It will be a battle between two volleyball teams that have a combined three losses between then when the Western Nebraska Community College and Eastern Wyoming College volleyball teams tangle with each other Wednesday evening at Cougar Palace.
That is right. Both Highway 26 teams are among the leaders in Region IX this season. The Cougars, who entered the season at No. 2 in the pre-season polls, are 8-2 on the year after splitting four matches at the Salt Lake tourney last weekend.
The Lancers are 7-1 this season. EWC’s only defeat came to Colby Community College. The Lancers have won six straight entering Tuesday night’s match with Trinidad State Junior College.
The Highway 26 battle is set for a 7 p.m. first serve at Cougar Palace.
EWC coach Julie Sherbeyn said her team is looking forward to Wednesday’s showdown.
“I am really excited to play them again and when we played them in the scrimmage we did, personally, did well in scoring points against them,” she said. “The objective for us this week as a team is to play Trinidad tonight [Tuesday] at LCCC, and we want to go down there and make another statement and use that to take with us to WNCC. It should be an exciting match.”
What makes Wednesday’s match that more intriguing is how both teams are playing. While it has been a while since the Lancers have come into the Highway 92 battle with a better record than Cougars, Sherbeyn still believes WNCC is one of the elite programs in the region and nation and has a lot of respect for the Cougar program. Sherbeyn would love to get her team to the level WNCC is.
“I have so much respect for Coach Canales and the WNCC program because where they go and play teams from across the country. He builds programs to make them successful and keeps them there,” she said. “They have seen a little bit tougher competition than us, too, so we need to show them respect. We might have a better record, but I know that they have seen better competition, which we need to look for in the future. That is my objective is to keep moving my program forward and take on those big matches early in the season and reach the caliber of team that we want to be in that national prominence.”
Both teams have picked up big wins this season. WNCC has defeated No. 1 College of Southern Idaho twice as well as topping No. 4 Iowa Western Community College. This past weekend at the Salt Lake tourney, the Cougars went 2-2 falling to No. 15 Missouri State-West Plains and No. 5 Northwest College.
The Lancers have registered big win over Casper College and Northeastern Junior College this season.
Sherbeyn said that with each match, her team is gaining confidence. Right now, EWC is playing well and a big key for the Lancers is their never-give-up attitude.
“They are playing really well together right now,” she said. “We aren’t without some inconsistencies, but it seems when they need to step it up and get something done, they are able to make plays.”
Sherbeyn said what has helped the Lancers this season is their serving and defense – two areas they need to keep strong against WNCC on Wednesday.
“A lot of our success this year has come from our serve to keep teams out of system,” she said. “Also, our defensive play has been really good. So, we just need to continue with that and continue to challenge our players in keeping the ball alive. Even if we have players that aren’t as big or jump as high, if we can keep that ball alive on our side of the court, it can frustrate teams where they will start making their own errors. It will take everything clicking on all cylinders in order to get a win against WNCC.”
The Lancer team is definitely starting to turn the corner of restoring their national tournament presence back when Verl Petsch was coach. Last year entering the WNCC match, the Lancers were 8-7. And, he last time the Lancers have gotten off to this kind of start at 7-1 was back in 2010 when they were also 7-1. Back in 2010, EWC was 8-3 when they faced WNCC for the first time. The Cougars were 6-2 entering the match with EWC that same year.
“We are starting to turn the corner as a program,” Sherbeeyn said. “The kids are expecting to win and it hasn’t been that way necessarily since I have been here. The positivity and confidence that I feel is turning around in our favor. We are excited for that because we have a good group of kids. They deserve that.”
After Wednesday’s border-war clash, the Lancers will be off until Sept. 16-17 when they co-host the Wyo-Braska Classic with WNCC. The Cougars, in the meantime, will play in the Pizza Hut Classic in Sterling, Colorado, Friday andSaturday, before returning home to host Salt Lake Community College on Sept. 15.