YUMA, Ariz. – After an impressive season highlighted by a Region I Championship and a trip to nationals, the Arizona Western volleyball team has seven players signing to continue their playing career. Middle blockers Deja Lester (Morgan State) and Karen Asprilla (Chicago State), libero Sofia Lopez (Canisius), setter Stephany Orjuela (Ohio Valley), and outside hitters Keana Smalls (Warner), Kelly Murphy (Texas Southern) and Jessica Rafay (Ohio Valley) all will transfer over the summer to new digs.
“I am incredibly proud of these seven student-athletes,” said AWC head coach Lorayne Chandler. “They have all worked really hard and I am looking forward to seeing them continue to excel in their positions. The schools they have chosen will be pleasantly surprised with the excellent work ethic and experience these girls will bring to their programs.”
Lester was a part of a strong middle attack for the Lady Mats throughout the year. The sophomore had 151 kills in 30 matches, and she added 85 blocks. One of her best matches of the season came on sophomore night when she finished with 10 kills and four blocks in a win over Central Arizona. She heads to Morgan State in Baltimore, Maryland next year to compete in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
Asprilla also lined up in the middle of the Lady Matador attack, and the sophomore from Colombia had 179 kills while averaging nearly two kills per set. She had five blocks in two of the team’s final three matches, and she set a season high with eight on October 21 against Eastern Arizona. Near the beginning of September, Asprilla set a career high with 16 kills in a win against Mt. San Jacinto College. The middle blocker signed with Chicago State and will compete in the WAC (Western Athletic Conference).
Lopez spent her sophomore season as the libero for the Lady Mats after working as an outside hitter as a freshman. She finished her sophomore year second in digs (578) in the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference and averaged a cool 5.40 digs per set. Lopez added 15 aces and 55 assists. Next season, she will play for Canisius (Buffalo, New York) in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
Orjuela orchestrated the Lady Matador attack all season, and the sophomore led the ACCAC and was fifth nationally in assists per set (11.15). She also was named to the All-ACCAC Second Team and All-Region First Team, and she added 76 kills, 26 aces and 248 digs. She is headed to an Ohio Valley team that competes in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference at the NCAA Division II level.
Smalls was a versatile hitter who filled a variety of roles during her two-year career at AWC. She lined up on both the left and right sides as an outside hitter this year, and she even pulled spot duty as a middle blocker late in the season as a freshman. The left-hander finished the year with 193 kills and 208 digs while leading the team with 42 aces. Next year she will suit up for a Warner University team coming off a trip to the NCCAA (National Christian College Athletic Association) National Tournament.
Murphy transferred to AWC as a sophomore and improved throughout the year. She had an impressive five aces against Mesa Community College in October and averaged nearly 0.4 aces per set. She will take her aggressive serve to Texas Southern next year to play in the SWAC (Southwestern Athletic Conference).
Rafay spent her freshman season excelling as a right side hitter for AWC. The left-hander averaged 2.21 kills per set (201 total kills) while also serving 23 aces and picking up 202 digs. She set a season high with 15 kills and five blocks in a five set match loss to Eastern Arizona, and she also hit 15 kills in the team’s first NJCAA National Tournament match against Santa Fe College. Rafay will keep on receiving sets from Orjuela at Ohio Valley next season.
The Lady Mats wrapped up the season as ACCAC Co-Champions while also winning the Region I Tournament and District Tournament. They made their first trip to the NJCAA National Tournament under Coach Chandler. The team hasn’t had seven players sign to four-year schools in one season since 2005.
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.