All good things must come to an end, and for the Scottsdale Vixens, it’s been 14 straight years they reigned as women’s champions in the New Providence Volleyball Association’s (NPVA).
That came to an end on Friday night as the pennant-winning Lady Defenders dethroned them, winning the clincher in straight sets at the D.W. Davis Gymnasium. They won, 25-15, 25-14 and 25-15, to take the best-of-five series three games to two.
Over on the men’s side, like every match in the series except the second match, it took another five set to determine a winner. After dropping the first two sets, the pennant-winning Defenders dug deep to win the final three sets and dethrone the defending champions, the National Fence Intruders, to secure the championship trophy. The Intruders had won three straight titles until the Defenders knocked them off on Friday. They won, 18-25, 23-25, 25-21, 25-22 and 15-10.
Lady Defenders over the Vixens
It turned out to be a tough series between the Lady Defenders and the Scottsdale Vixens as both teams battled hard, but in the end, it was the Lady Defenders’ time to celebrate. They got back libero Vanricka Rose for the pivotal game five, and used the momentum gained from her return, to steamroll the Vixens. For the Vixens, they were without one of their key players, middle attacker and second leading scorer in the series, Krystel “Kizzy” Brown.
Sari Albury was the leading scorer for the Lady Defenders with 13 points, nine of which came off kills, and she also added two blocks. Behind her, the Lady Defenders won easily, 25-15, 25-14 and 25-15. Je’Nae Saunders, captain of the Lady Defenders, and Terae Sweeting finished with seven points apiece. Saunders had five kills and two points from serves. Sweeting had two points from serves.
Saunders said that it was good to have Rose back, and she added Albury did a good job on offense in leading them to the title.
“For the first four games we did not had our starting libero because of work. We got her today and she did a great job and she was a great game changer for us,” Saunders said. “I must say, our defense was really good tonight. Our attacker in the middle, Sari, did a really good job tonight in the middle, she really pulled us through for us.”
Lady Defenders’ Head Coach Jason Saunders said dethroning the champs was the plan for the past four years. He was hoping that they would be the team to dethrone the Vixens, and they did.
“We were on the road to doing this for the last four years. It just so happened that most of our key players were still, and even now, are still in college. Once they began to come home, we knew that we would be able to dethrone them. In the past, the Truckers had some chances to do so, but always came up short. This year, we knew we had enough to get it done, but needed one of our key players to be available to play, and any one of those players, not on the island would have sufficed. We were able to bring Vanricka Rose home, who we knew would be the easiest one to come. Once she came we knew we would win. I personally was hoping that we would be the team to do it, since I was once a part of that club and was there for most of their wins. Additionally, I helped to train and coach some of them. My wife also played for them. So, for me, it as an exhilarating feeling to be that team that beat them, if only to show that our young players are improving and will be able to carry the torch,” Saunders said.
Rose had eight successful digs and Leandrea Armbrister had 39 successful sets for the Lady Defenders.
Saunders added that 10 years ago, most of the core of the team was 12 to 15 years of age and could win a set against the Vixens. He said they are still young and Lady Defenders is the youngest team in the league. He said this win is indicative of what can happen when there is a vision, and the ability to produce and execute a plan.
Melinda Bastian, captain of the Vixens, led the way for them with 13 points — 11 kills and two off serves. Cheryse Bain had all six of her points on kills to help fill in the void that her sister, Brown, left.
Shevaughn Woodside finished with 27 successful sets for the Vixens.
McKlyn Rolle, Vixens’ coach, said: “We lost a key player last game so we had to make an adjustment to compensate for her being out. What happened is that we did not play good defense like we wanted to play and we just fell down in the game.”
The Defenders lost the first match after winning the first two sets and then came back and tied the series at a game apiece. The Vixens went up 2-1 in the series setting up a win-or-go-home scenario for the Lady Defenders.
The Lady Defenders took that in stride as they won game four in four sets. They lost the first set but won the final three after Brown went down with her injury. Then they won easily in game five. The Vixens failed to win a single set in the series after Brown went down with her injury early in the second set in game four.
The Lady Defenders won six straight sets after Brown suffered the injury to close out the series in five games.
Defenders over the Intruders
On the men’s side, it was a tough championship series for both the Defenders and the three-time defending champions, National Fence Intruders, as they pushed each other to the very end with the Defenders coming out on top.
Early in game five, the Defenders’ youth and inexperience worked against them as they made some critical mental errors in the first two sets. However, after falling behind two sets to none, they found a way to regroup and hold off the defending champions, winning 18-25, 23-25, 25-21, 25-22 and 15-10.
Leading the way for the Defenders was 18-year-old Kyle Wilson with 19 points. He had 15 kills and two successful blocks. Jamaal Ferguson finished with 14 points that included 11 off kills and two from serves.
Je’Vaughn Saunders, captain of the Defenders, finished with 58 successful sets. He said he told his teammates to keep fighting and keep pushing after the second set.
“We were never out the game. We have five sets to play, and we needed three sets to win. It has been a dog fight all series so I expected nothing less. I kept motivating the guys and we stuck in there,” Saunders said. “The fifth set was the last set of the season so we laid it all out on the line. We played our hardest for every ball and point, and we came out on top.”
After dropping the first two sets, Jason Saunders, head coach of the Defenders, said: “One of the things that I paid attention to is who we have on the court. The fact of the matter is, we have three young people playing on our team; one just turned 17, one is 19 and the other is still in high school. When you consider that, we are going to have a slow start as they get into the game. If you look at the games we played against the Intruders, you will see that we always start out slow, so we were not worried at all by another slow start.”
Saunders said they stuck with the young players despite Wilson making a mental error at the end of the second set to give Intruders the set. He said he did not tell his guys anything before the start of the fifth set, allowing them to talk among themselves and figure out a way to win.
Prince Wilson led the Intruders with 18 points, with all but one coming on kills. Dellan Brown finished with 10 points with seven of those coming on kills.
Gaege Smith finished with 44 successful sets and six digs for the Intruders.
Lloyd Davis, head coach of the Intruders, said his team stopped playing after the second set.
“We played the first two sets and in the third set, we started playing for the fans. We thought the game was over,” Lloyd said. He said he told his guys in the fifth set to serve and pass the ball, but they did not do that so the better team won.
The series between these two team has been loaded with drama. The fans got their money worth for all five of the matches. In the first match, the Defenders won three sets to two. The Defenders went up 2-0 after winning the second match three sets to one. However, the Intruders bounced back. They won the next two matches, three sets to two in each match, to even the series at two games apiece. The Defenders won the final game three sets to two to win the title.
A highly successful and competitive NPVA season came to an end with new champions being crowned in both divisions on Friday.