The Owens Community College women’s volleyball team will look to advance to their eighth national tournament as the Express competed in the NJCAA Region XII District E Women’s Championship. The tournament was held at Grand Rapids Community College in Grand Rapids, Mich., Friday-Sunday, Nov. 2-4.
Coached by Sonny Lewis, the Express will take a 31-9 overall record into the double elimination tournament where they will play against the Schoolcraft College (19-13)/Oakland Community College (21-8) winner at 12 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 3 in semifinal action. If they would advance, the Express will play in the winner’s bracket finals at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 3. The championship match will occur at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 4.
Teams participating in the tournament include Owens, Schoolcraft, Oakland, Macomb Community College (10-16), Columbus State Community College (24-7-1), St. Clair County Community College (17-18) and Mott Community College (19-3).
On Friday (Oct. 26), the Express women’s volleyball team captured the outright Ohio Community College Athletic Conference (OCCAC) regular season championship with a victory over Columbus State Community College (25-21, 17-25, 25-23, 25-21). Owens has won 12 out of the last 13 OCCAC regular season championships. Lewis’ squad finished 12-0 in the OCCAC regular season standings and is ranked No. 17 in the latest NJCAA Division II volleyball regular season poll.
Owens will serve as host to the upcoming NJCAA Division II National Championship, which will take place Nov. 15-17 in the College’s Student Health and Activities Center on the Toledo-area Campus in Perrysburg Township.
Lewis’ squad returned former Genoa volleyball players Alyssa Meis and Brandi Schimming. Meis, a sophomore outside hitter, recorded 163 kills, 73 digs and 49 blocks in 2011. Additionally, Meis earned OCCAC Academic All-Conference honors. Schimming is a sophomore defensive specialist and recorded 8 aces and 77 digs for the Express in 2011 and both are on their way to possible all-conference honors again this year.
After her team had dropped the first two sets to Sinclair CC on Wednesday after having lost only two games in 10 OCCAC matches this year, Molly Hilfinger made sure her team didn't lose.
The sophomore setter broke a 15-year-old program single match record as she produced 64 assists to help the Express secure a 24-26, 22-25, 25-23, 25-20, 16-14 comeback win over the Tartan Pride in five sets.
In doing so, Hilfinger helped her team clinch at least a share of the program's third straight and 13th OCCAC championship overall.
Hilfinger, who broke Mackenzie Lehman's Oct. 8, 1997 record of 61 assists, also had three kills, 11 digs and two assisted blocks. She is now seventh in the nation in overall assists with 1,122, while she is also 187 assists away from tying the program's all-time assists record.
Dakia Sellers (25), Alyssa Meis (24) and Jazmine Thomas (16) each also had their single match highs in kills, while Meis had a personal season-high in digs with 24.
Meis (473) and Sellers (472) are the top two kill producers in the nation at the NJCAA D-II level. As an interesting side note, Sinclair's Jessica Thobe is third.
Also contributing in digs were Lisa Urbanski with 19, Brandi Schimming with 12, Hilfinger, and Bailey Windham with eight.
Dominique Yates led the Express in assisted blocks with six, while Kenzie Kleinhenz and Sellers each had four. Sellers added a team-high two solo blocks.
Overall, the Express had 72 kills, 65 assists, two service aces, 90 digs, three solo blocks and 19 assisted blocks. They set a team match high for most assists this year.
Sinclair fell to 29-5 overall (8-4 OCCAC) with the loss. With the victory, the Express (30-9 overall, 11-0 OCCAC) can clinch the OCCAC championship outright with a victory at home in their final regular season match against Columbus State Community College on Friday beginning at 6 p.m.
(Owens sports information director Nick Huenefeld contributed to this article).