STERLING, Colo. – The 19th-ranked Western Nebraska Community College volleyball team started the Region IX tournament with a four-set win over Central Wyoming College 22-25, 25-21, 25-20, 25-13 to continue their drive for a regional title.
WNCC, 26-7, will now face Otero Junior College in the semifinals Thursday at 6 p.m. The other semifinal will pit Northeastern Junior College against Western Wyoming at 4 p.m. The winners will face each other Friday at 4 p.m. for the Region IX title and one of the berths to the national tournament. The other berth will come from the winner of the Contenders Bracket, which that championship will be played Saturday at 4 p.m.
WNCC's opponent on Thursday will be Otero, who needed five sets to get by Eastern Wyoming College 25-21, 22-25, 25-19, 24-26, 15-12.
The other five-setter in the quarterfinals saw NJC win the last three sets against Laramie County Community College to earn a 25-27, 18-25, 25-18, 25-19, 15-8 win. Western Wyoming advanced in the winner's bracket with a 25-16, 25-20, 25-12 win over McCook Community College.
The tournament started with four play-in games with the winners advancing to the bracket play and the losers go home. The play-in games saw Otero over Northwest College 25-12, 25-12, 25-23; LCCC over Lamar 25-11, 25-15, 25-16; McCook over Casper 25-22, 25-16, 21-25, 25-19, and Central Wyoming sweeping Trinidad State 25-17, 25-20, 25-16.
WNCC head coach Binny Canales said his team started slow, but heated up after the first set.
"We started off really rough. They weren't used to the warm-up schedule they have at the regional tourney and that threw us off a little bit," he said. "But, by the last set, we were playing the way we were used to be playing and we looked good."
The opening set had the Cougars out of sync, especially in the last part of the set. WNCC led 20-16 before Central Wyoming outscored the Cougars 9-2 to close out the first set 25-21.
WNCC started the second set on fire, leading 8-1 behind 4-point service run by Gabriela Canavati. WNCC pushed the lead to 15-8 with three points from Adia Sherbeyn. The Cougars went up by double digits, 22-12 before winning 25-21.
The fourth set was close at the beginning with the score knotted at 4-4. Leslie Mamai-Lagafuaina hammered down a kill and then served five points for a 10-4 lead. WNCC pushed the lead to 16-6 and kept pushing the lead to win the set 25-13 on a Cordero kill.
Cordero led the team with a double-double in the contest, finishing with 14 kills and 10 digs. She also had eight points and an ace serve. Mamai-Lagafuaina pounded down 13 kills with four digs, six points, and an ace serve.
Friday action will have two elimination games with LCCC facing McCook at noon followed by Eastern Wyoming facing Central Wyoming. The winner's bracket games are slated for 4 and 6 p.m. with the winners facing each other Friday at 4 p.m. for the first Region IX championship and berth to the national tournament.