Watching his team celebrate from a perch in the bleachers at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa, Park women’s volleyball coach Mike Talamantes said this season still did not seem real.
Moments earlier on Saturday night, his Pirates swept defending NAIA champion Texas at Brownsville, 25-23, 25-19, 25-16, winning Park’s first women’s volleyball national title.
The Pirates finished 40-0, including victories against the No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5 teams in the past two days, and became the fourth team in six years to go undefeated.
“It’s surreal,” Talamantes said. “They worked their tails off to be here and they deserve it.”
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Wendy Romero led Park with 16 kills in the championship match and was chosen tournament MVP.
The Pirates, competing in their second-ever NAIA Tournament, nearly didn’t make it to the title match.
In afternoon semifinal, Park, the second-ranked team entering the tournament, survived a five-set thriller against No. 3 Biola (Calif.), 25-23, 20-25, 27-29, 25-16, 15-12.
After falling behind two sets to one for the first time this season, Park prevailed in the fourth and fifth sets behind Romero, who finished with 24 kills and seven blocks, and Sabrina e Silva, who added eight blocks. Next up was No. 4 Brownsville and history.
“We know what kind of team we have, but I think there was some reason for concern because we hadn’t gone to a fifth yet this season,” Talamantes said after the semifinal match. “But we also have great leadership on the court.”
| Kathleen Gier, email@example.com