For the first time in school history, the Otero Junior College volleyball team has qualified for the National Junior College Athletic Association Division 1 Tournament, which will take place Nov. 21-23 at the Hutchinson Sports Arena in Hutchinson, Kan.

The Lady Rattlers advanced by winning the NJCAA Region IX and Northwest Plains District A championships last weekend at Northeastern Junior College's Bank of Colorado Event Center in Sterling.

OJC opened the tournament by winning a play-in match against Northwest (Wyo.) College on Wednesday. The Lady Rattlers swept the Lady Trappers by scores of 25-12, 25-12 and 25-23.

Also on Wednesday, Otero scored a five-set win over Eastern Wyoming College. The Lady Rattlers won the first set 25-21, but the Lady Lancers won the second 25-22. OJC took the third set 25-14, but Eastern Wyoming won the fourth 26-24.

The Lady Rattlers took the fifth set 15-12 to advance to the semifinals.

Antia Vallecas led OJC in kills with 29, followed by Macie Magallon with 18. Brilane Manchego had 62 assists and five block assists. Kelsey Garcia led in digs with 45, followed by Manchego with 23 and Vallecas with 21. Garcia led in service aces with two.

The Lady Rattlers then faced Western Nebraska Community College in the semifinals. The match began on Thursday and after OJC won the first two sets 25-20 and 25-17, play was suspended after a health scare by Lady Cougars' coach Binny Canales. The match resumed on Friday and the Lady Rattlers finished off the Lady Cougars 25-18.

Vallecas again led in kills with 13 on 28 attempts and only two errors. Magallon had 12 kills. Manchego led in assists with 38, and Vallecas led in digs with 19.

Otero faced Northeastern in the regional championship and won in five sets. The Lady Rattlers won the first set 25-15, but the Lady Plainsmen won the second 25-21. OJC won the third set 25-20, but NJC took the fourth 25-22.

Otero won the fifth set 15-12.

Vallecas was again the kills leader with 17, followed by Magallon with 15 and Ingrid Ferrari with nine. Vallecas also led in digs with 31, followed by Manchego with 28 and Garcia with 25. Manchego led in assists with 45, followed by Garcia with five. Vallecas led in aces with two.

Otero now has a record of 23 wins and eight losses. It will learn its first round opponent in a few days.

khamrick@ljtdmail.com