The National Championship game was a rematch of 2015. The Pomeroys were perhaps the best team in the tournament to that point, defeating overall top seed Florida National in their first game on Thursday and having lost only one set during the tournament. But the Falcons took the first set of the championship match, being able to pull away midway through after three straight service aces from Abigail Hodges and two kills from Jada Spano.
St. Mary of the Woods fell behind 9-4 in the second, before a flurry of attack errors from the Falcons and strong play from Mary Alvanos evened the score at 10. Florida College capitalized on six straight Pomeroy errors to rebound with a 16-10 advantage. With their back against the wall, the Pomeroys would respond again with a 15-4 run to take the second set. The third set belonged to Rachel Tharp, Florida College’s junior outside hitter, who had seven kills in the set and 29 total in the game. Tharp and her teammates made quick work of the Pomeroys in the third set, taking it 25-14.
A team that has faced plenty of adversity on the season, St. Mary of the Woods would overcome the deficit once again. Strong play throughout the fourth set from Monica Mack, McKenzi Kumpf, and Alvanos, forced a fifth and deciding set. In the final set, Florida College did what they do best. Baylee Gunter continually set up her teammates, and Tharp recorded hammered home 5 more kills to secure the National Championship victory.
Tharp finished the game with 30 of her team’s 77 points, a .379 hitting percentage, and 16 digs. Gunter recorded 49 assists and 12 digs. Spano had an outstanding performance as well, with 13 kills and 23 digs. For St. Mary of the Woods, Alvanos had 31 assists, and Mack and Kumpf tallied 10 kills each. Gabriella Slagle had 8 kills and 4 service aces with Madeline Howes adding 28 digs.
The game ends another competitive season for USCAA volleyball, which saw a number of deserving teams in contention for a berth to the 2016 USCAA Volleyball National Championships. Florida College and Florida National University began a rivalry in which the teams split a pair of regular season matchups and took residence as the top two teams in the coaches poll all season. But in the end, it came down to St. Mary of the Woods and Florida College once again, with the Falcons taking home yet another USCAA volleyball championship.
Florida National University defeated Rochester College in the third place game, with Thalia Torres recording 19 kills to lead the Conquistadors attack. For full results from the 2016 USCAA Volleyball National Championship please go to volleyball.theuscaa.com.
2016 USCAA Volleyball National Championship All-Tournament Team
Shannon Murdock – Rochester College
Thalia Torres – Florida National University
Mary Alvanos – St. Mary of the Woods College
Monica Mack – St. Mary of the Woods College
Baylee Gunter – Florida College
Madison Bitton – Florida College
Rachel Tharp – Florida College