With four players in the NJCAA D1 national championship match, two apiece at Iowa Western and New Mexico Military Institute, the Nomos volleyball family was torn this weekend :)
And what a weekend it was for top-notch volleyball, none better and more intensely competitive than the epic championship matchup between the IWCC Reivers and the NMMI Broncos.
Duru Ozkan and Rana Kamis’ Iowa Western defended their National Championship Title... In April, the Iowa Western Reivers claimed their first national title in 15 years. And 7 months later, the Reivers won their second consecutive national title in a five-set thriller, against Karya Suvarioglu and Ozge Yavuz's New Mexico Military at the 2021 NJCAA Division I Volleyball Championship. Iowa Western topped a 20 consecutive win streak-riding New Mexico Military -- including a 3-2 W against the national champs on their home court in Iowa on October 16th -- by the scores of 18-25, 25-22, 21-25, 25-23, 15-12.
Leading the Reivers for the second consecutive season was NJCAA D1 National Championship MVP, a rare feat for a setter, Yadhira Anchante, with 50 assists, 21 digs, 6 blocks, and a crucial 5/10 attacks. It was the last time we'd see the "Anchante to Malave" play, with the tremendous contributions by the Puertorican sophomore middle Dayan Malave, who was key in the W, terminating 13/36 attacks, and blocking an incredible 8 times, for a total of 17 points! Fellow sophomore middle, local Council Bluffs, Iowa girl, Delaney Esterling, significantly pushed her home team to the title, by finishing 16/32 swings, adding a couple of blocks and 18.5 points! The pin hitters, two-year All-American Maike Bertens and freshman Cherlin Antonio added a dozen kills each.
The win marks the 3rd NJCAA Division I Volleyball Championship title in school history for the Reivers. Head coach Alicia Williams has played a part in all 3 of the Reivers national titles, claiming titles as a coach and helping Iowa Western capture the school's first national title as a player in 2006. After falling to Jefferson (MO) in the Midwest A District final, Iowa Western entered the national tournament as the No. 8 seed after earning an at-large bid to the championship. En route to the championship match, the Reivers swept their first two opponents: No. 9 Polk State and No. 1 Blinn. The two time national champions battled No. 5 Missouri State-West Plains in the semifinals, dropping the first set but ultimately prevailing to defend their title.
Freshmen Rana Kamis and Duru Ozkan from Istanbul and Ankara in Turkey definitely had an amazing first year in the States, contributing to the #1 team in the country. Duru, the starting libero for the Reivers, despite being a freshman, really proved her worth and showed her talent from the very beginning. Participating in 35 out of 37 matches, Ozkan really outdid herself in the championship, when her team needed her the most. From the 18th till the 20th of November, the Turkish libero recorded 28 assists, 1 ace, and 56 digs, continuing to break records till the end! In the final against NMMI, Duru had a new career high of 9 assists while also recording 14 digs, being a breath away from a double-double.
Riding a 20-game winning streak heading into the NJCAA Division I national championship, the 6th-seeded NMMI Broncos were trying to achieve something that had never been done before in program history. They had already broken all school records just by making it to the Final Four. An obstacle in the form of the 8th-seeded Reivers stood in the way of winning a coveted national title. NMMI already had that five-set victory over the Reivers back on October 16th. On Saturday night, the Broncos fought hard until the very end, but the ball didn't bounce their way in the final set as Iowa Western captured its 2nd straight national title. Memorable outings and career nights by Dana Manu, who almost won the title for her team with 21/40 attacks, 9 digs, 2 blocks and 22 points, Katia Niderla with an amazing 16/29 attack performance, 4 blocks, 3 digs, tremendous serving, and 19 points, fellow All-Tournament selection Marian Ovalle, who led the Broncos all year long but "only" had 10 kills in the final, and a first-time 6rot S in Karya with 42 assists, 7 digs, and 3 blocks, while Mio Yamamoto dug 20 balls and make the Reivers' life that much harder in her battle against Duru in the epic final.
NMMI finished the year 33-5 while the Reivers went 33-4 overall, finishing on a four-game winning streak in the NJCAA D1 tournament. These players from all over the US and the world on both teams definitely experienced moments that will last them a lifetime. Warm wishes for all of them and their coaches for health and continued success in higher education and volleyball!