Barbara Briceno tallied a triple-double and the top-ranked Western Nebraska Community College volleyball team earned a four-game win over No. 8 Salt Lake Community College 25-17, 26-24, 11-25, 25-19 Thursday evening at Cougar Palace.
Briceno finished with 18 kills, 14 digs, and 12 points, but it was actually a good team effort as different players came up big, whether it was kills, serving, or on defense.
Joise Maldonado, the 6-foot-3 freshman from Puerto Rico, finished the match with seven kills along with Brooke Kaawa. Maldonado said they played alright, minus the third game.
“Tonight we had ups and downs,” she said. “We are still working and trying to get better every time. It is a process and we are doing great.”
Thursday’s win was the Cougars sixth straight win and their 14th on the season to just two defeats. Maldonado said there is pressure being number one, but it is forcing them to work harder in practice to get better.
“We have pressure [being ranked number one] because every team has the opportunity to beat number one,” she said. “We have to work hard every day and try to get better. Every match we play helps us in trying to be a team and being more together.”
The Cougars did take a good step forward, minus the third game where the Cougars trailed 19-4 at one time. The other three games, WNCC did what they needed to get the win.
Salt Lake jumped out to a 6-4 lead early in the first game behind three points from Alyssa Walker. WNCC came back behind Briceno’s five service points for a 10-6 lead. Brooke Kaawa later came through with six points for a 17-9 lead. Salt Lake sliced the lead to 19-14 on two Laken Te’o points before WNCC won the first game 25-17 on a Briceno ace.
Salt Lake started the second game by leading 6-1 and later 9-4. Salt Lake stayed in control leading 16-11. WNCC finally came back, tying the game at 17-17 on a Briceno point and taking its first lead of the game at 21-20. Salt Lake came back to grab a 23-21 lead before Kaylee Spreier had two service points for a 24-23 lead. WNCC won the second game on two Briceno kills and a Kirstee Trees points.
The third game was all Salt Lake from the get-go, jumping out to a 12-2 lead and leading 19-4 before winning going away 25-11.
The blowout in the third game woke the Cougars up as they jumped to a 13-5 lead in the fourth game behind solid defense, timely hitting, and strong serving. Salt Lake, however, wasn’t going away quietly, cutting the lead to 16-15. Lara Picht finally stopped the 5-point service run with a kill followed by a Lauren Shaul service point.
Salt Lake came back to cut the lead to one at 20-19 before Briceno hammered down a kill and then served the final two points, aided by two Picht kills.
WNCC had plenty of contributions on the night. Briceno, besides her triple-double, also had two aces and two assist blocks. Picht finished with 14 kills, three points, and seven digs; Spreier had five kills, three assist blocks, and an ace; Kaawa had seven kills, five points, and eight digs; and Maldonado had seven kills.
Also for the Cougars, Berta had 45 set assists, two kills, five kills, and seven digs; Genesis Benitez-Fontanez had 12 digs; Shaul had three points and two digs; and Trees had four points and seven digs.
Salt Lake was led by Andrea Brady with 12 kills, while Aubrie Steiner had nine kills and seven blocks. Olivia Osborn finished with five blocks, while Te’o had 15 digs and 31 assists.
WNCC will be back in action this weekend as they co-host the Wyo-Braska Classic with Eastern Wyoming College. WNCC will face Western Wyoming Community College at 2 p.m. Friday followed a contest with Seward County Community College at 6 p.m. Saturday’s matches will see WNCC face Garden City Community College at 8 a.m. and Northwest College at 12 noon.