In sports, expectations are often a double-edged sword. After blazing their way to an historic 26-0 record last season, the Montgomery College Raptors were the top seed in the Region XX tournament and looked poised to make a run at the NJCAA Division II women’s volleyball national title. However, the painful edge of expectations is disappointment. Northern Virginia Community College shocked the Raptors in last year’s region title match, thus ending MC’s dream season prematurely.
Sports also allows for redemption and that’s exactly what Montgomery College has achieved in 2019. The Raptors punched their ticket to the 2019 NJCAA Division II National Tournament by dominating the Region XX Tournament earning the title Mid-Atlantic District Champions. MC, seeded third, avenged last season’s heartbreaking loss to Northern Virginia in the semifinals before beating top-seeded Hagerstown CC to earn the trip to nationals.
“This team had huge shoes to fill and expectations were through the roof,” said Victoria Kenno, MC’s head coach. “They were playing a tougher schedule, faced several injuries, and had more losses in the regular season than last year, but through all that they were able to stick together and work towards the same goal as last year – to win the regional tournament.”
For the Raptors, Anna Chepurnova was named the Region XX Tournament MVP and Daniella Zajac, Kira Ng, and Skyler Thiessen were all selected to the Region XX All-Tournament Team.
We put all the effort and dedication out there during the regular season. That’s why I believe we are ready for nationals.
The national tournament begins Thursday, November 21 and runs through Saturday, November 23 at the Charleston Civic Center in Charleston, West Virginia. MC is 21-5 and drew the 15th seed in the tourney brackets. A matchup with #2-seeded Coffeyville (Kansas) awaits the Raptors in the first round.
Thiessen, a graduate of Gaithersburg High School spoke of healing last year’s pain by reaching their lofty goals. “The new players wanted to go to nationals and on top of that, the returning players wanted to beat NOVA,” she said. “This created extra fuel to help bring us to nationals.” Thiessen was second in Maryland Junior College (MDJUCO) with 329 digs this season.
Among the other local standouts for the Raptors, Northwest High (Germantown) grad Chepurnova was second in MDJUCO with 257 kills and has totaled over 500 in her career at MC. Former Gaithersburg star Zajac has had a stellar freshman campaign leading MDJUCO with 296 kills. Highly-touted freshmen Ng, from Magruder High School, led all of MDJUCO with 811 assists.
“There were times that we were under pressure, but we learned how to handle it as we played together as a team,” said Simay Aybak, a freshman from Izmir, Turkey. “We put all the effort and dedication out there during the regular season. That’s why I believe we are ready for nationals.”
Kenno, a Magruder and MC alum says, “This team is very special, although there are only 10 of them, they work hard and handle adversity very well… Even though we fell short last year, we got another shot and this time we finished what we started.”