Southern Idaho wins five-set thriller for 11th championship


CASPER, Wyo. – Coming back from a 2-1 deficit in the NJCAA Division I Volleyball Championship Match Saturday, Southern Idaho edged out a 25-22, 23-25, 24-26, 25-22, 15-9 victory over Western Nebraska. The Golden Eagles extended their NJCAA championship record with their program’s 11th national title.

Tying for a match-high in kills with 18, Southern Idaho’s attack was led by sophomore middle blockers Tawnee Luafalemana and Larissa Dos Santos. Luafalemana hit for a .316 percentage and tied for a match-high in kills with 18, while Dos Santos contributed 17 kills and showcased a dominant performance at the net with nine blocks.

Golden Eagles freshman outside hitter Alycia Wodke posted a double-double with 11 kills and 15 digs. Defensively, Southern Idaho was anchored by sophomore outside hitter Alexandra Espinosa’s team-high 17 digs in the match. Freshman Regan Harr ran an efficient attack at setter, recording a match-high 57 assists.

Western Nebraska was led by a double-double effort from freshman Barbara Rabanal Briceño. The outside hitter totaled 18 kills and 18 digs, leading the Cougars in both categories.

Entering the tournament as the No. 1 seed, Southern Idaho began its run Thursday with back-to-back sweeps of Texas teams. The Golden Eagles defeated No. 16 seed Frank Phillips in the first round and No. 9 seed Blinn in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, Southern Idaho recorded its third consecutive three-set victory, topping No. 5 seed Hillsborough (Fla.).

Southern Idaho won its last 19 matches of the season, closing out the 2015 slate with a 35-3 record. Coming in as the No. 2 seed, Western Nebraska dropped to 42-5 after suffering its first defeat since Oct. 28.

Photo courtesy of Will Gay.

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