(Tucson, AZ) The Pima Community College volleyball team (3-7) claimed some hardware on Saturday as it won the NJCAA Division II South Central District Championship in Miami, Oklahoma.
The Aztecs defeated Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College in the fifth set tiebreaker 25-19, 25-22, 21-25, 13-25, 15-12 to advance to the program’s first ever NJCAA Division II National Tournament which will be held in Cedar Rapids, IA.
Coach’s Quote: “It’s a little surreal because things happen so fast. Normally you get opportunities to go through a bunch of games and prove to yourself that you’re deserving and with our regular season being short, it certainly made that a different feeling,” Pima volleyball coach Dan Bithell said. “These last two days, I believe we convinced ourselves that we’re good enough to go to the national tournament and that feeling is very special.”
The Aztecs trailed by as much as three points in the tie-breaking set early on but rallied back to take a 9-8 lead after sophomore Holly Stutz’s (Cienega HS) kill. The Aztecs trailed again at 11-9 but scored four straight points capped off by freshman Haley Duncan’s (Walden Grove HS) kill to go up 13-11. The Lady Norse scored the next point but two straight kills by freshman Andrea Vigil-German (Ironwood Ridge HS) sealed the win for Pima.
Player quote: “The moment is unreal. We worked through this really weird year and we earned this championship,” Pima sophomore outside hitter Bergen Campbell said. “We wanted to win it for each other and for Dan (Bithell).”We wanted to leave it all out there and it worked out very successful for us.”
The third and forth sets went to the Lady Norse as the Aztecs struggled to gain the upperhand.
“We were lucky to generate a little momentum at the end of the 4th set. NEO found a different gear and put pressure on us and we didn’t respond well,” Bithell said. “Going into the 5th set, we collected ourselves and got back to basics; be great teammates and win the mini games. The first part didn’t go towards us but there was a different mindset. It would happen if we kept it going.”
The Aztecs took a 2-0 lead in the match. In the first set, the Aztecs scored seven of 10 points to take a 16-9 advantage. The Lady Norse closed the gap to two points at 20-18 but the Aztecs scored the next five out of six points to win.
The Aztecs held an early advantage in the second set but Northeastern Oklahoma A&M cut it to a one-point deficit. Sophomore Courtney Ely’s (Ironwood Ridge HS) kill and freshman Isabella Jacome’s ace helped the Aztecs gain a 13-9 lead. The Lady Norse cut into Pima’s lead again and made it 16-15 but the Aztecs scored two straight points and later took a 20-16 lead forcing them to call timeout. Vigil-German’s kill put the Aztecs up 2-0 in the match. The Aztecs never surrendered the lead in the first two sets.
Vigil-German finished with 20 kills, 11 digs and four blocks. Campbell had 13 kills and 15 digs while Duncan posted seven kills and eight blocks. Sophomore Aydalis Felix (Rincon HS) finished with 33 digs and freshman Karla Soto (Nogales HS) had 46 assists, 11 digs and two aces. Ely had 11 kills, 20 digs and four blocks.
The Aztecs had captured the NJCAA Region I, Division II runner-up titles in 2014, 2018 and 2019.
“I’m proud of all our kids. We preached that it takes all 13 of us. Our sophomores really found a different way to lead us this weekend,” Bithell said. “Having that experience and ability to motivate us and push us in the right direction, it was necessary this weekend. It showed at a different level in critical moments.”
The Aztecs will play in the NJCAA Division II National Tournament at the Alliant Energy Powerhouse Arena in Cedar Rapids, IA on April 13-15. The tournament brackets will be released on Monday at 6:00 p.m. (ET); 3:00 p.m. (MST).
Press Release courtesy of Pima Athletics – Raymond Suarez