The Miami Dade College volleyball team fell short in its quest to win back-to-back-to-back national championships after falling to the College of Southern Idaho 3-0 in the championship game in Hutchinson, Kansas on Nov. 17.
It was a rematch of last year’s national championship game.
“This was a heartbreak for us,” said Lady Sharks head coach Origenes Benoit. “The girls worked hard to get where they were and we made too many mistakes and allowed the other team to capitalize on them.”
The first-seeded Lady Sharks advanced to the final day of the 16-team tournament with a 3-2 win against No. 5-seeded Iowa Western Community College. They also defeated ninth-seeded Trinity Valley and Monroe College to advance to the finals.
Southern Idaho led the Lady Sharks in most major statistical categories throughout the match, including hitting percentage (.168 to .095), blocks (10 to 7) digs (51 to 50) and aces (6 to 1).
According to Benoit, it came down to fatigue and clean play. The Lady Sharks were not playing up to their usual form and had an “off game” at the wrong moment in the season.
Unable to keep up with the offense of Southern Idaho, they left Hutchinson decorated in silver rather than gold.
Sophomore and freshman outside hitters Valeria Alegrias and Scherine Dahoue made the all-tournament team.
“For me, it was an amazing experience because it was my first time [at the tournament],” Dahoue said. “The result was not up to our expectations but I am very proud to be part of this team and represent my junior college.”
For the regular season, the Lady Sharks racked up a 69-game win streak, dating back to October of 2016. It’s the longest such streak in National Junior College Athletic Association women’s volleyball history since stats were made available in 2000.
The Lady Sharks also completed the season ranked in the top 25 nationally in most major statistics. They ranked sixth in kills per set (13.25) fourth in hitting percentage (.283), third in assists per set (12.64) seventh in digs per set (18.98) twenty-first in blocks per set (2.25) and fifth in points per set (17).
The hopes are high for the team going into the offseason.
“Right now, our focus is to get the grades the girls need and use this month off to our advantage,” Benoit said. “Once we’re back in the gym, the goal is to recruit to build a complete team and keep developing our athletes.”
Although the Lady Sharks lose a glut of talent to graduation—they have eight sophomores and six freshmen on this year’s team—Benoit is confident the Lady Sharks will regain the national title next season.
“Part of playing in the NJCAA is that we’re always cycling players out because they graduate so early,” Benoit said. “Our goal is to make sure the team is prepared for the next season. Our program has high standards and we won’t settle for anything less.”