By Nicholas Huenefeld/Owens Sports Information
Toledo, OH---Dakia Sellers smashed 30 kills and broke the program's single season kills record as the No. 17 Express volleyball team rallied from down 2-1 to win in five sets over No. 9 Iowa Central Community College tonight.
"We won that first set, and the other two sets we had leads, and it seemed like we just slacked off a little bit and let that team have opportunities, and (they) won the next two sets, so we're down 2-1," said Express head volleyball coach Sonny Lewis. "Backs against the wall, we had to come back, and the girls fought hard and came back and won."
With the 25-20, 23-25, 26-28, 25-17, 15-8 win, the Express (37-9) now advance to the NJCAA D-II National Tournament Semifinals. Moreover, they are now guaranteed to have the program's best finish at the NJCAA D-II level, with the previous best being fifth place in 2003. The Express finished third in the nation three times prior to 2001 , but that was at the NJCAA D-III level.
Sellers was unstoppable in the match. She had eight kills in the third set, seven in the fourth and five in the fifth set. In that fifth set, she helped Owens jump out to an 8-5 lead and racked up all five of her kills in that stretch.
Alyssa Meis added 19 kills, while Kenzie Kleinhenz and Jazmine Thomas each had five kills. Molly Hilfinger had a team-high 52 assists, while five players accumulated double figures in digs. Those players were Lisa Urbanski (32), Hilfinger (17), Meis (15), Bailey Windham (11) and Brandi Schimming (10).
Urbanski had a team-high four aces, while Thomas (6), Kleinhenz (5), Sellers (4) and Hilfinger (3) led the team in assisted blocks.
Overall, the Express had 61 kills, 56 assists, seven aces, 97 digs, three solo blocks and 24 assisted blocks. Sellers and Meis combined for 49 of the team's 61 kills.
"They've been our big guns all year long," Lewis said, referring to Sellers and Meis. "And we just challenged them and said, 'Hey, you guys gotta step it up' and that's what they did. Dakia just nailed some balls and Meis has been playing great defense all day."
With the win, the Express has now beaten Iowa Central twice in five sets this year after defeating them on Aug. 31 in the Owens Invitational.
A program record was set, as well, in the match. Sellers, who came into today with 551 kills this year, added 48 more today in two matches, and now has 599, which breaks Stephanie Champine's single season record of 595 set in 2006.
Additionally, Hilfinger now has 1,448 assists this year and is 30 assists away from breaking Cearra Barr's single season assist record of 1,477 from 2004.
With the win, Owens now advances to take on the semifinals where they will take on the defending national champion and undefeated Cowley County Community College (37-0) at 6:30 p.m. Friday in the SHAC. The winner advances to the national championship to take on the winner of the other semifinal between No. 2 Grand Rapids Community College and No. 6 Parkland College. The title game will be held on Saturday at 6:30 p.m.