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November 12, 2013

OCC volleyball wins two championships, will compete for national title

By Mark Vest
C & G Sports Writer

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Oakland Community College’s volleyball team has won two titles this season and will have an opportunity to compete for a national championship later in the month.

At some point along the way this season, after defeating “presumed bigger programs,” Oakland Community College volleyball coach Jeffrey Stark said “(assistant coach) Meg (Dyer) and I realized we were in for a pretty special ride with this group.”

While he may have liked what he was seeing from his team, even Stark may not have fully realized how good things were going to get.

The Raiders are 34-2 on the season and have captured two championships.

OCC’s first title came when it captured the program’s first-ever Michigan Community College Athletic Association (MCCAA) championship Oct. 26. The Raiders followed that up by winning a Division II National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) district title Nov. 3.

Winning a district championship means that OCC will have an opportunity to compete for a NJCAA Division II national title Nov. 21-23 at Owens Community College in Toledo, Ohio.

OCC’s players have helped to give Stark some rewarding experiences in this his first year at the helm.

“I feel like God has blessed me by being part of this,” he said. “I don’t have the words to describe how special it’s been to be part of this group of 12 girls. It’s a true blessing from heaven.”

Sophomore Kaitlin Mault has been assured of leaving the program having been part of a championship squad, and with her teammates showing her how hard they can work on a volleyball court, she expressed confidence they would also “achieve in life.”

“It was amazing,” said Mault, who is a team captain. “For all of us to come together, have that common goal and reach it was just spectacular. It’s an amazing opportunity for not only me, but the people that are also on the team — makes me so proud of all my teammates and shows me how hard they can work. It really means a lot.”

Earning the opportunity to compete for a national championship was no easy task. The tournament was double-elimination, and after losing to Columbus State Community College (Ohio) 3-0, the Raiders were one loss away from having their season end. OCC came back to beat Columbus State later in the tournament, giving each squad one loss.

In the championship match, OCC met Columbus State for the third time in the tournament, and in that meeting, it was the Raiders coming away with a 3-0 victory.

“We were kind of wondering how the girls would respond to that — a situation where you have to win or you’re done,” Stark said of OCC’s defeat to Columbus State. “It showed the resolve of this group of girls to take care of each other and make sure that their friends and teammates didn’t experience (an) early end to the season. When we watched them play that last match and win 3-0, we saw things in our girls, as coaches, that we hadn’t seen all year — grit (and) a determination not to lose. And what happened was the attitudes of the girls rose.

“Their countenance became one (where) you could see the joy they were having playing as a team.”

Aside from the immediate satisfaction winning championships can provide for athletic programs, it can also have a long-lasting effect.

“As we become this competitive program, I think higher-level student-athletes, kids that might have considered going (to) a D-2 school or some sort of NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) school, (might) consider coming to a two-year college, if our sports are at the same level,” Stark said. “I think we could be an NCAA D-2 team and have the same amount of success we’re having here. I think that will draw the attention as a true option for student-athletes who are considering where to go to college.”

Stark was selected as the MCCAA Coach of the Year, as well as the NJCAA District Coach of the Year. OCC’s Miranda Fuerst (Unionville/ Sebeweaing), Peyton Lang (Walled Lake Northern) and Spencer Stokes (Mt. Morris) made the NJCAA All-Tournament team, with Stokes also being selected as the tournament MVP.

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Mark Vest at mvest@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1112. Twitter Follow Mark on Twitter.