FSW Wins NJCAA National Championship

FSW wins their first National Championship (Photo by Nic Ryder)
FSW wins their first National Championship (Photo by Nic Ryder)
WEST PLAINS, Mo.- The Florida SouthWestern State Buccaneers are National Champions.  The Bucs secured their first National Championship in just their fourth season of competition Saturday night in West Plains, Missouri, defeating their archrivals, the Miami Dade Sharks 3-1 in the final game of the 2022 NJCAA Volleyball season. FSW's Barbara Koehler was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament while Bucs Head Coach Thais Baziquetto-Allen was named the Heidi Cartisser Coach of the Tournament. 
Squaring off for the fourth time this season, FSW and Miami Dade were close early on in the first until back to back kills from Maria Cecilia pushed the Bucs in front 10-6 and forced a Shark timeout.  A big block from Roberta Purashaj and Julia Lawrenz upped the Bucs lead to 15-8 moments later, but Miami Dade trimmed FSW's advantage to four later on at 18-14 on a kill from Ana Tevdoradze.  A kill from Izzy Collier got the Bucs back on track and an ace from Barbara Koehler gave FSW some breathing room before they finished the Sharks off 25-16 to take a 1-0 lead in the match.  
The Bucs couldn't carry the momentum over into the second as Miami Dade jumped out to a quick 5-1 lead and extended it all the way to 9-1 at the 10 point mark of the set. The Bucs trailed by double digits the rest of the way before the Sharks put them out of their misery 25-12 to even the match at one set apiece.  
FSW got back on track in the third, getting off to a much better start, taking a 10-5 lead on back to back blocks from Lawrenz.  A tip over the block from Koehler extended FSW's lead to 15-7 and two straight aces from Purashaj made it 18-8.  Just when it looked like the Bucs were going to cruise to the win, Miami Dade pushed back.  The Sharks scored seven straight, turning a nine point FSW advantage to a 20-18 contest in the blink of an eye.  A kill from Alondra Alarcon put the Bucs back up three before Lawrenz added to her big blocking numbers with two more to bring the set to a close as FSW took it 25-20 to go up 2-1 in the match. 
With the match in the balance, neither side gave an inch in the fourth with FSW and Miami Dade trading points to a 10-10 draw 20 points in.  An ace from Cecilia put the Bucs ahead, but Miami Dade tied it up once again moments later at 14.  A service error gave the Bucs the ball back before back to back aces from Alarcon pushed the Bucs in front by three at 18-15.  It remained a three point game as the teams traded points before two straight kills from Koehler made it 21-16 FSW. Two straight blocks from Izzy Collier put FSW on the doorstep of the title and a Miami Dade attack error and the Bucs 11th ace of the night sealed it as FSW took the set 25-16 before storming the court to celebrated their championship with the 3-1 victory. 
Koehler finished with a 12 kill, 15 dig double-double while Cecilia and Alarcon each picked up 10 kills for the Bucs. Purashaj also notched a double-double for the Bucs with 34 assists and 11 digs while also getting in on 4 blocks in the win. The Bucs finished with 11 aces in the victory including six from Alarcon.  FSW also came up with 11 blocks in the win with Lawrenz not only chalking up 8, but also breaking the Bucs' all-time blocks record in the process with 205 in her FSW career.  
At tournament's end, Koehler was named the Most Valuable Player while Alarcon and Purashaj joined her on the All-Tournament Team. Thais Baziquetto-Allen was named the Heidi Cartisser Coach of the Tournament. 
The Bucs magical season comes to a close with the program's first National Championship as they finish 27-1 overall while Miami Dade earns a runner-up finish with a 24-9 mark.
Bucs fans are encouraged to help them celebrate their new title on Tuesday when the team returns from Missouri and is recognized at halftime of the FSW Men's Basketball game against St. Petersburg in Suncoast Arena.