HUTCHINSON, Kan.-The 2023 NJCAA D1 Volleyball Championship Saturday has a Florida ring to it as the defending champion Florida SouthWestern State will take on Miami Dade tonight at the Sports Arena for the Championship.
Both the Florida teams earned big wins in the semi-finals on Friday night. Florida SouthWestern State rolled Trinity Valley (TX) in three sets 25-20, 25-17, 25-20. Miami Dade had to work a little harder to get the win over Navarro College (TX) in four sets 21-25, 25-21, 31-29, 25-20.
Courtesy of Florida SouthWestern State
It wasn't a storybook start for the Bucs in their second straight Final Four appearance as they fell behind early 9-4 against an upstart Trinity Valley group before having to take their first timeout of the night. The stoppage swung the momentum as Alondra Alarcon, Victoria Zibecchi, and Izzy Collier combined for four straight kills to draw the Bucs back to within one and after a Cardinal sideout, six more consecutive points for the Purple and Aqua gave FSW their first lead of the game at 14-10. The Bucs came at the Cardinals from all angles as a backrow kill from Zibecchi made it 18-14 before Nina Boledovicovahammered one down in the middle moments later to make it 22-17. Trinity Valley made one last push, but it was too little, too late as the Bucs closed the Cards out 25-20 on a kill from Alarcon to take the set 25-20 and go ahead 1-0 in the match. The Bucs finished with 18 kills in the set with Alarcon and Zibecchi notching 5 each and Collier adding 4 in the middle.
It was a better start for the Bucs in the second as they opened up an early 8-5 lead on a pair of kills from Boledovicova and an ace from Zibecchi at the service line. Two more kills from Zibecchi and a shot off the block from Sara Gasparini upped the lead to five at 15-10 and they held that advantage 10 points later at 20-15. Alarcon's seventh kill of the night gave the Bucs set point and Roberta Purashajfound Collier in the middle for the exclamation point as FSW took the second 25-17 to go ahead 2-0 in the match. Zibecchi was on fire in the second, finishing with 8 kills in the period while Boledovicova had 4 on 6 swings.
With their backs to the wall, Trinity Valley came out swinging in the third, jumping out to a quick 6-2 lead before FSW made a run of their own with Giulia Bonifacio combining with Collier for a big block to level the score at 7 a piece. The Bucs pushed ahead by a pair on back to back kills from Alarcon and Zibecchi and stretched their lead to three later on when Camila Brandalise found Bonifacio on the right side to make it 18-15. A big dig from Anna Marzellaled to FSW winning a point on a kill from Alarcon to push the Bucs lead to four and a block from Gasparini and Boledovicova sealed it as the Bucs took the third 25-20 to sweep the match 3-0.
The Bucs offensive attack finished with a program three set record 54 kills while hitting .377 in the win. Zibecchi led the way with a career high 18 kills without making a single error and hitting .562 while Alarcon had her seventh straight double digit kill effort at the NJCAA National Tournament with 11. The Bucs were once again efficient in the middle as Boledovicova and Collier had 8 kills each and combined for a .406 hitting percentage. Quarterbacking it all was Roberta Purashajwho dished out 40 assists for the sixth time this season. Marzella was all over the place on the back line, pulling up a program three set record 23 digs while Collier led the way at the net with 4 blocks, making her one of just two players in FSW program history to record 200 career stuffs.
FSW hits the 30 win mark for the first time in program history as they improve to 30-1 on the year while Trinity Valley sees a 14 game win streak come to a screeching halt as they drop to 32-6.
The Bucs advance to play in the NJCAA National Championship Game for the second straight season where they will look to repeat as Champs in a rematch of the 2022 title game against #3 Miami Dade.
The Bucs and Sharks will get underway at 7 PM (CT).
Courtesy of Miami Dade College and NJCAA
In the other semi-final game, the Miami Dade College Lady Sharks showcased their exceptional skills and unwavering determination as they emerged victorious from the semifinal round of the NJCAA National Tournament, earning themselves a well-deserved spot in the Championship game.
In a thrilling four-set battle against the Navarro College Bulldogs, the Lady Sharks demonstrated their prowess on the court, displaying remarkable teamwork and strategic play. The final score, 21-25, 25-21, 31-29, 25-20, stands as a testament to the intensity and competitiveness of the match.
Throughout the game, the Lady Sharks left no doubt as they showcased their dominance in multiple statistical categories. The team proved their versatility and excellence with 59 kills, 63 digs, eight serving aces, and 13 blocks.
Leading the charge was Katielle Alonzo, who recorded a phenomenal performance with 17 kills and an impressive hitting percentage of .289. Alonzo also contributed three blocks and one serving ace, establishing herself as a force to be reckoned with.
Esthefany Rabit significantly contributed to the Lady Sharks' success with 13 kills and an outstanding hitting percentage of .455. Rabit showcased her defensive skills with 3.5 blocks, six digs, and one serving ace.
Luiza Da Cruz orchestrated the Lady Sharks' offensive plays with precision and finesse, providing 54 assists while making a notable impact defensively with eight digs. Da Cruz rounded off her exceptional performance with three serving aces.
The MDC Lady Sharks now set their sights on the Championship game scheduled for tomorrow. With their unwavering determination, exceptional teamwork, and outstanding individual performances, they are poised to leave a lasting impression on the NJCAA National Tournament.