DENVER, Colo. - For the fourth time in Park University Men's Volleyball history, the NAIA National Invitational Tournament trophy is coming home.
Park (30-4) hit .305, led by .543 from Daniel Arteaga, and tournament MVP Rob Cordero dished 40 assists, leading the Pirates to a pair of two-point wins around a three-point win in set two, beating No. 1 Concordia-Irvine for the second time this week, avenging last season's championship loss at Johnson and Wales University in Denver.
"No one outside our locker room expected this, because Concordia is a great team," said Park coach Mike Talamantes, who was named NAIA Men's Volleyball Coach of the Year. "But we weren't intimidated, and we executed a game plan that worked. I'm so happy for our seniors to go out on top, and now the motivation is there for the returners. This feeling is motivation. We get to celebrate it now, but then we go back to work on returning to this moment."
Arteaga connected on 21 kills and Park made its mark at the net, where the Pirates stood tall all season, recording 10.5 blocks, including five blocks for Caio Souza and four for both Cordero and Arteaga. Murilo Pereira had the team's only solo block, adding three assisted blocks to also total four, and Ramon Cora matched Kastan Maness on the back row with eight digs each.
Harrison Carroll led Concordia with 12 kills, and the Eagles were able to manage five blocks, including two by Carroll. Kevin Fiske had 35 assists for the Naseri Tumanuvao equaled Park's top performers on the back row with eight digs, adding nine kills and a solo block.
Park trailed 10-7 when Mark Metrakos connected on a kill, but three-straight points for the Pirates, all on Concordia errors, tied the game at 10-10 before Fabrico Toledo's kill gave the lead to the Pirates, 11-10. Four ties followed Toledo's kill, but knotted at 14, Concordia scored the next three, going up 17-14 on a kill by Parker Del Re.
The Pirates didn't tie it until their 20th point, when Cora's kill erased a 20-19 Concordia lead, and an error on Del Re had park in front 23-22 before a kill by Metrakos gave the Eagles their final point of the set, 23-23. An error had Park a point away from a win, and the trio of Cordero, Pereira, and Arteaga stuffed Del Re at set point, putting Park up 1-0 in the match, 25-23.
Park led 15-12 midway through the second, using a 4-1 run to crack an 11-all tie, and Arteaga had the Piraets in front 21-19 with a kill, four points from a two-set lead in the match. Arteaga and Souza recorded a block to take a 23-20 lead, and the teams split the last four points, a 25-22 win for Park that ended on a Souza kill to make it 2-0 in the match.
The Pirates trailed 3-1 early on in the final set, but Park went up 5-4 on an error after Souza tied the set at four points, erasing Concordia's last lead of the match, which was 4-3. Park didn't allow a tie after 9-9, and Souza's kill at 23-21 put Park two points away from a national championship. Carroll had two kills in the final four points, but Pereira ended the match with a kill at 25-23, converting Cordero's 40th assist of the match to secure the win.
Park's championship is its second in the last three seasons after the Pirates also took the 2012 championship (Davenport, Iowa) over host Saint Ambrose University. Park's last championship over a California opponent came in 2008, when the Pirates beat California Baptist University. For Talamantes, the coach of the year designation is his second on the men's side, also earning the honor in 2012.
Rob Cordero – No. 16 – Sr. S – Park
AnsonLindsey – No. 15 – So. – MH – Clarke University
PedroCardoso – No. 7 – Fr. – OH – Grand View
Caio Nunes De Souza – No. 7 – Jr. – OH – Park
Rob Cordero – No. 16 – Sr. – S – Park
KevinFiske – No. 7 – Sr. – S – Concordia-Irvine
Parker Del Re – No. 13 – Sr. – OH – Concrodia-Irvine
Coach of the Year
Mike Talamantes - Park
Sportsman of the Year
Kyle Hanagami – No. 2 – Jr. – S – Grand View
Tournament Statistical Leaders
Hitting Percentage – Caio Nunes De Souza - Park - .541
Kills Per Game – Daniel Arteaga – Park – 3.60
Assists Per Game – Rob Cordero – Park – 11.09
Digs Per Game – Kastan Maness – Park – 2.82
Service Aces Per Game – Kyle Hanagami – Grand View – 0.36
Blocks Per Game – Caio De Nunes – Park – 2.00