC had a sideout, but Cordero had a kill and then Anabelle Gillen served the final two points with Mamai-Lagafuaina getting the final kill for the winner.
Costas has a double-double in the win with 12 digs and 15 points. She also had seven set assists.
Offensively, three Cougars had double-digit kills. Cordero led the way with 19 kills while also getting eight digs, four points, and a solo block. Mamai-Lagafuaina had 17 kills, two solo blocks, and five points; while Canavati pounded down 14 kills with eight digs and four points. Kennedy and Luisa Beining each had five kills, while Alex Hernandez each had five kills.
Tsvetanova finished with 39 set assists while also tallying five points, three digs, two assisted blocks, and a kill. Transifiguracion had 15 set assists with four digs and two points.
Sherbeyn finished with eight digs and eight points, while Gillen had three points, Arianna Mitchell with two digs; and Hernandez with three digs.
WNCC, 24-5, will next be in action on Friday when they travel to Sterling, Colorado, to face NJC in a 7 p.m. contest. The Cougars will have their final home regular season match on Halloween night at 6 p.m. when McCook Community College comes to Cougar Palace for sophomore recognition night.