The Miami Dade College Lady Sharks volleyball team capped off a perfect 34-0 season by defeating the College of Southern Idaho 3-0 in Hutchinson, Kansas on Nov. 18 to win back-to-back national championships.
“The girls did well, they never gave up,” said Lady Sharks Head Coach Origenes ‘Kiko’ Benoit, who has won eight national titles at MDC, two as the head coach and six as an assistant. “The pressure was on us and we were able to handle it.”
Miami Dade College, which has won 44 straight matches dating back to Oct. 25, 2016, has won 10 national championships in volleyball.
The Lady Sharks started off the tournament in the preliminary pool round with an effortless win against Wallace State College 3-0 (25-14, 25-18, 25-11).
However, the National Junior College Athletic Association tournament was far from over. Regional opponent Polk State College gave the Lady Sharks a run for their money in the quarterfinals before MDC beat them 3-1 (25-18, 17-25, 26-24, and 28-26).
During the semi-finals, MDC faced New Mexico Military Institute and defeated them 3-1 (25-23, 17-25, 25-23, and 25-17) in a nail-biting, back and forth match; they then beat the College of Southern Idaho 3-0 (25-13, 25-21, and 25-18) in the championship game.
This year’s run was far more dominant than last year’s championship. Last year, the team got off to a rocky start, going 6-4 in their first 10 games. They also had 12 games canceled for a variety of reasons including Hurricane Matthew, a bomb threat on campus and a Hillary Clinton speech.
“They wanted it so bad. Last year we won but we went through a lot and this year was a lot easier for us,” Benoit said. “Especially the sophomores, they wanted to finish high with a national championship trophy.”
Teamwork won the Lady Sharks a second national title, but the team also had some superb individual performances. Outside hitter Massiel Matos finished second in the NJCAA in serving aces per set with an average of 0.63. Matos also led the Lady Sharks in kills (368) and kills per set (3.68).
Libero Thais De Castro Andrade did the dirty work for the Lady Sharks. She led the team in digs (455) and digs per set (4.89).
Other notable performers were outside hitter Sun Wenting who led the team in hitting percentage (.343); middle blocker Paula Barbosa Louro who averaged 1.17 blocks per set and Tiziana Baumrukova who led the team with 10.36 assists per set.
“I feel that every effort we made is worth it,” Louro said. “I gave everything that I had so I’m proud of myself. Actually not just me but the whole team.”
Several players racked up accolades with their performance during the tournament: Camila Hernandez, Wenting and Matos were named to the 2017 NJCAA Volleyball National All-Tournament team. Matos was named the NJCAA Volleyball National Tournament Most Valuable Player for the second year in a row. Benoit was named the Coach Of The Tournament.
“The feeling of winning the national championship back-to-back is amazing,” Andrade said. “This team has a unique bond. We deserve this title.”