Volleyball team wins twice at national tourney
For the second straight year, there was no national championship awaiting Moraine Valley College’s volleyball team.
But the Cyclones’ return appearance in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II Tournament didn’t end uneventfully. Unlike in 2012, when a perfect season was marred by back-to-back defeats and a quick exit from the national stage, Moraine hung around long enough to take part in four matches.
A first-round loss to No. 2-ranked and eventual runner-up Parkland (Ill.) College relegated the Cyclones to the consolation bracket right away, but once there they triumphed twice and made a strong run at a third success before settling for a top10-finish. The wins were the first national ones registered by Moraine during outgoing coach Gloria Coughlin’s 21-year tenure with the volleyball program.
“This [last] week was a wonderful opportunity for the Moraine Valley Cyclones,” Coughlin said. “And, of course, this was the best way to finish my collegiate coaching career: 10th in the nation.
“We played our best volleyball [last] week, competing in every match. My assistant coach, Donna Zidek, and I are incredibly proud of this group of young women in their perseverance, their team effort and their sportsmanship during the entire tournament. They were wonderful representatives of the college, receiving many, many compliments on our skills and achievements.”
The 15th-seeded Cyclones’ opening encounter resulted in a 25-15, 25-19, 25-20 loss to Parkland despite a strong showing from sophomore Kara Kentner, who supplied Moraine with a double-double of 11 kills and 14 assists. Also playing well in defeat were Taylor Serrano (seven kills, four blocks) and Gina Ryan (seven kills, 11 digs).
Dropped into the consolation bracket following the setback to Parkland, the Cyclones responded instead of retreated. A matchup with No. 7-seeded Catawba Valley (NC) College on Thursday ended favorably for the locals, who bagged a hard-fought 26-24, 27-25, 17-25, 25-22 victory.
Once again, Kentner was Moraine’s headliner with 17 kills, 26 assists and two service aces. Offering strong support behind her were Serrano (14 kills, four blocks, two aces), Ryan (14 kills, 13 digs, one block), Alexandria Bojan (12 kills, five blocks), Joanna Curtis (32 assists) and Kayla Manthei (14 digs, 17 good serve receptions).
The win over Catawba Valley seemed to energize the Cyclones, who went out and beat sixth-seeded Glendale (Ariz.) College 25-22, 24-26, 25-22, 25-18 in their next outing. Kentner led the way for Moraine with 19 kills and 24 assists. She scored on three blocks.
Serrano was also effective along the net with 15 kills and six blocks for points, while Ryan chipped in with nine kills, 18 digs and an ace. Autumn Seiler (eight kills, five blocks), Bojan (eight kills, four blocks), Curtis (35 assists), Manthei (17 digs) and Oak Lawn grad Olivia Lindner (10 digs, two aces off the bench) were other Cyclones contributors.
New York-based Monroe College provided Moraine’s opposition on Saturday. Following a 25-20 win in the first set, the Cyclones got tagged with three consecutive defeats (25-16, 27-25, 25-21) and saw their 2013 campaign finally draw to a close.
“Even in the final-set loss, this was a fun match,” Coughlin said.
As further evidence of her skills, Kentner was named to the NJCAA National Championship All-Tournament team, which is highly unusual for a member of a 10th-place squad.
“This is a testament to Kara’s skills, leadership and relentless efforts on the court,” Coughlin said.
The Cyclones always have their work cut out for them when facing Malcolm X College, but they didn’t disappoint in their home opener last Wednesday.
Buoyed by a defensive presence that created havoc for its foe, Moraine collected a 71-55 victory in a confrontation that pitted the No. 19- and No. 25-ranked clubs in NJCAA Division II. The win was the Cyclones’ fourth in a row.
Moraine used a combination of its stiff defense and crisp execution on offense to construct a comfortable 44-22 halftime lead. Malcolm X shaved its deficit in half after intermission, but could get no closer. The Cyclones got up by as many as 20 in the latter stages before settling for its 16-point victory.
Maggie Yandel paced Moraine with 18 points, while Sam Holler backed her with 14, which included four 3-point baskets. Katie McGann drilled two shots from beyond the arc and tallied nine points, and Amber Hunter tossed in eight points.
Jamilla Jones led the Cyclones’ rebounding effort with 15 boards, while Holler grabbed nine rebounds.
A weekend tournament at Black Hawk East didn’t go quite so well for Moraine, which posted an 0-2 record there.
The hosts edged the Cyclones 45-42 and Robert Morris University-Springfield doled out a 64-55 loss. It should be noted, however, that Moraine was facing a squad of juniors and seniors in the second game.
Yandel (12 points) and Aileen Gorman (nine) were the Cyclones’ scoring leaders versus Black Hawk East, while Holler and McGann both garnered 11 against Robert Morris. Moraine had enviable balance in that latter encounter, as Megan Beckow (10 points off the bench), Gorman (nine) and Shavonne Lewis (nine) also played credibly on offense.
The Cyclones split a pair of contests last week, with their 76-44 rout of Trinity Christian College’s JV team last Thursday representing their first success of the young season.
Nick Bal had 16 points and three steals to pace Moraine in that game. Cameron Juillerat added 11 points, Kyle Ward had a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds that was further spiced by five assists, and Paul Otruskevicius chipped in seven points and nine boards.
Daley College prevented the Cyclones from starting an actual win streak, though, as it pinned a 70-63 defeat on the locals last Saturday. Johnte Shannon (18 points), Des’nique Harris (13 points, 10 rebounds), Ward (10 points) and Brett Kaiser (nine) were Moraine’s main men in a losing effort.