Category Archives: Bronco Volleyball

Bronco volleyball holds annual summer camp

Coaches Alonso Ibarra and Kayla Ledezma take a quick break after a drill, to talk to their campers about some of the concepts they should be learning.

Tanner Hightower-Wilson
NMMI Sports Press

Tuesday, May 30th marked the starting date for the 2017 NMMI summer volleyball camp. The three-day camp, with a special advanced camp on Friday, is put on annually by Bronco volleyball head coach Shelby Forchtner and assistant coach Alonzo Ibarra.

Also helping with the coaching duties this year is Artesia graduate Kayla Ledezma, who currently plays for the Idaho State University volleyball team.

The camp has a great showing of participants each session, aging from first grade all the way up to high-school kids.
Coach Forchtner said, “The morning session consists of younger kids and goes till about 7th grade and then we transition to 8th and 9th graders up until high school. There are about 35 kids that are out there – everything from beginners all the way up to high school.”

In the morning session of the camp, the girls – and two boys – have been participating in several different drills and games, all designed to make learning the basic fundamentals of volleyball fun.

“We are trying to focus on the basic fundamentals like passing, which is really what you want to start with, but I saw them hitting yesterday too,” mentioned Coach Forchtner. “At the Godfrey gym, we have the net lowered and the kids are getting to play more game-type style drills, which is a lot more fun.”

The afternoon session focuses on the junior high and high school aged girls. “With the older kids we are working on advancing their fundamentals with serving and hitting,” said Forchtner.

“We have numerous kids that go on to play for the different schools, or who are transitioning to the high school ranks.” That makes coach Forchtner happy – teaching the skills of a game she truly loves, to the next generation.

Sosi heads to NAIA Cumberland University

Surrounded by her coaches and teammates, Bronco volleyball's Cherish Sosi gets ready to sign her LOI and continue her playing career as a Phoenix for Cumberland University.

Surrounded by her coaches and teammates, Bronco volleyball’s Cherish Sosi gets ready to sign her LOI and continue her playing career as a Phoenix for Cumberland University.

Karen Boehler
NMMI Sports Press


CumberlandUnivPhoenix150wA fourth player from the national championship-competitor Bronco volleyball team has signed to play for a four-year school.

Cherish Sosi will set for Cumberland University, an NAIA school in Lebanon, Tenn.

Setter Cherish Sosi

Setter Cherish Sosi

“I picked the school because they have a very good pre-med program, and it’s on the east coast, sort of, so that allows me to travel more around the United States,” she said, noting the environment was a key factor as well. “It’s small, just like NMMI, and I just got so accustomed to how we do things here that the change over there won’t be as bad.”

The Mid-South Conference Phoenix are coached by Kathy Slaughter, who led her team to a 19-13, 5-8 record in 2016, ending the season in the quarterfinals of the conference championships.

Jump serve by Cherish Sosi in the Bronco's 1st round match of the 2016 NJCAA National Championships.

Jump serve by Cherish Sosi in the Bronco’s 1st round match of the 2016 NJCAA National Championships.

Sosi, who hopes to study nursing, almost didn’t even make the NMMI squad. The West Jordan High School grad — she was a teammate with Bronco Maluhia Taula at the Utah school — was a setter, and Bronco coach Shelby Forchtner had already signed a setter. Sosi was offered a walk-on position, but didn’t want that.

Then, three days after arriving, the scholarship athlete left, and Sosi got the call.

“We asked Cherish if she wanted the scholarship and she took it,” Forchtner said. “She really needed work in terms of being a collegiate setter, but she was on the floor as a freshman. She was on the floor as a sophomore. She worked really, really, really hard in her offseason. Just in terms of strength and movement and set location and just kind of understanding our offense, so it was really good for us to get a kid in here who is a really good team player and who is energetic. People really like her and being around her, because she ran the floor well for two years. So it’s pretty exciting, when she really had hardly any options out of high school, to come here and then for her to be able to move on to the next level.”

Plus, she is a setter, which is Forchtner’s position, making the job that much harder.

Set by Cherish Sosi in Nationals match vs. Iowa Western CC.

Set by Cherish Sosi in Nationals match vs. Iowa Western CC.

“Setters have a tough road here just because that’s what I did,” the coach said. “I don’t think there’s ever been a setter who’s come through here who’s been, ‘Well, that was easy.’ We put a lot of responsibility on them. We consider them our quarterbacks. We really make them work way harder than the other people around them because of those things. So she has taken that job and that responsibility and me in stride, and most days still likes me. She’s just a great kid.”

That hard work paid off both in the trip to nationals in 2016 plus an All-Conference berth.

What was the biggest thing she learned from her coaches?

“Probably working on the basic fundamentals and techniques and getting those down and being able to implement them in every game,” Sosi said, while noting that hard work paid off elsewhere on campus as well.

“I think it helped with my work ethic and discipline, especially with volleyball and working out. Then the corps and respect and being able to manage my time better.”

While she won’t miss “waking up early,” she will miss her coaches and teammates, and Forchtner said the feeling is mutual.

“We’re losing someone who has been a huge part of our program for the last two years as an all conference setter And she’s just a really great person. She comes from a good family and everybody likes her. She’s the person who gets people hyped up before the game. She has a smile on her face when she’s playing; when I’m not yelling at her.”

Three Lady Broncos sign with four-year schools


Sitting, left to right: Katie Campbell, Maluhia Taula, and Aleksandra Bilic, prepare to sign their LOIs, surrounded by their Bronco teammates and coaches.

NMMI Sports Press

DelawareStateUnivHornetsThree Bronco volleyball players put pen to paper in early April, signing their letters of intent to attend four-year colleges on athletic scholarships.

Katie Campbell, a 5-foot-9 outside hitter from Dumas, Texas, signed with DII Montana State University-Billings, while 5-4 libero Maluhia Taula from West Jordan, Utah, and 6-3 middle hitter Aleksandra Bilić from Croatia both signed with Delaware State University, a DI school in Dover, Del.

Outside hitter Katie Campbell.

While each has been with NMMI for two years, “They’re all three very talented kids in very different aspects,” said head coach Shelby Fortchner.

Campbell chose MSU-Billings because of the atmosphere.

“It’s in the mountains,” the Texas native said. “It was just beautiful, even though there was a bunch of snow on the ground.”

Katie Campbell kill attempt in the Broncos' first round match of the 2016 NJCAA National Championships vs. Iowa Western CC.

Katie Campbell kill attempt in the Broncos’ first round match of the 2016 NJCAA National Championships vs. Iowa Western CC.

She’ll be playing with another former Bronco, Lexaris De Jesus, who graduated from NMMI in 2016, as well as a former Dumas High School teammate, who’s coming on as a freshman.

Campbell said the character of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference school was another attraction.

“How the girls treated me and the atmosphere and just everything about it,” she said. “They were caring and family oriented.”

Fortchner said Campbell, who she called a “six-rotation outside hitter,” will be missed in Cahoon Armory.

“Not only was she good at volleyball, she has a very strong passion for the game, which is going to be really hard to replace,” the coach said. “She is a kid who practices exactly how she plays, and that energy and that enthusiasm and that love of the game is really hard to find in kids every single day. You have gamers and you have some kids who practice way better than they play and Katie is just steadfast. She wants to win every point; she’s aggressive every point and it’s going to be hard to lose a kid like that, because she has contributed so much in the two years she’s been here.”

Libero/Defensive Specialist Maluhia Taula

Libero/Defensive Specialist Maluhia Taula

As a sophomore, Campbell averaged 2.6 points per set, including 2.19 digs per set and 1.99 kills per set. She posted six double-doubles, and had a season-best 20 digs on Sept. 10 against Barton. She reached her season high of 13 kills on three occasions, including a 13-kill, 16-dig performance against Western Texas on Sept. 21 in one of her top games of last fall.

Dig by Maluhia Taula during Nationals match vs. the Reivers on 11/17/16.

Dig by Maluhia Taula during Nationals match vs. the Reivers on 11/17/16.

She earned all-conference honors in the Western Junior College Athletic Conference both years, and Forchtner expects her to step into the Yellowjacket program and contribute from the start.

As to what NMMI gave back to her, Campbell echoed what many other cadets have said.

“Definitely your time management with the Corps of Cadets, because you’ve got to get your time right or you’ll get in trouble, either with the coaches or with your troop,” she laughed.

Middle hitter/blocker Aleksandra Bilic

Middle hitter/blocker Aleksandra Bilic

And the coaches, she said, helped her believe in herself.

Taula and Bilić will be joining former Bronco setter Gabriella Enriquez on the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Hornets, a team that struggled a bit in 2016 under first-year head coach Whitney Johnson.

Still, both agree Johnson is a big reason they picked DSU.

Aleksandra Bilic tries to get the kill past the double block by Tyler JC - second round of Nationals, 11/18/16.

Aleksandra Bilic tries to get the kill past the double block by Tyler JC – second round of Nationals, 11/18/16.

“I think the coach and I had a really good connection from the get-go,” Taula said.

“I really like the coach,” Bilić echoed. “She’s really similar to coach Shelby in that she’s really caring and I feel like she’s going to be my third mom, because coach Shelby was the second.”

Both also agreed that getting to play with Enriquez was a plus, while Taula said the academic program was very responsive to the athletic department and Bilić was impressed with the campus.

“The school is is just gorgeous,” she said. “Everywhere they took me had a really nice atmosphere. Plus, it’s two hours closer to home and I like to travel, so it’s close to Washington D.C., New York and Philadelphia. And the ocean.”

Taula, who will graduate as a second lieutenant, said the NMMI coaches helped her gain confidence as a player and a person.

“The school taught me discipline and to never give up, even though it was hard,” she said. “I think the coaches (Forchtner, current assistant coach Alonso Ibarra and former assistant Tara Bisch) helped me at lot. And I think the girls also. Like the friendship and making those bonds that you’re going to have for a long time.”

“Mia is a kid who’s just an absolute joy to have around,” Forchtner said. “She’s a phenomenal teammate. She came into this situation with some personal issues, like we didn’t even know if we were going to get her in August, but to see her go from not even a starting role to be our starting libero at the national tournament this year, she has just worked and worked and worked and worked. So to be able to watch her contribute to our program for two years and then turn around and get a scholarship for the next two years is a pretty cool thing.”

And she’ll also be missed, the coach said.

“She is such a contributor off the floor that we’re going to miss that big time,” Forchtner said. “She is like a little mother hen and she makes people happy. She’s got people dancing and singing before games. So that energy that she brings to the table all the time is going to be really hard to replace.”

Bilić, who worked her way through the ranks as a squad leader, platoon leader and executive officer, said NMMI gave her a chance to hone her leadership skills as well as work with others in a non-athletic capacity.

The first lieutenant also said she learned a lot from her coaches.

“The coaches helped me a lot with my attitude, because I’m kind of an overconfident person and I’m kind of independent and I don’t really work well with a lot of people,” she said. “And because I play a team sport, I struggled a lot with communicating with people. I would yell. I would be aggressive. So they tried to calm me. They were not really, really successful because I’m just that type of person. I’m hard to change, but I think they did an amazing job. And I feel the difference. I’m a little bit of a different person.”

“Like she said, she’s a little bit stubborn, but the fact is she would actually listen,” Forchtner said. “She’s been trying for two years to make the adjustment to be a better teammate. Because she didn’t have to make a lot of adjustments as far as her confidence, but there were times that it was hard for her to play with others and them to play with her. So that was a constant challenge, and I think we overcame that.”

All three had to overcome a rough freshman year — which included a bus accident that eliminated several weeks from the season — so to get an upset win in regionals and return to the national tournament as sophomores was a big plus.

“Technically, we probably had a just as good if not better team last year with all the stuff we went through, so it’s really good for these kids to see they could pull through something like that and transition into a really solid year this year. So we’re excited for all of them.”

As far as their futures beyond college, Campbell and Taula are still undecided about what they want to do, while Bilić will be earning a degree in hotel and restaurant management.

Bronco volleyball re-groups after first-round loss at Nationals

NMMI’s McKayla Landreth gets an attack past the double block by IWCC – one of the few kills the Broncos managed during their opening round match.

NMMI’s McKayla Landreth gets an attack past the double block by IWCC – one of the few kills the Broncos managed during their opening round match.

Katie Campbell with the dig.

Katie Campbell with the dig.

CASPER, Wyo. – It was a tough opening match for the Bronco volleyball team at the NJCAA National Championships, losing in three straight sets to the team ranked No. 2 in the nation, Iowa Western Community College, 25-13, 25-7, 25-15.

“We had five kills in Game 1 and five kills in Game 2. You can’t beat a nationally ranked team with five kills,” said head coach Shelby Forchtner.

“I think with the first five points, we just got really scared. That was one thing I was hoping we wouldn’t do, because we have played all of these teams during the course of the regular season – everyone we’ve played has been nationally ranked. I was hoping that that would really prepare us for the national tournament and it didn’t – we just completely shut down.”

Madison Harris outside attack.

Madison Harris outside attack.

With the loss, NMMI drops down into a consolation bracket, where the best they can finish is ninth place. But that doesn’t mean Forchtner and her Lady Broncos are ready to pack up and go home. They play the tournament’s No. 10 seed, Tyler Junior College at 10 a.m. Friday morning, and both Forchtner and assistant coach Alonso Ibarra are getting their players ready for the match.

“A few years ago, we lost in the first round to a top-ranked team like Iowa Western, and then came back and got all the way to the match for ninth and tenth place,” explained Forchtner.

Set by Cherish Sosi.

Set by Cherish Sosi.

That year, 2013, was NMMI’s first foray into the championship tourney, and after the initial loss, the Broncos bounced back with a pair of wins, both against higher-ranked opponents.

“That’s what we’re focused on right now,” continued Forchtner. “We just met with our kids and went over the game plan and what we wanted to do – we’ve seen Tyler before. We know exactly what to expect.

According to Forchtner, Tyler is very different from the Reivers

Jump serve by Hannah Davis.

Jump serve by Hannah Davis.

“We knew that Iowa Western was very outside hitter dominant. I don’t think we could have shut down Iowa Western’s outside game today, but I definitely think we could have stopped them a bit better and gotten a lot more touches.”

Tyler, by contrast, has a very effective middle, and Forchtner thinks her Broncos match up better against the Apaches.

“It’s a different story tomorrow. We have the lineup to really compete with this team. It should be a pretty good match if we’ll come out there and play well.”

Maluhia Taula backrow pass.

Maluhia Taula backrow pass.

With a win, NMMI will continue on to the semis of the consolation bracket, with the next match scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Friday. A second win means another day’s stay here in snowy Casper, with a chance to win out on Saturday and finish as one of top ten junior college volleyball teams in the nation.

Four Bronco netters make All-WJCAC team

Karen Boehler

NMMI Sports Press

After getting an upset WJCAC conference victory as a team — an upset to anyone except maybe coach Shelby Forchtner and her squad — the Bronco volleyball team heads to the national tournament this week with four All-Conference players.

Sophomores Aleksandra Bilić, a middle hitter, outside hitter Katie Campbell and setter Cherish Sosi join freshmen middle blocker McKayla Landreth on the 12-player post-season team.

“All four of those kids have been big-time contributors for us the whole season,” Forchtner said. “They all four work really hard and they’re definitely all deserving of the all-conference nomination for sure.”

Forchtner said each coach is only allowed to nominate four players to the post-season team, “So the fact that all four of our kids got it is a great thing,” she said. “We try really hard not to focus on the individual accomplishments in a team sport, but it’s always good for those kids to be recognized.”

NMMI was the only team to have four players on the first team — Odessa had four, but one was honorable mention — and if she had been able to nominate five, Forchtner would have included freshman Hannah Davis.

“I think Hannah is right there with those four people, but the stats are based solely on conference play,” Forchtner said. “She did a whole lot better in the season than she did in conference, so that’s one of the reasons she wasn’t in the mix, too.”

With the national tournament on the horizon — the Broncos head to Casper, Wyo., Wednesday — Forchtner said the individual honors will take a temporary back seat to a much bigger goal.

“We want to go win a national championship,” she said.

The No. 15 seed Broncos face No. 2 Iowa Western Thursday at 1 p.m. at the Casper Events Center.

2016 WJCAC All-Conference
Aleksandra Bilić, middle
Katie Campbell, outside hitter
Cherish Sosi, setter
McKayla Landreth, setter