Category Archives: Bronco Volleyball

The Road to Nationals

NMMI Sports Press

The Bronco volleyball team had a record breaking year in 2017: they swept through the conference undefeated; won the regional tournament; topped the No. 4 and No. 5 teams in the country in the first two rounds of the NJCAA national tourney; and just missed beating the top-seeded squad in the semifinals before finishing third in the country.

Add in a pair of All-Americans and an Assistant Coach of the Year honor, and in every respect 2017 was a banner year for the Lady Broncos. But ask coach Shelby Forcthner about the accomplishments, and she says it’s nothing she hasn’t been wanting since she began coaching at NMMI.

“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. This year’s team put in all the hard work and did everything that we’ve asked them to do, and it’s just cool that they went above and beyond what I did as a player. It just makes you feel good that they got to experience it all.”

Maybe it wasn’t a championship, but for anyone following the Broncos this season, a third-place finish at nationals probably came as a surprise. The start of the season wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. The Broncos had a good effort at their home tournament, but then only managed to beat one nationally-ranked team during the various tournaments they competed in through mid October.

But that, Forchtner said, was OK.

“You want your teams to be better at the end than they are in the beginning. I see a lot of teams on our opening weekend that looked phenomenal, and then they don’t come together at the end of October or beginning of November. I love that our team always gets better and better from the beginning of the season to the end. There hasn’t ever been a season where we’ve started out amazing then gone in the tank and I really like to see that progression in our kids.”

And despite the ups-and-downs at tournaments, NMMI was making it look easy in WJCAC matches, sweeping by almost every team they faced in straight sets; only West Texas (3-2) and Midland (3-1) managed to take a set from the Broncos during regular season conference play.

“It’s great to experience being 10-0 and winning a conference championship outright,” Forchtner said. “This group of kids worked hard and showed up for every conference match. They were ready to go beat people on Wednesdays and Saturdays – that’s was a great feeling, too.”

But after an off-weekend to celebrate, Forchtner told her team to forget about that perfect regular season conference mark, as the Region V West Championship Tournament was next.

“I was pretty harsh about it. I just straight up told them, ‘It’s over. You got to celebrate this weekend. You were 10-0. We’ve never been 10-0. Now you throw that all out the window because it means absolutely nothing going into the conference tournament.’ And I think our kids really took hold of that. I think sometimes if you don’t address that, you go in pretty cocky. ‘Oh, we’ve beat everybody here. Who’s our first opponent?’ And then it’s not as easy as you thought it would be, because your head is bigger than the gym you’re standing in. So I really thought knocking them back down to size and telling them it doesn’t matter was important. You’ve still got to go win all this, and they did. They really went out and played very, very well in the regional tournament as well, beating people in three again.”

After getting a bye in the first round, NMMI topped both the Westerners and Chaparrals in straight sets to earn the team’s fourth visit to nationals in five years.

In previous trips to the NJCAA National Championships tournament, with but one exception, the Broncos had gone two and out. This year,despite coming in as the 13 seed, Forchtner was thinking more than just positive heading into the Nov. 16 match vs. No. 4-ranked Western Nebraska Community College – she had a special feeling the moment she saw how the bracket was paired.

“I feel like God parted the Red Sea, honestly,” she said. “I mean, the minute that I saw how all that stuff (the bracket) came out, and the top four teams, that’s exactly what I thought.

She watched videos of the Cougars and of Hill College, a team that she expected to see in the second round. The Broncos had played poorly against the Rebels in the Tyler Tournament, losing 3-0, and the team wanted revenge.

“I knew, that if my team played like they had been playing in the month of October, that we could beat them, that we could get this win back,” she said. “I was also very excited to see we had the No. 1 team in the nation on our side. Most people probably wouldn’t have been very excited about that, but every game that I watched on them, I was like, ‘We can do a lot of the same things this team is doing if we play at a high level.’”

So even before getting on the bus, the squad was thinking positive. And they proved that in their first two matches in Hutchinson, Kans., upsetting Western Nebraska 3-1 and sweeping by Hill 3-0.

Then came the match against No. 1 Miami-Dade, a team that was undefeated all season.

“I told my kids before we played the first match that we had to do two things extremely, extremely well, and we had to do one thing pretty good, because we already do the other things good, for the most part.”

She told her squad they had to serve well, receive tough and block more than they had been.

“If we could just block more balls than we had been recently, then it would show [Miami-Dade] that we were at the same level as them,” she said. “So I was actually pretty excited to play the No. 1 team. I had no jitters. I wasn’t scared. In fact, I wanted to be their one loss and I knew I had the tools to do it if they played well.”

And for three sets, NMMI played amazingly. The Broncos lost two sets 25-23 and won one 25-17.

“The first three sets, we just played some of the best volleyball we could have possibly ever played,” Forchtner said.

And if one of those 25-23 losses had gone the other way, the match would have gone to five games with another upset possible, Forchtner said. But the Institute couldn’t hold on, falling to the Sharks 25-17 in the final fourth set.

Still, Forchtner said, “I thought that was some of the best volleyball my kids have played all year in that game against them.”

Even with the semifinals loss, Broncos had gone farther than any team before them – but they wanted to go out with a win. They’ve get that chance in the consolation championship match vs. Tyler Junior College – a battle for third place.

“Going into Tyler, we had already beat them, but I knew it was just going to be a battle,” Forchtner said. “They were going to feel like we did against Hill: that they wanted to get that loss back. It felt really good to win in the first two sets, because we were really on top of everything: serving tough, receiving well, blocking shots. Everything that we had been doing the last three games we were doing really well against Tyler.”

The team then hit a bit of a slump in Sets 3 and 4, but pulled out the victory with a solid Set 5.

“It was just a breath of fresh air to win that fifth set, because my kids just worked and worked and worked” the coach said.

’Fourth in the nation would have been an excellent accomplishment, but third, with a win over the team that beat us at nationals last year it is just great,” said sophomore McKayla Landreth. “It was a good finish for a lot of things, and it just helped with my next chapter of volleyball after NMMI.”

And the next chapter is what everyone is looking forward to. The sophomores are hoping to move on to four-year schools, and most, like Landreth, say everything the Institute did for them will help with that.

“NMMI has done a lot for me, not just in sports but in schooling and the military aspect as well,” she said. “I feel like when I go to another college I’ll be more responsible and know how to plan out my day and time schedule. Then with volleyball, it’s made me stronger, especially with (Daniel) Ford and (Tyrell) Curtis and working out a lot. The off-season really kind of makes you tough, and whenever you’re in a five-game situation, and everyone else is tired, we’re still in shape and ready to go. I think that was a good experience being here at NMMI.”

“The No. 1 thing I learned from going to NMMI was just having thicker skin and just being a more responsible and successful person,” said sophomore Hannah David. “I feel like I wouldn’t be the same person I am now if I hadn’t gone to NMMI. It’s taught me to be very precise, disciplined, definitely, and it just made me a more people person.”

And the continuing freshmen are looking ahead to another successful season, and developing as cadet-student-athletes.

“I’d like to be more of a leader,” said Karime Raygoza, a freshman from Las Vegas, N.M. “I’d like to guide us to being the best and win first place at nationals next time.”

“I will continue to work hard and train to prepare myself to be a better player and I know all of this is possible by the amount of support that I have received from NMMI,” echoed Paola Rivera-Herrera, the Bronco freshman who won a pair of All-American awards this year.

For the coaches, the key is replacing those powerful sophomores who will be moving on.

“We’re still going to continue the recruiting process, which means going to national tournaments throughout this club season this semester. We’ll be doing lots of traveling and looking around.” said assistant coach Alonso Ibarra.

But with that said, there’s still time to savor the excitement of the past season, and the team camaraderie that made it all possible.

Post-season accolades continue for third-in-nation Bronco volleyball

NMMI Sports Press

The record-breaking year for the Bronco volleyball team continues even after the successful season wrapped up with a third-place finish at the NJCAA National Championship tournament.

For the first time ever, the NMMI team had two players picked as NJCAA DI All-Americans, a player selected to the American Volleyball Coaches Association All American team, and a coach named as the AVCA Two-Year College Assistant Coach of the Year.

Karen “Paola” Rivera-Herrera and Hannah Davis were the tandem tapped for the NJCAA All-American award; Rivera-Herrera as the AVCA All-American; and assistant coach Alonso Ibarra garnered the Coach of the Year award.

Ibarra was nominated by head coach Shelby Forchtner, who said the award was especially sweet because most honorees come from the team that wins the national title.

“Most assistant coaches get it if their team wins a national championship. That happens a lot,” she said. “So I’m really excited he got it because he only has two years of work here at NMMI, and we’ve been very successful in both of those years.”

The honor came for the El Paso native despite having to coach at nationals in a cast after Achilles tendon surgery.

“That definitely didn’t stop me from doing what I love,” he laughed. “In the videos from our national tournament you still saw me hopping around. I was just trying to do my thing: get excited, throw my fist pumps when I get a chance to do it, still give it my 100 percent – because these girls deserve how far we got and I just wanted to be there for them.”

Ibarra came to the Institute from the University of Texas at El Paso in 2016, and immediately began making a difference.

“I think he’s very deserving of the award,” Forchtner said. “He does a lot of work and he puts a lot of time in, especially as far as the kids individually. He’s a well-rounded coach – does a lot of good things defensively and offensively, and that’s a really good tool.”

“I’m really honored to get the award,” Ibarra said. “It feels really good when someone puts you in a position of being nominated for a big award and receiving it.”

Ibarra is bilingual, which helps both in recruiting and translating for Spanish-speaking players. And while the assistant downplayed what he does — giving the players the credit for all the team’s success — Forchtner said it’s Ibarra’s skills as a “people person” that help him the most.

“It’s just great having somebody who enjoys the game of volleyball as much as I do,” continued Forchtner. “I think he’s a good buffer for my personality sometimes, and I think the kids really enjoy being around him.”

The All-American honors were equally special, since NMMI has never earned more than one NJCAA award in a season. Herrera-Rivera and Davis were part of a trio of unanimous nominees from the WJCAC conference, two of only 30 players from the entire NJCAA Division I to be named to the All-American squad.

Yet Forchtner thought others on the No. 3-finishing Broncos were deserving as well, noting it was really hard to choose who to nominate.

“This year, with this team and the balance and the dynamic that we had, obviously we could have had two more people up there,” she said. “McKayla Landreth is just as talented, and Karime (Raygoza), our little freshman, does some really, really good stuff out there as well. Hannah and Paola just set themselves apart statistically throughout the entire season, carrying a little bit higher percentage weight in terms of overall stats.”

Davis, a 6-foot-1 sophomore from Utah, was the kill leader for the Broncos, tallying 363 kills in 42 matches, good for 25th in nation. She was second on the squad in total blocks with 132, placing her at No. 17 nationally. She also added 34 service aces.

“We love that she could shut down people on the right side, blocking other outside hitters,” Forchtner said. “She did a great job for us offensively and she’s also a great server. Hannah is just a very well-rounded package and I honestly believe she’s going to go to a great Division I or Division II program and be very successful there, because she still has a really good ceiling ahead of her.”

Davis was happy and excited to earn the honor.

““I am honored and humbled to receive such an awesome award. I just felt like it all paid off, all the hard work I’d put in for volleyball and in the corps and in the classroom,” she said.

“I spent a lot of extra time writing down what I needed to work on,” Davis said. “After practices, I’d write down things I needed to do more of and things I needed to do less of. You always need to have a mental note of what you need to work on every day and keeping a constant track of everything, rather than just going into the gym and going through the motions, helped.”

“Hannah is competitive,” Forchtner said. “She’s dynamic. She’s a workaholic. She not a kid who just likes the gym and likes volleyball, she likes the weight room. She likes to run. She’s just a total package in terms of NMMI and everything she’s done here. She’s great in the corps. Rarely gets in trouble. She’s great in the classroom. Her teachers love her. She’s a phenomenal teammate. There’s not anybody on our team who does not like Hannah.”

But Davis also credited her teammates, especially for that big kill number.

“By far my favorite thing about volleyball is just getting an amazing kill right after getting a good pass,” she said. “Because there’s no way you can get an amazing kill unless you get an amazing pass from the passer and an amazing set. It just all comes together. It’s just money.”

Davis is still keeping her options open regarding her next step. She’s talking with four-year schools across the country, where she’ll both play and study biology and health sciences. And whatever happens, she says she owes it all to Forchtner and Ibarra.

“I would thank my coaches for getting me here where I am,” she said. “They definitely pushed me past my limits and made me a better athlete and student. They’re always raising the bar high for me. I’m never comfortable staying at a certain level. They’re always making me want to be more and more hungry, so I’m always striving to be better every day.”

With five repeat All-Americans on the NJCAA list this year, freshman Rivera-Herrera could be the first Bronco to earn double honors next year. She is the first NMMI volleyball player to earn an AVCA award, which is chosen from all junior college players at all levels, including the NJCAA, California Community College Athletic Association, Florida College System Activities Association and all independents. She is one of 47 players receiving that award.

This year, she played in every match, racking up 283 kills, 744 assists, and 414 digs. Her 72 service aces on the season was good for third in the nation.

“Paola is a great kid for us because she does everything well,” Forchtner said. “She’s our best server. She’s our best defender. She’s one of our best passers in serve-receive. She is our best setter and she’s is one of the top three swings on our team. So when you are that good at everything, it’s really hard to take her off the floor.”

Yet the coach was not even certain she’d be able to sign the Juarez player.

Forchtner watched Rivera-Herrera play on El Paso club teams as a high-school freshman, sophomore and junior, and was convinced Rivera-Herrera would be grabbed up by a four-year institution. But Rivera-Herrera didn’t play her senior year, and didn’t take the needed tests to get into an NCAA school.

“We got lucky being able to get a kid like that that nobody was able to get at the Division I level, which is where she obviously belongs.”

And even as a college freshman, Rivera-Herrera brought intangibles to the team.

“She brings a dynamic to our team that is kind of effortless,” Forchtner said. “She’s smooth and very controlled in all her movements, and also very calm under pressure. It doesn’t matter what the score is, she’s going to figure out a way to win in the end.”

Replying by text since she had already completed her semester final exams and was travelling back home for the holiday break, Rivera-Herrera said he was “extremely happy” to receive the honor.

“This award is huge to me, coming from Mexico. Receiving this award in the United States is fantastic,” she said.

She credited the Institute with giving her the chance to attend college, and vowed to continue the effort next season.

“I will continue to work hard and train to prepare myself to be a better player and I know all of this is possible by the amount of support that I have received from NMMI,” she said.

And Forchtner said Rivera-Herrera will definitely get a chance to play at a higher level when she leaves the Institute after next season.

“She’s just a phenomenal kid and does some really good things for us.”

After the holiday break, the Bronco off-season begins, with cadets reporting back Jan. 4. Coach Forchtner and Ibarra will be working hard getting them ready for next season, along with hitting the recruiting trail to sign up new talent to fill in the holes left by graduating sophomores.

With some luck and a whole lot of hard work, we’ll likely see NMMI back at the NJCAA National Championships for the third-straight year in a row.

NMMI outlasts Tyler to take home Third

The 2017 Bronco volleyball team, along with NJCAA representatives, pose for a quick pic with their third-place NJCAA National Championship trophy.

NMMI Sports Press

HUTCHINSON, KS – In the third-place match at the 2017 NJCAA National Championship tournament, the NMMI Bronco volleyball team outlasted Tyler Junior College in a five-set grudge match.

NMMI quickly won the first two sets (25-23 and 25-18) but couldn’t close out a close third (23-25) against the seventh-ranked Apaches. T

Tyler JC stormed back again in the fourth set (21-25) and tied the match at two games apiece.

In the final set both teams played top-notch volleyball, extending the set well beyond the ‘first-to-15’ goal. The Lady Apaches opened up with a 4-1 run, but the Lady Broncos battled back to knot the score back up, 10-10.

After that, neither team would take more than a one point lead.

Tied 18-18, NMMI finally got the two consecutive kills needed for the win, by going to their two All-American nominees. Karen Rivera-Herrera got the first kill off a set from Mirna Kovacevic, and Hannah Davis knocked down the winner off a pass from Karime Raygoza.

When asked what she was thinking during the last point of the nail-biting fifth set, head Coach Shelby Forchtner said, “She (Hannah Davis) better put the ball down. As soon as the ball hit the ground I felt a sense of pressure off of my shoulders because I really wanted these kids to win this game.”

The win over Tyler – along with the opening round win over No. 4 Western Nebraska CC and quarterfinal win over No. 5 Hill College – gives NMMI their highest finish at the national tournament in program history.

“It is a huge step to be one of the top 16 teams, but then to come out and perform like we knew we could is really impressive to us as a coaching staff. They stepped up to the plate and played at a high level the entire time we were here and that is exactly what you want from your team when you play at the end of the year,” said Forchtner.

The head coach of No. 1 Miami Dade College – the team that bested NMMI in the semifinals and this year’s 2017 NJCAA National Champions – told coach Forchtner that NMMI was one of the best defenses and serving teams that they have faced all year.

The Broncos had four players with double digit kills: Paola Rivera-Herrera finished with 16 kills, Kim Trauboth had 15, McKayla Landreth had 13 and Hannah Davis had 12.

NMMI closes their season with a 31-12 record and a No. 3 final NJCAA ranking.

Bronco volleyball advances to semifinals with win over No. 5 Hill College

Jump serve by NMMI’s Paola Rivera-Herrera. Rivera-Herrera had three aces in the Broncos’ quarterfinal match vs. Hill College.

NMMI Sports Press

The NMMI Bronco volleyball team defeated No. 5 ranked Hill College in three straight sets (25-19, 25-19, 25-18) to advance to the semifinals of the NJCAA DI Women’s Volleyball Nationals Championship Tournament.

The Broncos started out strong with McKayla Landreth leading the way with seven kills on 10 attempts and a hitting percentage of .600. Hannah Davis was close behind, adding nine kills on 19 attempts, good for a .421 hitting percentage.

Head Coach Shelby Forchtner said, “Everyone did an amazing job offensively and our kids know they have to do everything well to be successful here.”

Not only has the offense been clicking, but the Broncos’ blocking definitely stood out, stuffing the Rebels at the net 12 times in the match.

NMMI also served well in the win against Hill.

Forchtner said, “We told them from the beginning that serving was going to be a big thing for us and that we needed to do that really well here to succeed.”

Although the Broncos won 3-0, Hill was a very good team and had only lost one game prior to the quarterfinals match against NMMI.

“Their outsides are very athletic and score a lot of points and do a lot of really good things,” said Forchtner.

According to coach Forchtner, the key to NMMI’s success was getting Hill out of their fast paced offense. “We needed to get them out of system and we needed them not to run a faster tempo ball on us and that’s what we did.”

Tomorrow at 6:30 PM CST, NMMI will take on defending national champions and this year’s No. 1 seed, Miami Dade College. The winner advances to play in the NJCAA National Championship title match.

Bronco volleyball stuns No. 4 Western Nebraska in opening round of NJCAA National Championships

McKayla Landreth gets one of her 11 kills against WNCC. Photo by Tanner Hightower-Wilson.

NMMI Sports Press

HUTCHINSON, KS – Thirteenth-seeded New Mexico Military Institute upset No. 4 Western Nebraska Community College in four sets in the opening round of the NJCAA DI Volleyball Championships: 18-25, 25-20, 25-20 and 25-16.

This was the first time the Lady Bronco team has won their opening round match at nationals and will result, regardless of a win or loss in the second round, in the highest final ranking in the program’s history.

Assistant Coach Alonso Ibarra said, “We blocked out of our minds against WNCC. That is what gave us the momentum to finish the game strong.”

NMMI finished with 23 total blocks.

Another bright spot for NMMI was the arm of Mckayla Landreth. Landreth hit .455 percent and had 11 kills on 22 attempts.

There’s no rest for the eight teams left in the championship bracket, as later tonight, the quarterfinal round will begin – NMMI will take on fifth-seeded Hill College at 7:30 PM CST.

Hill College won their opening-round match in three straight sets vs. No. 12 Monroe College: 26-24, 25-17, 25-11.

NMMI and Hill College have faced each other just once this season, back on Sept. 29 in a match at the Tyler Junior College Invitational. Hill won in three sets: 25-23, 25-16, 25-20.

Ibarra said, “For us to beat Hill, we will have to serve aggressive and play fast.”