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Three WNCC volleyball players sign with four-year schools

April 18, 2012

Right before Western Nebraska Community College volleyball players Fernanda Goncalves, Debora Araujo and Jodi Huddleston signed their letter of intents on Friday, the three players looked out into audience and saw friends and teammates anxiously waiting for them to officially sign to continue playing. The emotional signing moves three more volleyball players onto the four-year level. Goncalves and Araujo will be headed the NCAA Division I route after signing with California State University-Bakersfield, while Huddleston will continue the pipeline to Alaska, signing to play for former Cougar coach Chris Green at the University of Alaska Anchorage. WNCC coach Giovana Melo said it will be hard to replace these three as she took them in as her family. "It definitely is hard to replace them, especially when they have been with you for two years because they know exactly what you want and you learn about them as people," Melo said. "They really become part of our family. That is what we are all about in this program, a big family. It is just not the fact that we are placing, it is the fact that we losing two pieces of a family." Many of the players look up to Melo as not only their coach, but as their mom or sister. She cherishes that thought. "I am a little young to be their momma," Melo said with a laugh, "but i like being known to them as their big sister, mom, grandma or whatever. The one thing I can do here at a junior college which is very different at Division I and II schools is the relationship I can have with them. I feel like every single one of them is part of my family since I am not from here as well. Sometimes when I get mad at them it is because I see them as part of my family and I want them to be the best they can be." All three will graduate from WNCC with plenty of memories and it will be hard for the three to move on because of the bond they have with the people in the community. At the same time all three leave WNCC with plenty of volleyball experience, including a national championship in 2010. The three have a combined 84-6 record during their time at WNCC. For Huddleston coming to WNCC after a stellar career at Scottsbluff High was one of the best decisions she could have made. "I feel like I have improved a lot and going to Alaska I feel I can improve even more," she said. "Coming here was one of the best choices I have ever made because it helped me develop as a player and a person. I am just hoping I can do the best I can do up there. I just want to work hard and improve my skills even more." Huddleston will have good company in Alaska as the she follows in the footsteps of two other Cougar players, Stacey Meisner and Ariel Austin. Still, there is that lump in her throat that she will miss the ties here in Nebraska. "It probably will set in the day before I leave for Alaska that I will be away from home, but I think I will be able to handle it," at teary-eyed Huddleston said. "I am going to miss the girls. I am going to miss coach, [assistant coach Fatima and miss my mom a lot. I am going to miss everybody. I am going to miss my dorm parents, too. They helped me so much. Amy and Scott [Winters] were always there at my games and always gave me snacks. And my mom was there too. I liked having my parent s and dorm parents there all the time at the games." Goncalves and Araujo also have become attached to Scottsbluff and they said that if this was a four-year school, they would be committed for all four years. Araujo, who pounded home over 1,000 kills for her career, said that coach has helped her a bunch. Araujo was a first-team NJCAA all-American this year and she said there was a time after the season finished that she asked to be re-recruited by WNCC. "Yes I would stay here if this was a four-year school," she said. "I really don't want to leave Coach Giovana." She also didn't think she would be playing Division I volleyball when she arrived at WNCC in the summer of 2010. "No [I didn't think about playing at that level] because everyone said I am too short to play at a DI school," she said. "That is not true." Goncalves, who who was a 2-time first-team NJCAA all-American, leaves WNCC with over 2,600 set assists. She said it has been an honor to play for the Cougars and she will miss Coach Melo. "I improved a lot because Coach has been working with a lot. She helped me so much with my attitude and my dumps. i really improved a lot here," Goncalves said. "She always believes in us. She never gives up and she is always in there yelling. She is one of the best coaches I have ever had. When we first came here, we didn't know the language and she was there for us to help. She is an amazing coach. She is always watching what you are doing on as well as outside the court. I am going to miss you a little bit." But, Goncalves is ready for the next level and she will have Araujo there to help her at her new home. "It is really good to be going with Debora because when we came here we started everything together," she said. "I am pretty sure she will help me out like she did here. It is awesome that we get to play together still." Goncalves added having Araujo by her side will take away some of the pain of leaving Scottsbluff. "I am going to miss a lot of people here and I am going to cry," she said. "It is going to be hard to leave here again because it is our home. it is like leaving home again and you are leaving people that you really like so it will be hard." The competition will also be harder at the Division I level as there will be a lot of talent on the west coast. That talent, and the warm weather, is one reason that Goncalves was drawn to Cal State-Bakersfield along with the fact the coaching staff knows volleyball having played professionally. She added that coming from a winning program like WNCC will help instill that mindset to the team at Cal State-Bakerfield. "It helps coming from a winning tradition because when we won the championship, we know what it feels like to be on top," she said. "The three of us have a national championship that we won. We know what to do and when we need to do it to win."

NJCAA Region 9 • Tagged
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