The Campbellsville University Lady Tigers Volleyball team clinched the title of NCCAA National Champions last week in Kissimmee, Fla. Team members pictured in the front row, from left, are: Caroline Martin, Brooke Marcum, Shannon Cahill, Caitlin Dresing, Lilian Dasilva, Jovana Koprivicia and Lilian Odek. Second row: Assistant Coach Amy Eckenfels, Whitney Haynes, Coach Randy LeBleu, Renee Netherton, Samatha James and Christiana Sindelar. In back is trainer Jim Nichols.
They say a picture is worth 1,000 words. For Campbellsville University senior Renee Netherton, a championship is worth 1,000 kills. Netherton eclipsed the 1,000 kill mark in her final career match and turned a 23-23 third set into a 25-23 NCCAA National Championship with back-to-back kills to sweep top-seed Mount Vernon Nazarene, 3-0, Saturday in Kissimmee, Fla.
"I'm a little nervous to take my uniform off, because once I do it's over," Netherton said. "I'm excited we went out so strong. It's such a great feeling to be able to picture that last hit in my head. That's going to stay with me forever."
Netherton, who was named an NCCAA First Team All-American, finished the match with nine kills - her high for the tournament. She entered the match needing seven kills to reach 1,000. Six of her nine came in the final game.
To add to the milestones, the win was a record 38th in a season for the CU volleyball program and Campbellsville's first-ever national championship for any team at any level.
"It's a great swan song to a great season. We're excited to win the first one for the school. Regardless of it being the NCCAA or the NAIA, it's hard to win," head coach Randy LeBleu said. "The girls had a will to go out with a bang. The closeness of them the last month has been great."
Campbellsville put away nine aces to jump out to a 2-0 lead in the match. Senior Whitney Haynes led the team with three aces, while Christiana Sindelar had two and four others each had one.
"We served really well. A couple of girls really stepped up on their serves. We kept the ball away and took their middle out. We knew if we could keep it just to the outside hitters, we could shut them down," LeBleu said.
CU utilized its outside, as Samantha James started outside after Brooke Marcum went down in the semifinal. James led CU in the final with 12 kills, three blocks and an ace. Tournament MVP Shannon Cahill had seven kills and 17 digs.
"Shannon had a good tournament. Everyone here saw her defense this week and that when a ball needs to be put down, she'll put it down," LeBleu said. "But I can't say enough about Caroline Martin. She played great defense through the tournament, throwing her body around to dig balls that should have been points. She was also very energetic - a real floor leader for us at setter."
Martin, who had 14 digs in the final, had 36 set assists in the championship, bringing her six-match tournament total to 223 and an average of 11.15 per set. She, along with Cahill, was named to the All-Tournament team.
In a tournament of defensive highs for CU, Haynes closed out her four years with a career-high 23 digs in the championship. She also had seven kills. Freshman Caitlin Dresing had 12.