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NIC takes fifth at nationals

| November 21, 2010 8:00 PM

WEST PLAINS, Mo. - The sixth-seeded North Idaho Cardinals went out a winner Saturday at the NJCAA volleyball tournament at Missouri State College.

NIC (29-7) defeated top-seeded Miami Dade (35-2) 25-21, 25-23, 31-29 to earn fifth place over the Sharks, who entered the tournament unbeaten before losses to Salt Lake and NIC to end the season.

"Miami Dade pretty much beat us in everything except heart today," NIC coach Colleen Frohlich said. "I'm proud of our team. We played like champions today. It's kind of bittersweet because had we pulled out the match on Thursday, we felt we could be playing in the national championship. But to go out with a win against the No. 1 team in the tournament was something to be proud of."

It was the second-highest finish at nationals in four trips for NIC, which, finished fourth in '06. All four trips have come since 2004.

Tina Strahinic had 13 kills, Danielle Hodge 12, and Kyona Hunt and Fei Gao 10 digs each for NIC. Sophomore Kaylee Ponce had nine kills.

Strahinic was named to the all-tournament team.

“It was awesome to beat the No. 1 team in the nation,” Ponce said. “We took things calmly and played hard. Getting fifth in the tournament means a lot to us sophomores.”

Freshman Gabriella Rifilato had 19 assists and a season-high six aces for NIC.

“We work on our serving a lot,” Rifilato said. “We knew we’d have to serve tough to have a chance. It was a big key to our offense and defense today. It’s been a phenomenal season and I’m so happy I got the chance to play with all the girls and coaching staff.”

Salt Lake fell to second-seeded Western Wyoming 25-12, 25-20, 25-13 to finish fourth.

Fourth-seeded Western Nebraska beat No. 3 San Jacinto in five games for the national title. San Jacinto beat NIC in the quarterfinals on Thursday.

Saturday’s Results

No. 11 Iowa Western (45-7) d. No. 9 Midland College (35-7) 25-17, 14-25, 22-25, 2519. 15-13. (ninth-10th place)

No. 5 Blinn College (32-7) d. No. 10 Eastern Arizona (31-7) 25-15, 28-26, 25-17 (seventh-eighth place)

No. 6 North Idaho (29-7) d. No. 1 Miami Dade (35-2) 25-21, 25-23, 31-29 (fifth-sixth place)

No. 2 Western Wyoming (40-6) d. No. 8 Salt Lake (28-8) 25-12, 25-20, 25-13 (third-fourth place)

No. 4 Western Nebraska (43-4) d. No. 3 San Jacinto (29-10) 28-26, 25-19, 22-25, 15-25, 15-10 (national championship)

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