North Idaho College's volleyball team earned ninth place in the nation at the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) national tournament in West Plains, Mo.
In a tight matchup, the No. 7-seeded North Idaho College women’s volleyball team fell to the No. 10 seed College of Central Florida in three sets (26-24, 28-26, 25-13) in the first round of the tournament Nov. 17. But the Lady Cardinals went on to win their next three matches, beating 11th-seed Temple College (25-22, 25-19, 18-25, 25-23) and 15th-seed Western Texas College (25-19, 25-15, 26-24) Friday, Nov. 18 before defeating 12th-seed Mineral Area College (21-25, 25-20, 20-25, 25-22, 15-12) Nov. 19 to finish ninth in the nation and 25-10 overall.
(Photo courtesy of Kelley Flowers Photography.)
Recap by NIC Head Volleyball Coach Kandice Kelly:
The North Idaho College volleyball team finished ninth in the nation in West Plains, Mo., at the 2011 NJCAA national tournament. The Cards came in as the seventh seed team playing No. 10 Central Florida in the first round. The ladies fought hard but came up a little short. The Cards lost to CFCC (27-25, 28-26, and 25-12). The Cards had 20 hitting errors and only 28 total kills. Yang Yang led with 10 kills and five blocks. Sierra Pancho had 18 assists while Emily Sarff and Mariah Smith each had 12 digs.
“The girls were very nervous, playing very timid, and making a lot unforced errors,” said NIC Head Volleyball Coach Kandice Kelly said. “We basically gave them a full game with all of our hitting errors. Twenty hitting errors can’t happen if you expect to even come remotely close to winning a game. We had leads but couldn’t finish the game.”
The Cards bounced back and won the next three matches to end the national tournament with a 3-1 record.
The next match was against Western Texas. NIC won in three games with scores of 25-19, 25-15, and 26-24. Yang Yang led with six blocks and 13 kills. Mariah Smith and Sabrina Ewing added 11 each as well. Shelby Lausen had five blocks and Sierra Pancho added 22 assists. Emily Sarff had 11 digs and three aces. Mariah Smith also had 11 digs.
The next match was against Temple where NIC won in four with scores of 25-22, 25-19, 18-25, and 25-20. Yang Yang led with six blocks and 14 kills. Mariah Smith led digs with 10 and also added 11 kills. Janele also added 10 kills. Sierra Pancho had 25 assists.
To finish the national tournament for ninth and 10th place, NIC beat Mineral Area College in five games with scores of 21-25, 25-20, 20-25, 25-22, and 15-12. Yang Yang had 20 kills, Sabrina Ewing and Mariah Smith each had 15 kills while Janele Vogt had 14. Emily Sarff and Yang Yang each had 16 digs. Yang Yang added three aces. Janele Vogt had a fantastic blocking night with six total while Shelby Lausen added five. Everyone had huge contributions to these wins. Yang had 57 kills for the tournament. Janele had 36, Mariah had 44, and Sabrina added 34 kills for the tournament.
“I am really happy with how we responded after we lost the first match. We came back and won the next three games. That says a lot about the team. We have a team full of fighters and hard workers. We have come a long ways this year and accomplished a lot of our goals we set for ourselves in preseason. It wasn’t an easy road. We had a lot of injuries we had to push through, a brand new team with no returning starters from last year’s fifth-place in the nation team, and a big group of freshmen that needed to catch up to a faster-paced game transitioning from high school volleyball to college volleyball. The girls worked so hard, hardly complained (in front of me anyways), and truly wanted to get better. We have won nine out of 10 matches in five games. Coaches generally estimate if you can win half of the five-game matches, you are doing good. It’s not an easy thing to do. I would have never guessed after preseason that we would have hosted regionals and placed ninth in the nation. It was a wonderful experience. The freshmen got a taste of what needs to be done to return to nationals next year and now I see the type of athletes I need to be recruiting to be competitive at the national level and in the competitive Scenic West Athletic Conference. I love this team and feel very fortunate to have such wonderful girls my first year as a head coach. I started tearing up in the last game of our last match when I told the girls in the huddle that this was our last game any of us will play together the rest of our lives. We have a special group and I can’t believe how many compliments we got this year and at the national tournament about how classy, friendly, competitive, and good our team was. A college coach told me they saw our team walked in and thought, how did they make it this far, they are TINY. After he watched our hour practice, he understood exactly why we were ranked seventh in the nation. I have learned a lot from this team as a first-year coach and I hope they have learned a lot from me on and off the court. We have so many great memories together; ones that I will never forget. I am lucky to have another spring with this special group and hopefully continue to improve daily. Thank you to an amazing team for bringing us so far this year and a big thanks to all of our fans, family, and friends for supporting us along the way.”