CHEYENNE, Wyo. – The Western Nebraska Community College volleyball team dropped the first Region IX championship match on Friday to Northeastern Junior College in four sets 14-25, 25-23, 25-17, 25-21.
NJC's win gives the Plainswomen the Region IX District C championship and a berth in the NJCAA national tournament Nov. 15-17 in Hutchinson, Kansas.
WNCC, 28-8, is still alive for a regional title as they will play in the Region IX District D championship match on Saturday at 4 p.m. in Cheyenne, Wyoming. WNCC opponent will be either Laramie County Community College or Western Wyoming Community College. Those two teams play at noon at Storey Gym.
LCCC topped McCook in four sets 25-19, 25-14, 21-25, 25-23, while Western Wyoming needed five sets to stay alive for the second Region IX championship and berth at nationals.
For the Cougars, they will have to regroup after falling to NJC in a match that WNCC started strong and then faltered late as WNCC goes for its 20th straight national tournament appearance.
WNCC started the championship match on fire, rolling to a 25-14 first-set win behind strong serving. Logan Belford had three points for a 19-12 WNCC lead before Ana Costas closed out the set with five points.
WNCC started the second set just as strong, bolting to a 12-5 lead behind five Belford points. After that, though, NJC changed gears. Trailing 18-16, the Plainswomen had a five-point service run for a 22-14 lead and won the second set 25-23.
NJC carried that momentum into the third set, grabbing a 16-9 lead before Jayme Commins had three points to cut the lead to 16-13. WNCC trailed 17-15 before a couple bit service runs gave NJC the set at 25-17.
The fourth set was close with WNCC holding a 10-8 lead led 13-12 on a Leslie Mamai-Lagafuaina kill. Things changed after that with strong serving from NJC to run the score to 23-17. WNCC mounted a comeback behind two Adia Sherbeyn points to make it 23-20 before NJC won the fourth 25-21 in earning their first Region IX title since 2002 when they defeated Casper College in the Region IX West tournament.
Commins finished with a double-double in the match with 16 set assists, 10 digs, and nine points.
WNCC had three hitters net double-figure kills. Sarena Bartley had 15 kills while Amryi-Grace Paris and Mamai-Lagafuaina each had 10. Kaile Tuisamatatele ahd eight kills while Enna Masaki had six kills.
Masaki also tallied 23 sets assists and nine digs, while Ana Costas led the defensive side with 15 digs. Costas also had four points and two set assists, while Sherbeyn finished with nine digs and eight points.
Belford led the way from the service line with 12 points while collecting six digs.