By Jim Riggs
Jamestown Community College amazingly won the NJCAA Region 3 Division III women's volleyball championship with only seven players.
Jamestown Community College women’s volleyball coach Ashley Lund had her arms full with her 2-year-old son, Alexander, and 1-year-old daughter, Hanna, as she made some final points to her team after a practice session this week. They are preparing to play in the NJCAA Division III national tournament that begins on Friday at Rochester, Minn.
P-J photo by Jim Riggs
That earned the Jayhawks a berth in the NJCAA national tournament and now they will try to win that with one less player.
''We are down to six,'' JCC coach Ashley Lund said Monday after practice. ''Kali Beardsley decided to leave the team. So we are traveling with six, playing with six.''
And what's it feel like to enter a national tournament with the minimum amount of players?
''It's a little scary, but it's exciting,'' Lund said.
The JCC half dozen is evenly split with three sophomores, Anna Nietupski from Cassadaga Valley, Kelsey Kyser from Westfield and Brittany Brace from Jamestown, and three freshmen, Alysha Frisch-LoPiano from Jamestown, Christina Rauh from Panama and Arrica Lis from Fredonia.
The Jayhawks leave today for the NJCAA Division III Women's Volleyball Championships, hosted by Rochester Community and Technical College, at the University Center Rochester - Sports Center in Rochester, Minn. They will practice there on Thursday, begin tournament play on Friday and the event concludes on Saturday.
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''They're ready, they're tired of practicing,'' Lund said about her team, which won the regionals back on Oct. 28. ''They just want to get out there and get it going.''
She is going with six players, but it is the number five that has the coach excited.
''I'm excited that we got the five seed,'' Lund said. ''That means we meet the four seed which is probably comparable to our play. If they're seeded properly, then that's how it should be. I like that we're seeded fifth. That's awesome to be the five seed going into the national tournament.''
The No. 4 seed that JCC (32-11) will open against on Friday is Minnesota State CTC (14-9) from Fergus Falls, Minn. It defeated the host school, Rochester, in the first round of its regionals.
The No. 1 seed in the tournament is also No. 1 in the NJCAA Division III poll, Brookhaven College (19-14) from Farmers Branch, Texas, which won the tournament in 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2009.
Seeded second, and also second in the rankings, is Rock Valley College (41-7) from Rockford, Ill., which won the event in 1996 and 1997.
Seeded third is Northland CTC (25-7) from Thief River Falls, Minn.; sixth is Howard CC (21-2) from Columbia, Md.; seventh is Davidson County CC (21-5) from Lexington, N.C.; and eighth is Suffolk County CC (20-2) from Selden, N.Y.
''We saw Suffolk County at the Alfred (State) Tournament, but other than that I don't have an idea about a single team, not a clue,'' Lund said.
She does know one thing, they all have more than six players.
''They outnumber us, absolutely,'' Lund said.
But not many teams will be much taller than JCC, whose tallest player is Brace at 6 feet.
''As soon as they (the national tournament qualifiers) started popping up we started going online and seeing,'' Lund said about checking heights. ''You know there's no one overtowering us. There's a couple six foot people, but really everyone's pretty comparable to us.''
And out of the eight teams in the tournament are two nationally ranked teams while three, including JCC, were listed under honorable mention.
''I think it's going to be close, closer than I probably would have anticipated from the start,'' Lund said. ''Now looking at everything, I think we have a pretty good chance of doing pretty well there.''
It will be JCC's seventh appearance at the nationals and the first five were under coach Kathy Stedman.
The first was in 1995 before the NJCAA had divisions,
From 1997-99, the Jayhawks made four straight appearances at the NJCAA Division III nationals and finished fourth each time.
JCC's last appearance was in 2005 under coach Brenda Gernatt. The Jayhawks finished third in pool play and didn't reach the semifinals.