Western Nebraska Community College volleyball coach Giovana Melo knows that if her team wants to be the best, they will have to play the best. Well, after the NJCAA released the seedings for next week’s national tournament, the Cougars will be facing some of the best teams in the nation.
WNCC, 37-2, received the No. 2 seed in next week’s national tournament in West Plains, Mo., and will face No. 15 Wallace State-Hanceville (33-6) on Thursday, Nov. 15 at 10 a.m. The Cougars also have No. 3 Iowa Western Community College (43-2) and No. 7 North Idaho College (22-5) on their side of the bracket. Iowa Western and North Idaho are the only teams to defeat the Cougars this season.
“Winning a national title is never easy no matter what kind of opponents you get,” Melo said. “That is why not many people can say they are national champions.”
College of Southern Idaho earned the top-seed at the national tournament with a 29-1 record. CSI’s only loss came at the hands of WNCC at the Salt Lake Invite on Aug. 31. The rest of the top five seeds include San Jacinto College at number four and Tyler Junior College at number five.
Casper College, the winner of the Region IX north title, received the No. 13 seed and will face San Jacinto. San Jacinto occupied the No. 1 spot in the polls for much of the season.
If WNCC wins its opening round contest, they will face the winner of North Idaho and No. 10 Hutchinson Community College (27-8) at 6:30 p.m. A loss will put the Cougars into a Friday, Nov. 16 contest against the loser of North Idaho and Hutchinson. WNCC could also meet up with Iowa Western in a semi-final match if both teams win their matches on Thursday.
Melo said it won’t be no easy chore to win a national title as all 16 teams will be fighting for the right to be national champs.
“Every single team who made to nationals is there because they have earned it,” she said. “They had to beat some other great teams in their region to be there so, yes, I believe this is the best 16 teams in the country and everybody will be battling out for the title.”
Complete first round pairings has Iowa Western taking on No. 14 Temple College (22-17) and No. 6 College of Central Florida (33-6) facing No. 11 Western Texas College (26-8) at 8 a.m. No. 1 College of Southern Idaho facing No. 16 Faulkner State Community College (27-7) and No. 8 Hillsborough Community College (27-12) taking on No. 9 Missouri State-West Plains (25-9) at noon. The final slate of first-round contests had No. 5 Tyler Junior College (29-5) facing No. 12 Redlands Community College (23-9) and No. 4 San Jacinto College (32-2) taking on No. 13 Casper College (23-17) at 2 p.m.
The winners of the first round advance to play in the quarterfinals later on Thursday while the losers fall into the consolation bracket and play on Friday. The finals are slated for Saturday, Nov. 17 at 5:30 p.m. All the matches can be watched on the Internet atwww.njcaavbd1.com.
There could be some interesting matches after the first round, including Tyler and San Jac, who faced each other in the regional championship game could play each other in the second round. Also, former teammates at WNCC back in the early 2001 could face each other in the semifinals as Melo and Flavia Siqueira, who is the coach at the College of Central Florida, could do battle.
Melo said if they end up playing North Idaho and Iowa Western, it will be interesting to see how they match up with them at the end of the season. North Idaho is the last team to beat the Cougars on Sept. 1. After that loss, the Cougars have reeled off 31 straight victories.
Melo said this team can win four straight and capture their third national title in six years, but it will take teamwork.
“We have to play our hearts out and play as a team,” she said. “We will need every single player in this team to be with the same mindset. We have to be striving for the same goal.”
Thursday, Nov. 15
No. 3 Iowa Western (43-2) vs. No. 14 Temple College (22-17)
No. 6 Central Florida (33-6) vs. No.11 Western Texas College (26-8)
No. 7 North Idaho (22-5) vs. No. 10 Hutchinson C.C. (27-8)
No. 2 Western Nebraska (37-2) vs. No. 15 Wallace State-Hanceville (27-8)
No. 1 College of Southern Idaho (29-1) vs. Faulkner State (27-7)
No. 8 Hillsborough C.C. (27-12) vs. Missouri State-West Plains (25-9)
No. 5 Tyler Junior College (29-5) vs. Redlands C.C. (23-9)
No. 4 San Jacinto (32-2) vs. Casper College (23-17)