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Texas at Brownsville Wins First Volleyball Title

December 03, 2011
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SIOUX CITY, Iowa – (FINAL BRACKET; Box Score) For the first time in five seasons, someone other than Fresno Pacific (Calif.) raised a national title banner as Texas at Brownsville seized the 2011 NAIA Volleyball National Championship presented by CNOS Foundation. The national championship was the first for the Scorpions in school history and the third for Texas at Brownsville head coach Todd Lowery, who won two at his previous stop at former NAIA member National American (S.D.).

“These girls have been great,” Lowery said. “They deserved it. They poured their hearts and souls out all year. This was their goal from the start, and they came through.”

The Scorpions’ power and length was too much for No. 1 Concordia (Calif.) in the National Championship final match at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa. Tachikara Tournament Most Valuable Player Danika Markovic hammered 18 more kills and totaled 12 digs in the championship, while hitting .275 for the match, to push her tournament kill total to 69. Markovic and company staved off a desperate rally by the Eagles in the fourth and deciding set.

Up 16-11 with a two-sets-to-one advantage, the Scorpions saw Concordia knot set No. 4 at 17-all after a service ace by Eagle outside hitter Brooke Marino. Texas at Brownsville responded by tallying the next three points, punctuated by a kill from Michelle Marques off the assist from Amber Brooks. Concordia never got any closer than 20-18 in the fourth set and Joksic and Yenifer Calcano combined for a block of Marino to close the curtain on the 2011 National Championship. A fifth set was not necessary as Texas at Brownsville raised the banner, 25-20, 20-25, 25-19, 25-20.

Equally as impressive as the MVP Markovic was the entire Scorpion front row. The play of middle blocker Ana Guerra stifled the attack from opponents throughout the National Championship. Guerra added three block solos and three block assists in the title match and led all players with 2.1 blocks per set during the tournament. She had 20 kills and hit a white-hot .741 versus Concordia.

Lowery was named the NAIA All-Tournament Coach as his Texas at Brownsville team avenged an Oct. 29 five-set loss to Concordia. The Scorpions finished their season at 32-2 overall and ended the Eagles’ 36-match winning streak. With the win, he improved his career coaching record to 315-29 in nine seasons. Lowery, whose .916 winning percentage is best among all active NAIA coaches, made sure his team enjoyed the event.

“About eight years ago when I started I thought it was all about winning,” Lowery said. “As I’ve grown as a coach, I decided it was all about having fun and teaching kids how to be good people, and that’s what we try to do. We try to have a lot of fun, and we have a fun group of girls. They’re just great kids on and off the court.”

Concordia advanced to the National Championship final for the third time in school history by bouncing No. 4 Columbia (Mo.) in the first semifinal match of the day, 25-20, 25-21, 25-16. The Eagles prevailed in a precise, near-perfect performance. Marino pounded out 12 kills on 19 attack attempts, while freshman Reanna Schelhass controlled the middle with five block assists. Columbia, who finished the season at 39-4, was looking for its eighth appearance in the National Championship match. Paula Ferreira set up the Cougar attack with 22 assists.

Texas at Brownsville barely broke a sweat in making a run to the semifinals, but needed five sets to put away Lee (Tenn.) in the second semifinal matchup. The Scorpions grabbed the first set, but dropped the next two as senior Arlene Ferreira and the Lady Flames got hot. Texas at Brownsville responded by tightening up its defense in the fourth and fifth sets to take a 25-20, 20-25, 19-25, 25-11, 15-12 decision. Guerra, who had 10 block assists and three block solos, led a Scorpion defense that held Lee to a .145 hitting percentage.

Tachikara Tournament Most Valuable Player
Danica Markovic, Texas at Brownsville

Tachikara All-Tournament Coach
Todd Lowery, Texas at Brownsville

Tournament Champions of Character Team Award
Spring Hill (Ala.)

2011 TACHIKARA ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
SCHOOL NAME POS. YEAR
Azusa Pacific (Calif.) Whitney Radcliffe RS Sr.
Biola (Calif.) Amy Weststeyn MH Fr.
College of Idaho Whitney Brigham L Sr.
Columbia (Mo.) Paula Ferreira S Jr.
Concordia (Calif.) Madison Ekis OH So.
Concordia (Calif.) Brooke Marino OH Jr.
Embry-Riddle (Fla.) Jordan Holcomb OH Jr.
Lee (Tenn.) Arlene Ferreira OH Sr.
Lee (Tenn.) Marija Zelenovic OH So.
Lewis-Clark State Nicole Graybeal MH Sr.
Rocky Mountain (Mont.) Sara Brunner OH Sr.
Southern Oregon Sarah Holgen OH Sr.
Texas at Brownsville Ana Guerra MB Sr.
Texas at Brownsville Vanja Joksic OH Fr.