COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (Nov. 22, 2008) - Things got down right exciting at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa on Saturday evening in the championship match for the NJCAA Division I title.
Down two games to zero, and with four match points against them in game three, Blinn College mounted a stunning comeback to defeat the University of Arkansas-Ft. Smith 27-29, 19-25, 30-28, 25-19, 15-10 to become the 2008 NJCAA Division I National Champions.
"We were behind. It was their pressure, their situation, they had to do something," an ecstatic Blinn head coach David Rehr said about Arkansas-Ft. Smith after the match. "We're the fourth seed, they're the third seed. We're supposed to lose. We got so amped up in the beginning that we had to just relax. And when we started to relax, we started to play better. The pressure was all on Ft. Smith after they were up 2-0. So we just relaxed and let it go. We didn't worry about the big picture, we just worried about point-by-point. Once we got game three, game four kind of went easy and gave five was just - wow!"
Three freshman helped lead the Buccaneers to the title. Leading the way was outside hitter Cinthya Roberto, who put away 22 kills and completed a double-double with 11 digs. Also with double figure kills was right-side hitter Elizaveta Senenkova, who scored 18 kills, while middle blocker Lakeshia Craft added 13 kills.
Pacing the offense was sophomore setter Kayla Schmidt, who dished out 65 assists in leading her team to a .259 hitting percentage. She also had her own double-double with 19 digs.
On the defensive side of the ball for Blinn, sophomore libero Lori Hunsucker scooped up 23 digs, with sophomore defensive specialist Kara Stinson getting 13 digs and sophomore outside hitter Jennifer Goodwin getting 10.
"They really did a good job of stopping Roberto, who was our horse for the rest of this tournament," Rehr said. "The one thing we haven't done yet was gotten Senenkova going. And, when she gets going, she gets going and it's hard to stop her."
Three Lions scored double-digit kills to lead Arkansas-Ft. Smith. Leading the way was sophomore right-side hitter Fabiane Nass, who had 16 kills, five digs and seven block assists. Freshman middle blocker Heidi Lucks had a double-double with 13 kills and 11 digs. She also added four solo blocks and six block assists in the match. Sophomore outside hitter Morgan Banner was the third Lion with double-digit kill numbers, as she put down 11 kills, and had two aces, six digs and a block assist.
Sophomore setter Lucia Najselova led the offense for the Lions with 56 assists to lead her squad to a .234 hitting percentage. She also scored a double-double on the evening, getting 11 digs.
But, the night belonged to Blinn, and Rehr and his team could not have been happier.
"You don't get to the title game just because you're an Ok team," he said. "You have to show a lot of heart, and we showed it today."
They showed their heart and their determination, and now they are the 2008 National Champions.
NJCAA Division I Championships All-Tournament Team
Paloma Alverez, OH, So., Western Nebraska
Celeste Brown, OH, Fr., Iowa Western
Barbara Conceicao, MB, So., Iowa Western
Lakeshia Craft, MB, Fr., Blinn
Kaleinani Kabalis, OH, Fr., Western Nebraska
Heidi Luks, MB, Fr., Arkansas-Ft. Smith
Rosa Medrano, OH, So., Miami Dade
Lucia Najselova, Setter, So., Arkansas-Ft. Smith
Cinthya Roberto, OH, Fr., Blinn
Andrea Rojas, OH, Fr., Iowa Western
Kayla Schmidt, Setter, So., Blinn
Jetta Stec, MB, Fr., Arkansas-Ft. Smith
Nile Whaley-Garrison, MB, Fr., MSU-West Plains
Kayla Schmidt, Setter, So., Blinn
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