The Lady Sharks Volleyball team punched their ticket to the National Junior College Athletic Association National Championship Tournament after taking home the Florida College System Activities Association State Championship this weekend.
The team went 5-1, losing to Florida State College-Jacksonville (3-2) in the second round of the tournament, snapping their undefeated streak at 69. They advanced through the loser’s bracket to face Polk State College, where they won 3-1.
“After the loss, we could not believe it. We asked ourselves many questions where we failed, but it helped us a lot since sometimes losing also earns things like adjusting one or another error,” sophomore defensive specialist Valeria Santos said. “What helped us to win after the loss was the union and desire to win to get the pass to the nationals which helped us a lot.”
Head coach Origenes “Kiko” Benoit said the team made too many mistakes and allowed Jacksonville to capitalize on them.
“It was hard,” he said. “For all of us, it was our first loss but we bounced back and won the next four matches to capture the state championship.”
Overall, the team had resounding success in the games following their first loss but to Benoit, they still have to work hard and prepare before the national tournament.
“We’re back on track and I think we have a good chance if we stick together and we do what we’re supposed to do,” Benoit said. “At this point you have to stay focused. What’s been done is done and you can’t do anything else besides play our game. We spent the whole season preparing the team and now they have to play their part.”
Countless players were named to the Division I NJCAA District All-Tournament Team, including setter Tiziana Baumrukova, middle blocker Maria Palacios, outside hitter Samaret Caraballo and outside hitter Scherine Dahoue, with Baumrukova and freshman middle blocker Kimberlie Apolinario-Correa earning DI FCSAA All-State honors.
Baumrukova also took home the Ilida Medero Player of the Year Award—named after former Sharks head coach Ilida Medero—and was named Most Outstanding Player. She compiled 256 assists throughout the tournament.
Benoit was named Coach of the Year; this is his third year-in-a-row receiving the award and tenth time overall.
The 29-1 Lady Sharks will travel to Hutchinson, Kansas to play in the NJCAA DI National Tournament from Nov. 15 to Nov. 17. The Lady Sharks have won the National Championship the past two years.