CASPER, Wyo. – Ready or not, here comes the NJCAA National Tournament! The Arizona Western College volleyball team rolls into nationals in Casper Wyoming as the ninth seed after an outstanding season. They will take on eighth-seeded Santa Fe College (from Gainesville, Florida) on Thursday at 1:00 pm Mountain Time.
The Lady Mats (26-2) come in after winning the Region I/District B Tournament in five sets over Eastern Arizona College. Throughout the season, Arizona Community College Athletic Conference Player of the Year Mafe Sandoval and Region I Tournament MVP Stephany Orjuela helped power an aggressive, diverse offense.
“We have good passers that help start things off on a good note,” said head coach Lorayne Chandler. “When we get a good pass, we allow for more hitting options.”
Santa Fe (17-11) comes in after making it to the championship game in a very difficult Florida conference. The Saints are led by sophomore outside hitter Nadine Williams who averages 3.14 kills per set. To counter, the Arizona Western defense will have to be on point, with sophomore libero Sophia Lopez leading the way (545 digs).
“We’d like for our block to be there, but digging is going to be important for us,” said Chandler.
Both teams move the ball around and spread the wealth on the attack. Six players for AWC and Santa Fe each average at least one kill per set.
“We scout enough to feel like we have a good feel for tendencies,” said Chandler. “And our defense is set up expecting that.”
The winner of the match will play the winner of top-seeded Panola College and 16th seeded Hill College at 7:30 pm Thursday night. The loser plays the loser of the same match at noon on Friday. All the national tournament matches will be streamed on NJCAA-TV.
Arizona Western College is one of the top community colleges in Arizona. The college boasts partnerships with all three state universities that include face-to-face classes in Yuma. AWC leads the state in enrollment growth over the past 10 years and handed out more than 2,400 certificates and degrees in 2015-16.