It will be a busy weekend for the top-ranked Western Nebraska Community College volleyball team as they prepare for five matches in three days at Cougar Palace.
The volleyball team’s rigorous schedule begins Thursday night with a top 10 showdown when No. 8 Salt Lake Community College comes to town for a 7 p.m. matchup.
After Thursday’s match, WNCC and Eastern Wyoming College, who are ranked No. 18 in the nation, will host the Wyo-Braska Classic at both locations.
WNCC’s Wyo-Braska Friday schedule will pit the Cougars against Western Wyoming at 2 p.m. and then Seward County Community College at 6 p.m. Saturday’s slate of games for the top-ranked Cougars include an 8 a.m. contest against Garden City Community College and then a 12 noon match with Northwest College, a team that handed the Cougars one of their two losses this season.
Lauren Shaul, a Gering graduate, said this is a big weekend and they have to be ready.
“These next five matches will be huge,” she said. “A few of them are against ranked teams and they will be really fighting to beat us. We’re definitely going to need to bring a lot of energy to the court this weekend. Also, we’re going to have to pick up some more wins in order to stay at the number one spot.”
And, it all begins Thursday night against a Salt Lake Community College team that has plenty of talent. Salt Lake is 8-4 on the season while the Cougars are 13-2. WNCC has won its last five matches.
Shaul said the team looked good at the Pizza Hut Classic in Sterling, Colorado, where they beat Cloud County, NJC, Casper and Sheridan in dropping just one set the entire weekend.
“This past weekend, I thought the team looked good,” she said. “We did a lot of great things and are continuing to improve as the season goes on.”
Thursday’s match with Salt Lake is definitely a top 10 showdown between two teams that have been national powers for the last 10 years or more. Shaul said the key to winning is passing.
“Our focus for our match against Salt Lake is to stay consistent with our passing,” she said. “As long as we can pass, the rest will fall into place.”
WNCC has two players in the top 40 in digs. Genesis Benitez-Fontanez is ranked seventh in the country with 261 digs (4.82 per game) while Barbara Briceno is 40th with 168 digs. Briceno also ranks number one in kills with 227 and is 9th in kills per game at 4.20.
WNCC setter Bia Berta is also having a nice season, setting third in total sets with 533 (10.06 per game).
The players realize, however, they can’t rest on past play. They have to be ready from the start. They ae also looking forward to a weekend at home after three straight weekends on the road.
“The team is really looking forward to being able to stay home for the weekend,” Shaul said. “Everyone loves being able to play in front of a big crowd.”
After the Salt Lake match on Thursday, WNCC and EWC will be filled with plenty of volleyball for the Wyo-Braska Classic, where 12 other teams will visit the two colleges. Action at WNCC begins Friday at 12 noon with eight matches and at EWC at 2 p.m. with six matches. Saturday’s action at both locations begins at 8 a.m.
The Lancers, who last played Sept. 7 and fell to WNCC in four games, will be back on the court after being ranked in the national polls on Tuesday at No. 18. It is the first time the Lancers have been ranked since 2002 (pre-season poll) and 2001 for regular season polls.
EWC will face Garden City at 2 p.m. and then Lake Region at 6 p.m. on Friday, followed by a match with Pratt Community College at 10 a.m. on Saturday and then Williston State at 2 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 16
12 noon – Casper vs. Williston, Salt Lake vs. NJC
2 p.m. – WNCC vs. Western Wyoming, Williston vs. LCCC
4 p.m. – NJC vs. Casper, LCCC vs. Seward
6 p.m. – WNCC vs. Seward, Western Wyoming vs. Salt Lake
2 p.m. – EWC vs. Garden City, Northwest vs. Pratt
4 p.m. – Lake Region vs. Northwest, Garden City vs. Sheridan
6 p.m. – EWC vs. Lake Region, Pratt vs. Sheridan
Saturday, Sept. 17
8 a.m. – WNCC vs. Garden City, Seward vs. Sheridan
10 a.m. – Northwest vs. Seward, Garden City vs. NJC
12 noon – WNCC vs. Northwest, NJC vs. Sheridan
8 a.m. – Lake Region vs. Western Wyoming, Salt Lake vs. Casper
10 a.m. – EWC vs. Pratt, Western Wyoming vs. Williston
12 noon – Casper vs. Lake Region, LCCC vs. Salt Lake
2 p.m. – EWC vs. Williston, Pratt vs. LCCC