24 Nov Unbeaten national champs bring it home!
BY MIKE MONTFORT
HUTCHINSON, Ks. — They did it.
In the final match of the season and the final match of the decade, Navarro Volleyball played the match of its lifetime, completed an undefeated season and won the 2019 NJCAA Division I Championship in dramatic style.
Navarro won an intense battle from Seward, 3-2, Saturday night at The Sports Center. Scores in the fourth extended match between these two programs since 2016 were exhausting counts of 32-30. 25-19. 20-25, 25-27. 19-17.
Understated, the 239-point marathon match lived up to championship billing. It was that, and then some between two punching heavyweight contenders.
While words like ‘unbeaten,’ ‘top-seeded’ and ‘top-ranked’ still apply for coach Andy Cavins’ Bulldogs, the proper phrase that best fits now is ‘national champions’.
In a season full of program ‘firsts,’ Cavins became the first coach to guide a Navarro team to an undefeated NJCAA Championship in his first year at the helm. He now has coached two unbeatens to national titles in three seasons. His 2017 team at Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, Ky., went 35-0 and won the NAIA Championship.
After Saturday’s win, Cavins was named recipient of “The Heidi Cartisser Coach Of The Tournament” award — named in the memory of the late legendary College of Southern Idaho volleyball coach.
NJCAA Tournament Most Valuable Player Jordan Lockwood and All-Tournament teammates Deja Arnold and Emily Witt led the Bulldogs to their 31st consecutive victory and the first undefeated Division I championship season since Blinn (38-0) in 2011.
Volleyball’s historic triumph — the first national team title for women’s athletics at Navarro — gave NC its fourth NJCAA team-sport championship and first since baseball won the 2011 JUCO World Series.
Seward rallied from a 2-0 deficit to tie the match – forcing the Bulldogs to play a five-game match for only the second time this season and first since September 6. Way back then at the Wrangler/Ranger Roundup in Cisco in the sixth match of the season, the Bulldogs successfully rallied from a 2-0 deficit to Cowley, Ks., to win.
Single-match, personal-season-high statistics Saturday littered Navarro’s box score summary, which included team totals of 75 kills, 198 attacks, 76 assists, 88 digs and 28 block-assists — all inflated by the length of the match.
Navarro’s wall-like presence at the net, holding Seward County to a season-low .164 hitting percentage, made just enough difference in the outcome of this match. The Saints entered Saturday’s final with an NJCAA-best .374 hitting percentage.
In all, NC had four players with double-figure kills and double-digit digs.
Lockwood, Region XIV’s Player of the Year, powered 27 kills and 15 digs during the championship match for her fourth double-double of the year.
Arnold, who entered the final with a No. 2 ranked NJCAA hit percentage of .500, executed 14 kills and 11 block-assists for her first double-double. She had seven matches of six or more block-assists this season.
Witt, the Region XIV Tournament MVP, fashioned a 61-assist, 22-dig effort Saturday — the fourth in her last six matches. The Rose Hill, Ks., sophomore had 14 double-doubles in each season at Navarro.
Johanna Montero (13) and Monica Wood (11) also produced double-figure kills, while Carla Boudal (21) and Dayton Duffy (12) added to the digs total.
En route to the championship match, Navarro defeated No. 16 Monroe College, 3-1, in opening-round play before rolling past No. 8 Hillsborough, Fl., 3-0, in the quarterfinals. NC advanced to the championship match with a 3-0 decision over No. 5 Polk State, Fl.