Category Archives: Bronco Volleyball

Bronco volleyball ready to reload after third-straight trip to nationals

Team huddle by the Bronco volleyball team prior to their first match against Tyler Junior College at the 2018 NJCAA D1 National Championships in Hutchinson, KS.


NMMI Sports Press

This season, the New Mexico Military Institute Bronco volleyball team earned their third consecutive trip – and fifth in six seasons – to the NJCAA National Championships.

The Broncos compiled a 29-9 overall record on the season, and earned an automatic bid to the 2018 national tournament in Hutchinson, Kansas by not only winning the Region V West tournament, where they defeated Midland College in the championship in five sets, but also had to win a super-regional match against 20th-ranked Arizona Western College, which they did soundly, in three straight sets, at home.

At nationals, however, the 10th-ranked Broncos faltered, losing their opening round match against No. 7 Tyler Junior College in four sets, then dropped their initial match in the consolation bracket against No. 15 Laramie County Community College in five sets.

“Honestly, we struggled as a whole. In that [first] match, we just didn’t have anybody on our team who stepped up to the plate like they had been doing during the month of October,” said head coach Shelby Forchtner. “As a coach, it was pretty frustrating to be on the sidelines watching that happen, because that wasn’t just one or two people. That was a team effort. Statistically, when you go and look at it, we got owned.”

“We bounced back a little bit against Laramie County, and I think we had a better start to our match, but then we really struggled in that match, too,” the coach said. “We never even should have let it get to a fifth set, and yet, there we were.”

But still, everyone agrees, there is a lot to be proud of this season.

“Those games were not characteristic of what we had been doing in October and in the regional tournament,” said coach Forchtner. “It’s a sad way to end your season when you had been playing so well late. But again, we’re one of the top 16 teams in the nation, so you kind of have to look at it from that vantage point, too. That this is not what we wanted to have happen, but we’re still one of the better teams.”

“In our coaches’ eyes and in our players’ eyes, that’s not necessarily what they’re shooting for,” said NMMI athletic director Jose Barron. “They’re shooting for that top spot, and I have no doubt that if we continue on the trajectory we’re on, one day we will get that top spot. We’re going to play at the right tempo at the right time and go for all the marbles, as they say. Going from third last year to 10th this year is not what the expectations of our team is, but it’s still a super tremendous feat for any team at NMMI, let alone anywhere, to be one of the best teams in the nation.”

But that’s the past, and despite the loss of eight sophomores to graduation, Forchtner is expecting the team to be right back in the thick of things next season.

“We really like our freshman crop. We love them,” Forchtner exclaimed. “This is by far one of the most athletic group of kids as a whole that we have ever brought in. And just watching Day 1 of the offseason shows it.

“You’ve got the two West Point kids (Ha’ahulakaleikaimana “Hula” Crisostomo and Peyton Schendt) in there who work hard. They work hard in the gym; they do everything you ask them to do out here. But on top of that are two phenomenal athletes: Gabriela (Langi), from Utah, and Nyanuer (Bidit), from Alaska. Both of them just need a little bit of tweaking in terms of technique. Then there’s Yumeno (Nawa), very technical but needs the strength and endurance because she’s never done that type of stuff before. Barbara (Celar), also very sound in technique, but needs the strength and endurance and needs to be pushed mentally and physically because she’s never had that before. Violeta (Mendoza Quintana), from Mexico, could very easily have started for us this year if she could just have gotten over that mental hump because she’s a very athletic volleyball player.”

The big question is whether Crisostomo and Schendt will be accepted to the Academy, and they’ll have to wait until spring to find out whether they’ll get that opportunity. Meanwhile, they’ll continue the off-season training, along with two more freshmen who round out the talented class: opposite-side hitter Coralys Maldonado and middle Katelynn Gutz, both of whom had extensive playing time this season.

“We could step out and play with these kids right now,” Forchtner said. “We just need to keep this class together, keep them healthy during the spring semester workouts, keep them growing, and keep them happy at a military school. And even if we had to replace Hula and Peyton, which are two huge pieces to replace, we still have a lot of phenomenal athletes there.”

And because injuries are always a possibility, and because you get two years to develop talent at the junior college level, Forchtner already has been recruiting, trying to bring in a new crop of freshmen who will fill in the gaps.

“Our major, major recruiting focus right now is a middle. And possibly two,” said Forchtner. “But we’ve already signed a new setter to replace (sophomore) Brigitte (Needham) in the spring. It will be nice to work with her for an extra semester. Plus, we’re already tracking two really good middles – one whose father has been in the military so that’s kind of a good thing for us too – and we’ve had a really, really, really good setter and another great walk-on come on campus, along with another really great kid from Utah coming to us check out. So already some really good things happening along the recruiting front.”

But that recruiting is just a part of what makes the NMMI team so successful. Barron said.

“We have a coach who puts our team through a tough regimen: pre-season; in season; and the post season. We have what I would call a premier program, and our coach does a fantastic job of keeping those girls engaged throughout the year, getting ready for the next year and reloading with the right players.”

“If we can keep this freshman class together and we just do a solid job of recruiting, we have a chance to be just as good (as 2018), just because this class played,” Forchtner said. “As freshmen, they were all out there. Peyton was out there. Violeta played at times. Langi was out there. Nyanuer played at times. Katelynn started in the middle. Barbara set almost every game for us. Hula started every game in the libero. Yumeno played every game defensively. These kids had a ridiculous amount of experience their freshman season. So if they just grow in the offseason, we will be really good next year. And we’ve got some really good natural leaders in this class, which is really, really helpful.”

Especially if they hope to keep the amazing string they’ve accumulated over the past two years going.

“We have not lost a conference game in two years in the WJCAC,” stated Barron. “That’s an amazing feat. Undefeated not once, but twice, in consecutive years of conference play.”

“This was a great year, even following up last season’s third place finish,” Forchtner said. “That’s the highest national ranking the school has ever received, so that’s obviously what everyone is going to compare our future seasons against, and what we’ll strive to beat. But this season was very similar. We were 10-0 again in conference, all year long we were nationally ranked and very competitive, and this year we not only won the Region V West tournament, but also a really good Arizona Western team to go to nationals. If we would have played like that at the national tournament, we would have been right back sitting in the 1-2-3 spot, very easily.”

Broncos down Matadors to earn third-straight ticket to nationals

The Bronco volleyball team poses for a pic after defeating Arizona Western College in three straight sets in a Super-Regional match on Tuesday to earn their third-straight trip to the NJCAA National Championships.


NMMI Sports Press

The NMMI Bronco volleyball earned their third consecutive trip to the NJCAA National Championships, winning in straight sets during a Super-Regional showdown at the Cahoon Armory gym on Tuesday night.

After winning the Region V West Championships last Saturday in a five-set grind against Midland College, head coach Shelby Forchtner and her squad had just two days to prepare for a match with even bigger bragging rights, and, more importantly, an automatic bid to nationals.

Their opponent was Region I champion Arizona Western College, who boasted a 20-5 overall record and No. 20 national ranking; NMMI entered the match with a No. 12 national ranking of their own, and a 28-7 record.

Coach Forchtner’s hope was that her team would play the rest of their matches this season as well as they played in the Region V West semifinals against Western Texas College, a team they defeated in three quick sets: 25-14, 25-8, 25-17.

It wouldn’t be quite that stress-free for the Broncos on Tuesday, but NMMI made the first set look easy, cruising to a 25-16 win.

“We were really in a rhythm,” said Forchtner. “We were serving super-tough and just really composed the whole entire first set. We never broke or cracked – and that’s a great way to start a match. I hope that we carry that into the national tournament.”

The second set was a whole lot closer, with AWC taking an early 7-2 lead. But the Broncos bounced back to take the set, 25-23.

“There was a little bit of a spot where we had to call a time out and calm everybody down,” explained coach Forchtner. “And once we did that, we came right back, got the set back to even, and then just kinda took over from there. In the second set, in those first ten points, we missed a lot of serves. That’s something we didn’t do at all in the first set. And I think that was a big part of the score difference: we gave them five or six easy points.”

In the third set, the Matadors again had momentum early, surging to another 7-2 lead.

“Honestly, we seem to do that every game,” said Forchtner about the brief Bronco collapse. “It’s usually either the first set or the third. I’m not exactly sure what happens, but it’s just a breakdown. We started hitting into their really good, big middles; we made back-to-back errors. But we got back control, got back to even, regained the momentum, and just kept it throughout the rest of the third set by playing a side-out game from there on out. We also had two late runs to maintain our lead at the end.”

The Mats made a late three-point run in that third set to close within one, 23-22, resulting in an NMMI timeout. After the break, Gabriela Langi’s kill from the left side made it match point. She then combined with Agape Mafua for the block to take the set and match, 25-22.

“I think tonight our serving and our offense were really good,” continued Forchtner. “[Setter] Barbara [Celler] did an excellent job of playing a whole, full match. She was really consistent tonight, which helped our offense be consistent. But we really just served very tough and kept them out of system for most of the match, which is exactly what we wanted to do.”

Celler finished the match with 38 set assists, 4 digs, and a perfect 2-for-2 in kills. Mafua was the kill leader, knocking down 14 on 27 attempts; Peyton Schendt had 12 kills in 36 tries; and Langi recorded 11 winners in 26 hits.

On the defensive side, libero Hula Crisostomo led in digs with 11, while four Broncos combined for 12 blocks, each with three: Mafua, Megan Martinez and Katelynn Gutz all had 1 solo and two assisted blocks, while Schendt had three assists.

“Tonight and tomorrow, it’s all going to be making flight arraignments and doing the paperwork to get our team to the national tournament. But that’s O.K. – we’re excited about that,” laughed Forchtner about the logistical work ahead.  “But really, we’re probably going to take a day or two off to just relax a bit, because we’ve been going a hundred miles an hour every single day since August 1st. We’ll decompress a little over this weekend, but we’ve got to continue the grind, gotta practice and stay in a rhythm, because now it’s the big show.”

For Forchtner, earning the chance to play at nationals, and the memories that creates, is exactly why she took the head coaching job at NMMI in the first place. She is a Roswell native who graduated from Goddard High School in 1996 and played volleyball for the Rockets, went on to play at the juco level helping Seward County Community College finish fifth at NJCAA National Championships in 2000, then finished her playing career at Lubbock Christian University and a trip to the NAIA National Championships in 2001.

“There were so many people when I started here that never thought this program could be successful – and I never thought that for a minute,” said Forchtner. “I’m such a competitive person that the moment I got the job, all I wanted to do was create an environment like what I got to experience as a player. My very first year to recruit, I would tell all my kids repeatedly, ‘I want to win a national championship. I want to win a national championship.’ I was on a team that finished fifth in the nation, and I want everybody that I coach to experience that, too. We talk a lot about that stuff with every team. I want to continue on this tradition for as long as I can, for as long as I’m alive and my heart is still functioning. These kids make it all worth it. I’m tough on them. I run a very disciplined program, feel that my life is disciplined, and I expect a high standard from everyone I interact with, whether players or co-workers. People sometimes get annoyed, but I don’t care – I feel like all of that helps us be successful. This is not just me, it’s every entity at this school working together to create an environment for success. It takes a village, a whole lot of people to be successful. This what I’ve always wanted for this program – for these kids to have something that they can look back on and say “This was a really cool time in my life. It just makes you feel good that they got to experience it all.”

And the Broncos will get a chance to do exactly that when they head out to play in the 2018 NJCAA D1 Women’s Volleyball National Championships. They don’t yet know how high they’ll be seeded or whom they will play in the 16-team tourney, but the dates and place are set: Nov. 15-17 in Hutchinson, KS.

Broncos win regional title in five-set thriller

The members of the Bronco volleyball team pose for a pic after winning the Region V West Volleyball Championships on Saturday. NMMI topped Western Texas College in three sets in the semi-finals, then outlasted Midland College in five sets for the tournament title. On Tuesday, Nov. 6 at 7 PM, NMMI will have a home match against Arizona Western College, with the winner earning an automatic bid to the NJCAA National Championships.


NMMI Sports Press

The New Mexico Military Institute Bronco volleyball team moved one step closer to their third-straight NJCAA National Championship appearance by winning the Region V West Championship title on Saturday.

NMMI was the regional tournament host this year, and earned the top seed and a first-round bye due to their undefeated 10-0 record in Western Junior College Athletic Conference play during the regular season.

The Broncos made short work of fifth-seeded Western Texas College in the semi-final round, downing the Westerners in three straight sets: 25-14, 25-8, 25-17.

“Our team played one of their best matches in a really long time,” said head Bronco coach Shelby Forchtner about the morning match-up against WTC. ”We passed really well, we served really well, and our defense was unbelievable – we had extremely few defensive errors. Because of that, offensively, we had one of the best games in a long time. Everything was firing on all cylinders and we were in control the entire time. We were relaxed and just played a great match from beginning to end. It was a fun to be a part of and a fun to watch – just an all-around good match for us to start the tournament with.”

NMMI hit a huge .385 as a team on offense against the Westerners with three players with double-figures in kills: Peyton Schendt with 12, Agape Mafua with 11 and Gabriela Langi with 10. Katelynn Gutz had 8 kills and led in hitting percentage at .615.

On defense, Hula Crisostomo topped the back row with 17 digs; Karime Raygoza and Yumeno Nawa each had 9.

In the other semi-final match the No. 3 seed, Midland College, knocked off second-seeded Odessa College in a five-set grudge match: 25-12, 22-25, 15-25, 26-24, 16-14.

That set up a 3 PM final between the Chaps and Broncos, with the Institute cruising to easy set-one win, 25-10.

The second set was dominated early again by NMMI, with the Broncos jumping out to a 16-5 lead. Midland battled back, but it was too little and too late, as Forchtner’s squad powered their way to a 25-18 win.

In sets three and four, however, that energetic, relaxed play by the Institute turned into almost a panic. Midland took the third set – after a solid NMMI comeback attempt – 25-23, then claimed set four in convincing fashion, 25-16.

“We did a lot of the same [good] things in the first and second sets versus Midland,” explained coach Forchtner. “We were passing well, the defense was great and our offense was clicking. We did struggle with blocking in those first two sets but it wasn’t really affecting our overall game. Those were two pretty comfortable sets for us in the championship match. And I think our kids just got too comfortable. We came out in set three and played like we were still asleep in the locker room. Our bench enthusiasm went way down, our floor chemistry and intensity went way down as well. We were banging balls into their best blockers, banging balls out-of-bounds, or banging balls into the net. We also didn’t pass as well. Even trying to come back in set three, we never seemed to get back our full momentum.”

The Broncos bounced back in Set 5. After a few early ties, NMMI pulled away earning a 15-9 victory to claim the regional title.

“In set five, we put our starting line-up back in and told those kids to go do what we had asked them to do in the first set,” said Fochtner. “And they did it – our floor intensity was drastically different, our bench was different and our energy was different. We’re in November and I still don’t think our kids understand just how much they feed off of that. You can see the difference when we’re all working together as a unit. And we need that to be successful.”

The Broncs hit just .169 against the Chaps. Schendt was the leader in kills (20), hitting percentage (.320), and digs (26). Mafua had 12 kills and 5 block assists; Crisostomo had 24 digs; Nawa 17 digs; and Megan Martinez had 4 block assists.

In previous seasons, winning the Region V West title earned an automatic bid to nationals. But this year, thanks to some re-districting by the National Junior College Athletic Association, NMMI will have to play – and win – one more match.

“Now we play Arizona Western College on Tuesday here at home,” said Forchtner. “They won their regional championship last night and we’re going to meet up here in a 7 o’clock match with the winner going to nationals.

“So yes, this was a super-important win for us, but now we have an even bigger task at hand. We’re playing someone that we haven’t seen. Our team tends to step up when playing high-level competition, and I hoping that’s what will happen when we face Arizona Western.”

For the losers of Tuesday’s match at the Cahoon Armory gym, there is still a small sliver of hope.

“There are two at-large bids available,” explained Forchtner. “A committee will determine who gets those after all of these regional tournaments are finished. We have a really tough strength of schedule outside of our conference – almost all those matches have been against nationally-ranked teams –  and really good teams in our conference. So there is a small chance that an at-large bid could happen, but you don’t want to sit around and wait on that.”

Forchtner finished by saying that she hoped that her team would play all of their remaining games the way that they played in their opening match of the tournament against Western Texas College.

Broncos take WJCAC with four set win versus FPC

Megan Martinez with her only solo block of the match. She would assist with five other blocks on the night.

NMMI Sports Press

The New Mexico Military Institute Bronco volleyball team won their volleyball match against Frank Philips College in four sets 26-28, 25-16, 25-23, 25-13 on Wednesday in Cahoon Armory Gym. The win gives the Broncos the WJCAC regular season championship title.

The Broncos and Plainsmen went back and fourth in set one. The Plainsmen had set point three times and the Broncos had set point once, but the Plainsmen were able to take the set 28-26.
The third set saw some struggles for the Broncos similar to the first set, but this time they were able to hold off a late comeback from FPC.
“I knew this team was getting better and better throughout the season. They are getting players that are coming back from injury. They just played balanced and they let you make the mistake and it frustrates teams.” said Head Bronco volleyball coach Shelby Forchtner.
Coach Forchtner also commented on the difference between the first set and the rest of the match. “Serving was the big difference in sets one and three we just moved players around and hitting at a harder angle.”
The second and the fourth set NMMI was in control throughout the sets. Megan Martinez was the spotlight for the Broncos has she had nine kills, one service ace, eight digs, and six total blocks. Peyton Schendt had 17 kills, one service ace, and 20 digs. Ha’ahulakaleikaimana Crisostomo had three set assists with a team high 30 digs during the match.
I thought Megan Martinez played really well offensively and defensively throughout the match. She made a lot of blocks and got some key digs for us as well.”
NMMI will face Midland College in their last game of the regular season. The match will be in Midland at 2 PM on Saturday Oct. 27th. The Broncos look to go 10-0 in conference play this season.

Late rallies grant Bronco volleyball a win over WTC

NMMI freshman opposite-side hitter Gabriela Langi with the kill attempt against Western Texas College. Langi led the Broncos in hitting percentage (.290) and had 12 kills in the three-set home win: 25-17, 29-27, 26-24.. Photo courtesy of cadet Karim Gunter.


NMMI Sports Press

The New Mexico Military Institute Bronco volleyball team (23-8, 8-0) used a pair of late rallies in sets two and three to down conference foe Western Texas College (7-21, 1-7) at home in three straight sets.

This was the second WJCAC match-up between the two teams – NMMI earned a 3-1 victory in Snyder, TX back on Sept. 19 – and keeps the Broncos at the top of the conference standings with a perfect 8-0 record with two more matches remaining in the regular season.

The Institute had few problems with the Westerners in the first set, leading the entire way in a 25-17 final, but WTC reversed that in the second set, serving up an early 4-0 lead.

The Westerners extended that lead to eight midway through the second set, thanks to a combination of excellent blocking and NMMI miscues, but the Broncos came storming back to take the game in extended play, 29-27.

The third set was almost a mirror of Set 2. WTC gained and early lead, grew that margin during the middle, and had NMMI down 24-19 late. But freshman outside hitter Peyton Schendt served up seven straight points for the Broncos, including an ace, to close out the set and match, 26-24.

“We just really struggled to get in any kind of offensive rhythm, from Set 1 all the way to the very end,” explained head Bronco coach Shelby Forchtner.  “It came in spurts, which was helpful to win sets two and three, because it came at the right time, but for some reason, even our defense really struggled to dig easier-tempo balls in this game. This was just an off game for us and we were lucky to come away with a win on our home floor.”

“We actually did some good things,” laughed coach Forchtner when being asked about the seven-point comeback run in Set 3. “But the one thing about this match is that we made a lot of errors, then came back and played consistently late in sets to get the wins. I don’t know what we need to do in the beginning and middle parts, but we’ve got to get it together.”

Despite the lack of consistency, the NMMI offense knocked down 49 kills in the match, led by Schendt’s 14. Gabriela Langi had 12 kills and the best attack percentage (.290) among those who made more than five attempts, while Agape Mafua had 11.

On the defensive side Hula Crisostomo led in digs with 14. Schendt had 10 and Karime Raygoza 9. Blocks leader was Beki Eaton with four block assists.

Next up for NMMI will be another home conference match, against Frank Phillips College on Wednesday, Oct. 24.

“To me, Frank Phillips is a very well-rounded team with good balance,” said Forchtner. “They’re a team you’ve really got to watch out for: scrappy on defense and have a good setter. They’ve just had a bunch of injuries – kind of like all of us this year – so that every time you see them, they’re a little bit different of a team and you don’t know exactly what you’re going to get. If they’re all healthy… well, we just need to elevate our game from how we played today.”