The 16th-ranked North Idaho College volleyball team (16-10) beat in-state rival and eighth-ranked College of Southern Idaho Nov. 1 at home. A week later, it beat the Lady Golden Eagles in five sets at Salt Lake Community College to clinch a berth to the NJCAA national tournament in Casper, Wyo., Nov. 21-23.
NIC will play No. 8 seed Arizona Western College, who is ranked 12th, Thursday at noon PST.
“I think we are going in there (to nationals) definitely trying to go as deep as possible,” NIC sophomore libero Russia Robinson said. “Personally, I think that this year’s a really good year to start building the NIC volleyball program. I know that there’s going to be a lot of sophomores leaving next year, but I think that the better that we do this year, it’ll just help bring more recruits and continuing to better the volleyball program. I would love to be a part of making this volleyball program a better one for the future because it’s done so many good things for me while I’ve been here the past two years.”
This will be NIC’s fourth straight national tournament appearance and are looking to make some noise again this year.
“I think it’s going to be our mentality,” Robinson said. “It’s going to be each and every one of us going in there and thinking and believing that we can beat every team that we play, because we can.”
NIC has been tested with top competition all year. The Lady Cardinals have played multiple top 10 teams already this season besides No. 7 Salt Lake and No. 8 CSI. Earlier in the year, NIC played currently third-ranked Western Nebraska, No. 5 Western Wyoming, No. 9 Miami Dade, No. 1 Blinn and No. 4 Iowa Western.
The Lady Cardinals, who entered the Region 18 Tournament as the No. 3 seed, beat No. 6 seed Colorado Northwestern in three sets with scores of 25-13, 25-6 and 25-6 on Nov. 8 to advance to the semifinals against CSI later that day. NIC’s Larissa Claassen had 13 kills and Robinson 15 digs.
The Lady Cardinals took the first two sets against CSI, the defending national champions, with scores of 26-24 and 25-16 before the No. 2 seed Lady Golden Eagles answered with wins in the next two sets 25-18 and 25-19. NIC took the deciding fifth set 15-7. Allison Meehan had 50 assists, Claassen had 21 kills and 19 digs, Robinson 24 digs and Leeta Grap 17 kills and 19 digs.
The Lady Cardinals’ tournament run ended the next day in the championship game against Salt Lake Community College. The Lady Bruins won in straight sets with scores of 25-22, 25-21 and 25-21. NIC’s Britney Chilcott led the team in kills with seven.
Robinson was named Region 18 Libero of the Year this season. She led the conference in digs per set with 4.99.
She said at the beginning of the season her team was told to make a list of goals that they wanted to accomplish and two of Robinson’s goals were to be named Libero of the Year and to lead the conference in digs.
“She’s the best libero I’ve coached,” NIC head coach Miles Kydd said. “I haven’t seen everybody, but she’s gotta be the top two or three in the country, if not No. 1.”