Nada Meawad stood underneath the Pirates’ 2014 NAIA national championship banner inside the Breckon Sports Center on a mid-November Saturday afternoon, fielding questions regarding the season’s first defeat to the Columbia Cougars in the AMC Tournament title game.
It was a feeling Meawad and her teammates had yet to encounter during the 2018 women’s volleyball season. But, despite the five-set loss on their home floor, the team’s outlook was quite simple across the board — a loss in the present can benefit the future.
That future, at the time, required on focusing on accomplishing the ultimate prize — a national championship.
The Pirates secured that prize on Saturday, Dec. 1in Sioux City, Iowa.
“It’s our target. Since we all got here our target, it’s not even getting a ring, it’s trying to get that national title,” Meawad said that day, on Nov. 10. “It means more hard work to get this title again. … We have to get another title.”
“They have a lot to be proud of and in two weeks, you’ll see a different team,” Park coach Mike Talamantes said after the loss.
After two weeks off from competition, Park went 7-0 in the NAIA National Championship event at Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa, capped by the Pirates second national championship, a five-set revenge victory over Columbia (19-25, 25-15, 17-25, 25-20, 16-14).
The national title victory was Park’s second since 2014. It was the Pirates’ seventh national volleyball title, the other five occurring for the men’s volleyball program.
Talamantes was in charge of both women’s titles and the past three men’s championships.
Following Park’s 36-1 campaign, Talamantes was named the NAIA coach of the year, Meawad, a sophomore from Egypt, was deemed the tournament MVP and junior libero Celina Monteiro claimed the defender award. Platte County graduate Maren Roper and Danna Gomes were also named to the all-tournament team.
Meawad registered 36 kills in the championship match, while Monteiro posted 23 digs and Gomes handed out 63 assists. Roper also posted double-digits in kills with 11. She led the teams with three blocks.
The Pirates, the tournament No. 2 seed, swept their way through pool play with straight-set wins over No. 15 Westmont, No. 18 Embry-Riddle and Morningside before earning 3-1 victories over No. 16 College of Idaho (first round), Southern Utah (quarterfinals) and No. 14 Midland (semifinals) to set up a rematch with four-time NAIA champion No. 3 Columbia.
“With Columbia, it’s always up and down,” Roper said moments after Park fell to Columbia in the AMC title game. “Normally it comes down to the last couple sets. We both were super passionate and we both wanted to win bad. There’s been a rivalry here for years.
“This gives us motivation to not let up and keep playing our game. So thank you for beating us, Columbia.”
In the rematch, the Cougars took the first set 25-19 before the Pirates dominated 25-15 in the second set.
But Columbia took a 2-1 series lead with a 25-17 victory prior to Park evening things at 2-2 with a 25-20 fourth set. The Pirates then won the back-and-forth finale, 16-14.