MARK REIN Courier Gering
The Western Nebraska Community College volleyball team was rewarded for their 6-0 start and victory over four NJCAA preseason Top 12 teams, with the Cougars moving up 14 spots in the first national poll of the NJCAA released Monday afternoon.
The Cougars, who were ranked 18th in the preseason poll, entered the Top 5 and landed at No. 4 in the nation.
The Cougars trail No. 1 Southwest Florida State (4-0), No. 2 New Mexico Army (7-1) and No. 3 Snow College ( 2-0). Just behind the WNCC at No. 5 is Salt Lake Community College, which the team will face this weekend at the Salt Lake Invite.
Jenna Curtis, from Ogallala, said the team is pleased to have progressed, but there is a lot of season left and they need to keep working hard.
“To be named number four in the country is huge for us,” Curtis said. “It just shows how much work we’ve put in this season and how much work we’re going to do to keep improving.”
People also read…
The Cougars made the long jump in the polls after opening weekend where they swept No. 3 Missouri State-West Plains, No. 5 Butler Community College and No. 12 Jefferson College. The Cougars also defeated No. 1 Iowa Western Community College in five sets.
Butler, Jefferson and Iowa Western all dropped from the Top 20. Missouri State-West Plains fell from No. 3 to No. 14.
Curtis said being ranked number four was nice, but there were still two months left in the season and plenty of games to play. She said they couldn’t dwell too much on the rankings.
“To be number four is a good achievement, but we want to be the best,” she said. “So really, we just have to come out this weekend and show them that we are. We are still on the climb and we are not settling. I really believe in this team.
While the Cougars jumped 14 spots, Indian Hills Community College, which is 8-1 this season and also at the Iowa Western tournament, jumped 11 spots from No. 19 to No. 6.
The rest of the Top 10 includes No. 7 Odessa College (8-1), No. 8 Miami Dade College (6-2), No. 9 Blinn College (8-0) and No. 10 Polk State College .
Area schools IX Central Wyoming College and Northeastern Junior College were ranked in the preseason poll. Wyoming Center dropped from No. 9 to No. 11 while NJC was ranked No. 10, but they fell in the standings.
It’s only two weeks into the season and Curtis said she really believes in this team.
“This team is amazing,” said the starting outside hitter, who had 27 service points in the five-set victory over Iowa Western two weeks ago. “We all work so well together and play as a team at every point. I know we can continue to progress; we just have to prove it to everyone. We are playing amazing together and hopefully we can keep doing that and have a great weekend.
The WNCC is sure to have a busy and tough week this week as they will face ranked teams and teams that have been nationally ranked.
The Cougars take on Casper College on Tuesday night at 6 p.m., then attend the Vitational Crystal “Inn” in Salt Lake City, Utah on Friday and Saturday where they play No. 11 Central Wyoming College and No. 5 Salt Lake on Friday and then play Saturday the perennial national enemies College of Southern Idaho and Region IX enemy Northwest College. Northwest College is 6-2 this season and beat Wallace State-Hanceville 3-1, which are regulars at the national tournament. CSI is 3-0 in the young season.
“We just have to keep playing the way we are,” Curtis said. “We are ready to have big games this weekend which are really important for us. We have to play as a team and take control on the pitch.