Playing for a national championship this weekend was not exactly on the radar when the Multnomah University volleyball team gathered to prepare for the 2010 season.
But after winning four matches in the past two season — just one a year ago — the Portland school reached the National Christian College Athletic Association’s Division II national tournament, today through Saturday in Kissimmee, Fla.
Helping with the Lions’ turnaround this fall are setter Kari Anderson, a Hockinson High School graduate; right side hitter Melissa Miller, a graduate of Vancouver Christian High School; and back row specialist Jessica Prewitt, a graduate of Prairie High School.
Multnomah coach Megan Hamilton, a former NCCAA All-America player, is a Vancouver resident. This is her second season with the Lions.
“This year, I had high hopes for a more skilled team because of what I saw in practices from the beginning, but I didn’t know what to anticipate (as far as) how that would look competitively,” said Miller, a junior. “So going into nationals was like, ‘That would be awesome. Maybe that will happen, but I don’t expect it to.’ As the season continued and we played our rivals that we knew we had to beat a certain number of times to be regional champions and get to go to nationals, from then it was like, ‘Yeah.’ “
The 2010 NCCAA Division II Women’s Volleyball Championship is scheduled for Thursday through Saturday at the Kissimmee Civic Center in Florida. Multnomah is seeded ninth of 10 teams.
After two days of pool play, in which each team is guaranteed four matches, the top two from each pool advance to cross-bracketed semifinals Saturday, followed by the championship match scheduled for 4 p.m. Eastern.
Multnomah was 9-16 this season, including a 1-9 mark against community college foes — but most critically swept four matches from regional rival West Coast Baptist College of Lancaster, Calif. That success is what earned the Lions their place at nationals.
Miller is just glad to feel like a true hitter again.
A high school shoulder injury prevented her from taking full swings for years. She could place attacks across the net and developed setting skills to compensate, but not she could not hit like she wanted to — until a long healing process seemed at last complete this fall.
“It’s fun to get to be in a solid hitting position because my shoulder has been healing, and that’s a wonderful thing,” Miller said. “Over the years of having this issue in high school, I kind of learned to adapt and figured out a way to hit strategically in ways that would get kills, but wouldn’t require my arm to do a full swing where (the shoulder) would pop. That’s what I kind of did for the first couple of years (at Multnomah): I still hit, but it wasn’t with power.”
Of course, pounding the ball is a lot more fun.
“Exactly!” Miller said, lighting up at the idea.
While Miller has played at Multnomah since high school graduate, Anderson and Prewitt each landed with the Lions after taking time away from the game.
A 2006 graduate of Hockinson High School, Anderson spent the next two years working in Hawai’i with the organization Youth With a Mission and then did not play during her first year at Multnomah. An academic junior, this is her second season playing for the Lions.
“I love this school,” Anderson said. “It’s been just what I needed and perfect timing and location. It just fits really well. I decided to come here before I decided to play. I didn’t play my first year here. Then when I met the girls and saw the team, I loved them and I just wanted to get to know them better and play with them.”
Anderson said this has been one of the most fun seasons she has had playing volleyball, making it hard to believe that it is almost over.
“This season has flown by,” she said. “It’s gone by really fast. … It’s one of the best season’s that I’ve had, and I’m super stoked to go to nationals.”
Prewitt, who did not play volleyball as a Prairie senior, is having fun playing again.
“I think it’s been a lot of fun,” she said. “It’s my first year, but it’s been a great experience. I feel like we’ve done a lot better this year than in past years, from what I’ve heard, so this is a big achievement for us. It’s a lot of fun.”
Prewitt chose to attend Multnomah for academic and spiritual reasons, but Hamilton found out about an incoming student with volleyball background. Playing again is “a blessing,” Prewitt said.
A blessing which has led to a national stage.
Dickinson leads GNAC soccer awards
Seattle Pacific goalkeeper Maddie Dickinson was named Great Northwest Athletic Conference women’s soccer Defensive Player of the Year.
The Skyview High School graduate recorded eight shutouts with a 0.49 goals-against average. The GNAC champion Falcons (15-1-2) are the top seed in the NCAA Division II West Region, and open the playoffs at home Saturday after a first-round bye. SPU will play Montana State-Billings or Cal State Los Angeles.
Three Clark County products garnered All-GNAC Honorable Mention: Western Washington freshman defender Brina Sych (Union High School), Northwest Nazarene freshman midfielder Julianne Steele (Hockinson) and Montana State-Billings senior defender Lauren Anderson (Ridgefield).
All-GNAC academic honors went to Anderson and Carly Valentine, a Skyview graduate and Montana State-Billings senior defender.
Klettke wins Frontier Conference CC title
Lewis-Clark State junior Kelsey Klettke claimed the individual crown at the Frontier Conference championships Saturday in Great Falls, Mont.
The Prairie High School graduate, an all-conference honoree, finished the 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) course in 18 minutes, 36.8 seconds, winning by 28.6 seconds.
Klettke led the Warriors to second place behind Carroll College by a 31-33 margin. The Saints’ top three runners finished 2-3-4 behind Klettke.
LCSC’s women, ranked 20th in NAIA, were awarded an at-large berth at the national meet, Nov. 20 at the Fort Vancouver National Site.
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