Clark volleyball challenged the three-time defending champion Blue Mountain Community College Timberwolves for the NWAC championship title on Nov. 22. The Penguins lost to the Pendleton, Oregon school in four sets clinching the first, 25-23, and falling short in the next three 17-25, 22-25, 20-25 placing second overall.
Clark came into the tournament with the South Region third seed and overall rank of tenth, but lost in the first round to Walla Walla who was ranked eighth overall. Since the competition was double elimination, sophomore captain Megan Turner said the Penguins had what she called a “change of heart.”
“After the first game we didn’t think we would make it,” Turner said.
The Penguins then defeated six opponents in a row to earn a spot in the final game. Of these six adversaries, Clark earned redemption against Walla Walla and upset first-ranked Chemeketa Community College, whom Clark had lost to three times during the season.
The Timberwolves were undefeated in the tournament, but Turner said the Penguins weren’t disheartened“We knew what we were getting into,” she said.
“We weren’t nervous at all,” said head coach Mark Dunn.
Athletic Director Ann Walker said she was “not at all surprised” by the women’s appearance in the final match. “I‘m really proud of how they represented Clark volleyball and the athletic department.”
Last year, the Penguins were knocked out of the playoffs on the second day of competition, “so this year was definitely a significant step for them,” Walker said.
The last time Clark earned second place in the NWAC playoffs was 1979. This year, the team finished with a record of 26-16 and Dunn said he thinks that might be the most wins Clark has had.
Three Clark players made the all-tournament team including Turner, Janessa Mast and freshman Melisa Lujca.
Turner was named the Most Inspirational Player of the tournament. “I was blown away,” she said. “Everyone doubted us, and it’s an amazing feeling to leave a legacy.”
Turner said her time playing volleyball for Clark has helped her grow as an athlete and as a person. She said she plans to play for a university next year.
Dunn said he expects the eight freshmen on the team will help Clark get back to the playoffs next fall. He said the girls would like to thank everyone for their support this season and that they’re still “grinning from ear to ear.”