Parkland College Volleyball has placed NJCAA Division II National Runner-Up for the 2018 season with a 56-3 overall record and its fifth National Championship Match appearance in the last six seasons.
The Cobras dropped Saturday's Championship match in three sets (25-18, 25-18, 25-16) to No. 1 seed Coffeyville (Kansas).
"At the outset of the season, I knew we had the talent to get here, but we took a lot of twists and turns to peak at the right time for nationals," said Head Coach Cliff Hastings. "We had some rough matches where our quad of mostly freshmen showed their lack of collegiate experience, but all the effort and work showed in spades in the first two days of nationals. We didn't play well in the last match, but that doesn't diminish an outstanding overall season. I am so proud of the work that each one of these young ladies put into the team and themselves to get us to a national championship match."
Following the match, freshman outside hitter Ryleigh Warfel (2) and freshman setter Rachel Verdun (19) were named to the 2018 NJCAA Division II National Tournament Team. Warfel, from Downs, Ill., recorded 51 kills over the three-day tournament with a hitting percentage of .323 overall hitting percentage. Verdun, a native of Edwardsville, Ill., averaged 11.9 assists per set to go along with 12 kills. Hastings agreed with the choice of Warfel and Verdun to the All-Tournament team.
"They were consistent both physically and emotionally during the week," he said. "They led with their play, and they led by example, and I'm really proud of both their individual efforts."
After recording double-digit kills in both the Quarterfinal and Semifinal victories, Warfel again led the Cobras offense on Saturday night with 12 kills, while also adding in 12 digs on defense. Amanda Greening was second on the team with seven kills. Defensively, Maggie Sorenson led the back row with 14 digs. As a team, Parkland was held to an .034 attack percentage while Coffeyville hit .139 as team.
Champions of District J and the Mid-West Athletic Conference (M-WAC), the Cobras won a program-best 56 matches this season, including 48 in straight set sweeps. With three extended winning streaks, the Cobras reached the National Title match on a 20-match winning streak. Following the District Championship, five Cobras were named to the Region 24 All-Region team, led by Player of the Year, Verdun. Joining Verdun was Warfel, Shelby Nunamaker, Brooke Norder and Katelyn Riffle. Coach Hastings was named the Region 24 Coach of the Year.
Over a two-year span, sophomores Ashley King, Nunamaker, Maddie Allen, Sorenson, Sidney Heck, Riffle and Anita Jenkins finish their Cobra careers with 106 wins in two seasons, while dropping just six matches, with two top-four NJCAA finishes and back-to-back District J Champions.
The Cobras will return 11 players from this year's team in 2019, including four starters. The 11 returnees will look to build off their first seasons that saw the Cobras rank among the best in nearly every offensive and defensive category. Individually, Verdun sat amongst the best setters statistically in her first collegiate season, while libero Norder ranked in the top five in digs and digs per set and middle blocker Dakota Hamon ranked in the top 10 in blocks.
[Article by Chad Beyler]