The Otero Junior College volleyball team played for the first time since it debuted in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division 1 poll at No. 19 last week.
However, a tough task awaited the Lady Rattlers as they hosted Western Nebraska Community College Thursday at the McDivitt Center. OJC was up to the challenge and it proved its ranking as it defeated the Lady Cougars in three sets.
The scores were 25-17, 25-14 and 25-18.
"That was a great feeling," said OJC coach Jordan Willis. "Western Nebraska's a good squad. They have some injuries, which is unfortunate on their side. But I'm glad we were able to take advantage of it and get that win at home. It's big time for us for sure."
The Lady Rattlers jumped to a 3-1 lead, but the Lady Cougars went on a 4-0 run to take a 6-4 edge. The Western Nebraska lead grew to 11-7 before Otero went on a 5-1 run to close within 13-12. Brilane Manchego had two service aces in the run.
The team exchanged the next five side outs before OJC scored six unanswered points to take a 20-16 advantage. Western Nebraska had a brief side out, however the Lady Rattlers scored the final five points to win the first set 25-17.
Western Nebraska scored the first point of the second set, but the Lady Rattlers responded by scoring three straight points. The teams traded the next five side outs until Otero went on a 7-1 rally to increase its lead to 12-5.
OJC then went on a 5-2 run for a 17-8 lead. The Lady Rattlers gradually added to the lead by scoring seven of the next 10 points to raise their advantage to 24-12.
The Lady Cougars scored two points in a row, but OJC got the win after a block by Savannah Espinoza.
Western Nebraska started the third set with a 2-1 lead, however, OJC scored three of the next four points to go in front at 4-3. The Lady Cougars scored two more points to regain the lead at 5-4, but the Lady Rattlers went on a 7-2 run for an 11-7 edge.
Western Nebraska closed to within 11-9, but like the second set, OJC gradually added to the lead.
Ema Causevic's kill ended the third set and gave the victory to the Lady Rattlers 25-18.
Causevic led the Lady Rattler offense with 13 kills. Anouk VanNoord had nine kills and Ashley Alfonso and Marissa Schelling both had seven.
Manchego led OJC in assists with 28.
The Lady Rattlers had eight service aces with Causevic and Manchego leading with three. Shelbi Chino and Stephanie Frantz both had one.
Otero (17-1, 1-0 NJCAA Region IX South) will host McCook (Nebraska) today at 6 p.m. and it will wrap up the weekend by hosting 20th-ranked Northeastern Junior College Saturday at 1 p.m.
"McCook's no joke and they're much better," Willis said. "NJC is doing very well and they're ranked as well. As long as we can keep servicing well as we have been, I think it's going to be a great turnout in our favor and a great match."