FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – For the first time since the 2009 season, the Nova Southeastern Volleyball team has qualified for the NCAA Tournament. The 22nd-ranked Sharks enjoyed one of, if not the most successful campaigns in 2021. NSU, under the direction of Head Coach Brian Rosen, set program records across the board, winning 16 Sunshine State Conference games, earned an 0.800 winning percentage in SSC play, best overall winning percentage in the NCAA-era (0.828), most home wins (16), and longest winning streak (19).
Since becoming the Head Coach before the 2019 season, Rosen has led an impressive turnaround at NSU, reasserting the Sharks on a national stage. “It is hard to put into words how much our team has overcome and accomplished this season,” said Rosen. “I believe our motivation started in 2019, when we closed the year with six straight wins but didn’t hear our name called during the NCAA Selection Show, and then the 2020 season was canceled; however, our drive to be one of the best teams in the country remained steady.”
Nova Southeastern (24-5, 16-4 SSC) started the season in incredible fashion, winning its first 13 matches – including nine straight set sweeps – continuing a six-game winning streak from 2019 to set the program record for winning streak. The Sharks finished the regular-season second in the Sunshine State Conference. NSU found its way back into the AVCA Coaches’ Poll, entering at No. 23 on Sep. 27 and reaching as high as No. 17 on Oct. 18. NSU has remained in the poll since 9/27, setting a program-record for longest streak within the rankings.
“From the first night of practice at “Midnight Madness” we were competing every day in the gym, knowing that the work would pay off this season,” continued Rosen. “Right from the start of the year, riding our winning streak, we could just tell this was going to be a special season. Milestone after milestone, record after record, this team accomplished more than I ever could have imagined in my second year as their coach.”
The No. 21 NSU offense ranks eighth in NCAA Division II in kills-per-set, some of the success can be attributed to four-time Sunshine State Conference Setter of the Week recipient, Madison Cook. The redshirt-sophomore setter from Oviedo, Fla., has been instrumental in the Sharks success this season as she ranks sixth in the SSC in assists (736). Cook established a career-high in assists in the season-opening match against Pittsburg State, recording 51 in a four-set victory for NSU. A member of the 2019 team that fell just short of their goal, Cook has guided the Sharks to the programs return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in over a decade.
“The team has definitely grown over the course of the season; pushing each other in ways to help each other grow as players,” said Cook. “I am so proud of the fight we have shown throughout the season and it is thrilling to be rewarded with a bid to the national tournament. We have wanted this from the beginning of the season and to achieve our goal is extremely gratifying. I’m excited to see what we can do in the post-season and I am so proud to be a Shark.”
Elizabeth Price (326 kills), Alex Psoma (248), Julia Bernardes (220), and Marianna Fiocco (180) all made tremendous impacts for the Sharks offense, as Nova Southeastern recorded an astounding 1534 kills as a team, good for second in the SSC. NSU particularly dominated at home during the 2021 season, going an incredible 16-1 from the Shark Tank.
The Sharks were met with adversity throughout the season, but were able to respond courtesy of the depth that Head Coach Rosen has recruited to NSU. “Unfortunately, we have lost a few starters due to injury this season, but each time, a new Shark stepped up and got the job done. I’m so proud of what this team has accomplished in the win column on the court, as well as the bonds and culture that we have created off the court,” added Rosen.
Amanda Hall, a returner from the 2019 team who started 12 matches for NSU, is a great example of the depth the Sharks have, as Coach Rosen can turn to an experienced player to provide a spark to the team. “This has been an incredibly special team. Our support for one another creates a culture of that allows us to be our best on the court,” said Hall. “The journey this season has been different compared to ours in 2019. That season we had to figure out some things, and sadly our season ended too soon but that was what motivated us this season.”
Nova Southeastern will enter the NCAA South Region Tournament for the first time since 2009 as the third-seed and will take on sixth-seeded Alabama-Hunstville in Pensacola, Fla.
The extended break between matches may be just what the Sharks need after a long season. “One of the biggest ways we can prepare for the NCAA Tournament is to rest. As mentioned, we have suffered through several injuries this season, challenging our depth,” stated Rosen. “I want our student-athletes to enjoy the Thanksgiving break with their families and comeback refreshed, both mentally and physically. We’ll return refocused and ready for our first-round opponent. We’re excited for the playoffs and to spend more time together; we’re extremely lucky to have such a great group.”