It was a battle between last year’s two Region IX champions from the North and South regions and the action Wednesday night had plenty of electricity in Cougar Palace.
In the end, the fourth-ranked Western Nebraska Community College volleyball team came back from a 2-0 deficit to sting No. 12 Laramie County Community College in a thrilling five-setter 18-25, 23-25, 25-15, 25-23, 15-12 for the Cougars third straight victory.
The win moves the Cougars to 3-2 on the season, while the Golden Eagles fall to 4-2. LCCC went 3-1 at the Reiver invite in Council Bluffs, Iowa, over the weekend.
Freshmen Gaby Canavati and Amryi-Grace Paris led the Cougar attack with a combined 31 kills, while Enna Masaki had a quadruple performance, finishing with 13 kills, 15 digs, 11 points, and 20 set assists.
Jayme Commins finished the five-set win with a triple-double. Commins, of Ogallala, tallied 28 set assists, 13 points, and 12 digs.
Canavati said it was a big win for her team as they fought tooth and nail to come back for the win.
“At first, we weren’t nervous; we just underestimated them a little bit,” the freshman from Laredo, Texas, who had 15 kills said. “We are happy with the win, but we shouldn’t have gone to five sets, but it happens.”
After the first two sets, Laramie County had the Cougars number. The Golden Eagles used strong service runs and timely kills to capture the first two sets 25-18, 25-23.
The final three sets was a different story as WNCC limited LCCC’s service runs to one to three points.
Canavati said the big difference was the talk they had in the locker room during the 5-minute intermission break.
“I think when we went into the locker room after the first two sets, coach talked to us and told us we had to pick up our game and we had to be more disciplined,” she said. “When he told us that, it really opened our eyes and we started talking and playing Cougar volleyball.”
The final three sets was a total different team. The Cougars started to play with emotion and excitement and that energy paid off.
“In order for us to do good, we need to play with heart and play together, and talking,” Canavati said. “We have to show a lot of emotion and heart.”
The Cougars showed plenty of heart in the final three sets and it wasn’t just one or two persons that stepped up, it was a team win.
The third set Jayme Commins served six points for a 23-13 lead before winning 25-16.
The fourth set was a little tighter. WNCC led 9-6 on a Masaki kill before LCCC tied the contest at 9-9 and went ahead 18-14 on two service points from McKayla Earl.
Leslie Mamai-Lagafuaina had a block and Commins served five points for a 20-18 lead. The two squads were knotted at 22 before a Canavati kill put WNCC up one. Masaki then served a point behind a Canavati kill for a 24-22 lead. WNCC won the set on a missed LCCC serve.
The fifth set was another slugfest. WNCC held a 4-1 lead after two Masaki points and the Cougars led 7-3 on a Tuisamatatele point. LCCC coach Austin Albers called a time out and the Golden Eagles came back to cut the lead to 7-6 and finally took its first lead of the set at 11-10.
Masaki stopped the run with a kill and then served three points for a 14-11 lead. WNCC won the match on a hitting error that sailed long after a long rally.
WNCC had a lot of players step up. Paris finished the game with 16 kills; Tuisamatatele had six kills, four digs, and five points; Mamai-Lagafuaina had six kills and three solo blocks; Ana Costas had 24 digs, 10 points, and two aces; Logan Belford had four digs and two points; and Adia Sherbeyn had seven digs.
LCCC had three players finish with double-digit kills. Kylie Martin and Avery Nelson each had 12 kills followed by Payton Stack with 11. The Golden Eagle’s Libero Kyle Meltzer tallied 25 digs.
WNCC will next be in action this weekend when they head to the Crystal Inn Invite in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Cougars will face Western Wyoming Community and Salt Lake Community College on Friday and Central Wyoming and No. 2 College of Southern Idaho on Saturday.
Canavati said this game should help them going into this weekend’s contests.
“This game really helped us and showed us how why we need to talk and communicate with each other in order for us to be a team and be one,” Canavati said. “That allows us to come out with a good outcome.”