By: Teran Rodriguez
Original Date: 1/8/23
Hello sports fans and welcome back to the IE Sports Radio Blog. As the year 2022 comes to a close and the year 2023 is upon us, it’s time to look back at some of our past champions in volleyball this year. This won’t just cover the champions in NCAA volleyball, but the other teams that won some big-time hardware on the biggest stage.
NAIA Men’s Volleyball National Champion: Grand View (Des Moines, IA): They say it’s tough to repeat as champions. For Grand View, that statement is definitely true as they took a couple of tough losses this year. The Vikings’ first loss came at the hands of William Penn University of Oskaloosa, Iowa, losing to them in straight sets on the road. The second loss came at the hands of Missouri Baptist University, this time losing in four sets on the road. After that, Grand View would run the table in the next nine matches, which included beating Missouri Baptist and William Penn in the semifinals and finals of the Heart of America Conference Tournament. Their last obstacle came on April 16, when it played Benedictine of Mesa, AZ – the same team they defeated in the 2021 NAIA Championship. History did repeat itself, as Grand View walked away a champion.
NCAA Men’s Volleyball Division III National Champion, Carthage (Kenosha, WI): Much like Grand View, Carthage’s path of defending its title was not easy, especially when last season’s team went undefeated and only dropped three sets all season long. The beginning of the season was rough, as the Firebirds’ first two matches were cancelled. During the second week, Carthage would lose their official first two matches, falling to both New York University and Stevens Tech of Hoboken, NJ. The third match wasn’t the charm either, as they fell to Dominican University of Illinois in a five-set decision on their home floor. Whatever was said after that match resonated through the players, as they won their last 24 matches in a row, capping off the streak by defeating top-seeded Springfield College in the National Championship.
NCAA Men’s Volleyball Champion, Hawaii: Here we have another defending national champion who nothing came easy for, primarily early in the season when they lost twice to Ball State without some star players due to injuries and sickness. As the season progressed, Hawaii eventually found itself at full strength, but suffered three losses in Big West Conference play. Yet the team managed to finish second, leading to a first-round bye for the Conference Tournament that they were hosting. The Rainbow Warriors left no doubt, sweeping both UC Santa Barbara and Long Beach State in the semifinals and finals respectfully to win the Big West and punch their ticket into the NCAA Tournament. They cruised past North Greenville in the quarterfinals before facing of with Ball State once again. This time, they defeated the Cardinals in five sets, and then swept Long Beach State in the championship to secure their second straight title. Many players from last season have returned to three-peat, which hasn’t been done since UCLA in 1981-84.
NCAA Beach Volleyball Champion, USC (Southern California): Man, another team defending its championship crown. For the Trojans, things went quite smooth for the most part. Their only loss came early on in the season when they lost to crosstown rival UCLA on the road. Outside of that, USC won 36 consecutive matches to eventually win its second straight championship and fourth in program history. Tina Graudina and Hailey Harward were amazing, and earned the award for AVCA’s pair of the year. Of the 36 consecutive wins, only one went down-to-the-wire and that was against Loyola-Marymount on April 15. Other than that, it was business as usual for the Trojans, and they now look to add championship number five to their collection.
High School Boys Volleyball National Championship (via MaxPreps) Newport Harbor (Newport Beach, CA): Yes, we are talking high school volleyball as well. I personally covered the Sailors’ season, going to a good chunk of their matches along the way. Their season got off to a rocky start as Jake Read suffered a knee injury playing basketball, though the injury wasn’t serious. Once he came back, and head coach Eric Vallely tinkered with the lineup a bit, it was full steam ahead for Newport Harbor. While the Sailors progressed well through the first half of the season, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. They were swept on their home floor by Loyola High School of LA, who was the favorite to win the California Interscholastic Federation Southern Sections (CIF-SS) championship and sported one of the top players of the class of 2022 in Dillon Klein (now on USC’s volleyball team). Three days after the loss to Loyola, the Sailors lost at home to Mater Dei of Santa Ana in five sets and suffered a reverse sweep to Los Alamitos three weeks after.
But after the loss to Los Alamitos, Newport Harbor righted the ship. They would advance to the Southern Section finals where it played Loyola in the battle of the top two teams in the nation. The Sailors emerged victorious in five sets, winning their fifth section title in program history and avenging their championship loss from last year. They also won the CIF Southern California Division 1 Regional Championship against Loyola the following week to send its seniors off with some more hardware. The crowning jewel on Newport Harbor’s season was when MaxPreps named them national champions in the sport of high school boys volleyball following the end of the season, which marked its second national championship in program history.
The National Volleyball Association, Las Vegas Ramblers: Here we have a team that wasn’t looking to repeat as champions, but to redeem themselves after losing in the championship match last season. The Ramblers finished the 2022 regular season 9-1 with its lone loss coming against the Texas Tyrants in a five-set thriller early in the season. Once the playoffs began, they looked like a team playing on another level, sweeping the Los Angeles Blaze in the quarterfinals, the Tyrants in the semifinals, and reigning champion Orange County in the finals. Winning the NVA Cup for the first time was one for the books. One of the players that led them to the top was libero Ryan Manoogian, who despite being deaf, was able to lead his team proudly.
The AVP (Phoenix Championships), Taryn Kloth/Kristen Nuss (Women’s), Taylor Sander/ Taylor Crabb (Men’s): Picking an AVP champion is tough, but since the Phoenix Championship are for a select few on the points leaderboard, we’ll roll with this. For Kloth/Nuss, their second year in the AVP was quite memorable. They won four tournaments, but none bigger than the Phoenix Championships. Earning the fourth seed out of six, the duo went 3-0 in the competition, and didn’t lose a single set. Getting here almost didn’t happen for Kloth/Nuss, as the duo had to win the previous tournament, the Chicago Open, to punch their ticket. They were able to do so despite having to fight through the contenders bracket. For Sander/Crabb, this was their first year being partnered together as Sander made the tricky transition from indoor volleyball to beach volleyball. The third seed pairing cruised through the quarterfinals, and outlasted Chaim Schalk/Theo Brunner in three sets to set up a showdown against Paul Lotman/Miles Partain – another pair in its first year of partnership. In the end, Sander/Crabb held on to win the event, a great ending for a pair who I dub them as “Team Taylor.” Sander’s AVP future looks bright.
High School Girls National Champion (via MaxPreps) Cathedral Catholic (San Diego, CA): Cathedral Catholic becoming national champions was no accident, as the team was a juggernaut throughout the season. The Dons finished the season a perfect 42-0, but the more impressive feat was that they only dropped one set all year, making them the first team to accomplish that feat since Lake Travis of Austin, TX in 2011. Their lone dropped set occurred in the CIF Open Division Regional Finals (or state semifinals) when they played Mira Costa of Manhattan Beach. But considering Mira Costa is a powerhouse team of their own and the Dons didn’t have Stanford-bound star Julia Blyashov due to an ankle injury, it’s understandable why they dropped that set. Cathedral Catholic was named National Champion after it swept St. Francis of Mountain View in the CIF Open Division State Championship, etching its name in the history books.
NAIA Women’s Volleyball National Champion, Jamestown (Jamestown, ND): Most college athletic programs historically have at least one championship. For Jamestown, who has been around for over 120 years, there was not a single championship to date. That changed when Jamestown’s women’s volleyball team won the school’s first-ever title with a five-set win over Corbin in the NAIA National Championship. The match concluded with a block at the net, which followed with extreme jubilation from the Jimmies. The season started with a four-set loss to Eastern Oregon in the Montana Tech Tournament, but followed with a 19-game winning streak to land Jamestown as the No.2 team in the NAIA. Their streak came to an end with a five-set loss to Midland University of Fremont, NE, but was followed by an 18 match win streak. This included a five-set win over Midland in the Final Four and the win over Corbin in the final to make history.
NCAA Division 3 National Champion, Juniata (Huntingdon, PA): The Eagles season can be described as dominating, but like most seasons, the championship wasn’t won in August or September. Juniata opened up its season with seven straight wins until Trinity of Texas dealt the team it’s first loss in four-sets. The loss proved to be a blessing in disguise, as the Eagles won 27 consecutive matches to end the year. The cherry on top was sweeping Trinity, the team that handed them its only loss, in the championship match. Out of their 34 wins, 23 were sweeps. In addition, the Eagles won their third title in team history, becoming only the fifth team with three or more national championships in DIII. And to top it all off, Juniata became the first team from the Landmark Conference to win a championship in women’s volleyball, as their other two titles came when they were in the Middle Atlantic Conference. I’d say this was a historic championship.
NCAA Division 2 Women’s National Champion, West Texas A&M (Canyon, TX): It had been 25 years since West Texas A&M won a title, but the wait ended when it beat Concordia St. Paul in four sets in the Division II National Championship for the fourth title in program history. The team was 7-4 through 11 matches, having lost to NW Missouri State, Wayne State, MSU Denver, and UT Tyler. The Buffs would then win 26 straight matches, with three victories against UT Tyler and one against MSU Denver on their revenge tour. Winning the championship was an accomplishment for head coach Kendra Potts, as the West Texas A&M alumna won her first title as a head coach after she was named AVCA DII coach of the year. She became the fourth coach in team history to win a championship, and currently boasts a 91-10 record with a 9-2 mark in the postseason.
NCAA Division 1 Women’s National Champion, Texas: Entering the season, Texas was a favorite to win the championship, though doubters said that the Longhorns were going to lose when it matters most despite their rock star roster. To no one’s surprise, Texas won all of its non-conference matches. Their Big 12 opener was a road bout against Kansas that was televised on ESPN2. Through two sets, it looked like Kansas was going to hand Texas its first loss, but the Longhorns were able to reverse sweep their way to victory. They won their next five conference matches, losing only one set in the process. Their perfect season came to an end when Iowa State upended the Longhorns on the road. That would be the Texas’ only loss, as it reeled off 14 wins in a row (excluding the forfeit win from TCU). Despite some challenges during the winning streak, they were never taken to five sets, showing the Longhorns talent and depth. Fans were frustrated at Texas winning because its team was mostly transfers, but Texas showed that transfer portal works. Logan Eggelston was named the AVCA Player of the Year and the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player to cap off her collegiate career, and Jerritt Elliot won his second title as the Longhorns’ head coach.
I also have to congratulate junior college Orange Coast men’s volleyball (Costa Mesa, CA) and Feather River women’s volleyball (Quincy, CA) on winning the California Community College Athletic Association championship in their respective sports, and the National Junior College Athletic Association’s Florida Southwestern of Fort Myers, FL (Division 1), Richard Bland of Petersburg, VA (D2) and DuPage of Glen Ellyn, IL (D3) on winning women’s volleyball national championships in their respective divisions. It was a fantastic and historic year of volleyball in terms of crowing champions, and we’re bound to have more historic moments in 2023.
Teran Rodriguez is the host of host of Set Point and The SoCal Supreme Sports Show, which air every week. Check out these and the other awesome shows here at IESR, as well as live calls on our partner station USRN. Shout out to our patreon supporters and all you loyal listeners that continue to help us grow. Thank you for reading, and we will see you next time on IE Sports Radio; your direct feed for ALL that is sports.