WNCC Volleyball Ranked 8th In Nation Entering This Weekend’s Season Opener

Photo Courtesy: WNCC Athletics

The Western Nebraska Community College women’s volleyball team have plenty to play for when they open the season this weekend at the Reiver Invite in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

The Cougars enter the season ranked 8th in the NJCAA Division I pre-season polls that was released Monday. WNCC is the highest Region IX team in the rankings.

WNCC head coach Binny Canales said he was surprised by the high ranking. Canales added that it is only the pre-season and there are plenty of good teams in the nation, many of which the Cougars will play.

 “I was surprised that we were that high, but I was happy to be as high as we were,” Canales said. “There are a lot of good teams out there right now. We are just trying to get a feeling for each other and play hard and be the best that we can be and not worry about the other teams.”

Canales said the ranking makes this team know they have to show up and work.

“It is a lot of pressure and it also puts a target on our back being ranked higher,” Canales said. “Teams always come to play us and they give us their best. We have to be prepared and match it with our best.”

The rankings are deserved after a stellar season a year ago where WNCC won the Region IX tournament and finished with a 27-7. WNCC went 1-2 at the national tournament. WNCC returns six players back from that team while adding 12 talented newcomers to the squad.

WNCC’s depth showed this weekend as the Cougars competed in a scrimmage tournament in Windsor, Colorado, where they won four of their matches, not dropping a set against the Region IX teams they faced.

Canales was impressed with how they performed on Saturday.

“It was a scrimmage and we tried a lot of lineups and we were successful in all of them and that is good,” he said. “I thought we played really well. Everybody was passing well, hoping that continues as I knock on wood. We attacked the ball really well. We have big shoes to fill from last year’s team and hopefully we can do that and continue the success and tradition that we had in the past.”

This weekend, the Cougars will have a tough road when they head to the Reiver Invite in Council Bluffs as they face the No. 1-ranked team Iowa Western Community College. Iowa Western won the national tournament last April and has a talented team returning.

The Reivers are the overwhelming No. 1 team in the pre-season poll that was released on Monday. The Reivers received seven first-place votes while Miami Dade College received the other two. Miami Dade is ranked second in the pre-season polls.

The rest of the top five has Snow College at No. 3, Utah State-Eastern at No. 4 and Odessa at No. 5.

The next five has Blinn at No. 6, Florida Southwestern State College at No. 7, WNCC at No. 8 followed by Tyler Junior College at No. 9 and Missouri State-West Plains at No. 10.

Northeastern Junior College out of Sterling, Colorado, is the other Region IX school in the rankings at No. 11

WNCC faced Blinn and Missouri-West Plains at nationals last April in falling to the two teams in straight sets. The Cougars defeated Lawson State in five sets at nationals.

Last spring, the Cougars defeated many of the teams that are ranked in the nation, including Northeastern Junior College. Other teams WNCC handed a loss to included Utah State-Eastern, who they beat in five sets.

This weekend, the Cougars will open against Jefferson College at 1 p.m. followed by No. 1 Iowa Western at 5 p.m. On Saturday, the Cougars will face Butler Community College at 7 a.m. and then Indian Hills at 11 a.m.

Canales said it will be a tough opening weekend.

“Indian Hills should be in the rankings and they are not. They are really good,” he said. “Right now, this is pre-season and it will change a lot over the next couple of polls. Indian Hills should be in there. I don’t know a whole lot about Butler, they were OK last year when I saw them at a tournament. Jefferson is always tough and they have given us fits in the past and they are well coached. Right now, we are trying to get ourselves to be the best that we can be and make teams adjust to us instead of us adjusting to everybody else.

The first regular season poll will be released August 30. WNCC will have played eight matches by then as WNCC will travel to a tournament in Riverton, Wyoming, August 27-28 where they will face Utah State-Eastern, Snow College, College of Southern Idaho, Colby Community College and Central Wyoming College.

2021 NJCAA Pre-Season Volleyball Rankings

1, Iowa Western Community College

2, Miami Dade College

3, Snow College

4, Utah State-Eastern

5, Odessa College

6, Blinn College

7, Florida Southwestern State

8, Western Nebraska C.C.

9, Tyler Junior College

10, Missouri State-West Plains

11, Northeastern Junior College

12, Barton Community College

13, Navarro College

14, Seward County C.C.

15, Salt Lake C.C.

16, Yavapai College

17, Hillsborough C.C.

18, Wallace State-Hanceville

19, Hill College

20, Monroe College

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