Lake grads Momany, Bekier are national champs

Chris Schmidbauer

It took Owens Community College volleyball coach Sonny Lewis 18 seasons to win his first national championship. It took just 371 days to win his second.
The Express swept their way to the program's second consecutive NJCAA Division III championship, defeating conference rival Columbus State for the fifth time this season.
Contributing to the Express’ championship are two Lakes graduates, 5-foot-10 sophomore outside hitter Kayla Bekier, whose kill won the national championship, and 6-0 freshman middle/right side hitter Taylor Momany.
Both played for coach Amy Vorst at Lake. Vorst is an Eastwood graduate who played for the Eagles’ state championship volleyball team, so she knows the meaning of winning on a big stage.
        “We are excited and proud that two Lake alumni were a part of the Owens’ national championship team,” Vorst said. “To have two of our players reach the pinnacle of college athletics is a tremendous feat that our program is incredibly proud of. Kayla and Taylor were great players for us at Lake and helped take our program to the next level.  They worked hard and earned the success they've had at Owens.”
The national title was a fitting end to another dominant season for the Express on the volleyball court. Owens began the season as the preseason No. 1 ranked team heading into the 2019 campaign. The Express lost 10 of the 14 players from the year's previous national title team, losing their top three attackers, their top setter, and their starting libero from the year before.
That doesn’t mean they did not have a target on their back.
        “As exciting as it was to win last year, this year was more exciting because we were defending champs and we had a huge target on our backs and everyone wanted a piece of us because they wanted to say they beat the defending national champs,” Bekier said.
        “This year was so much fun because of my great teammates who all turned into my very best friends. As good as last year’s team was, I felt this year we were much better because we had so much more depth. Any player was capable of taking over the match on any given day. We had players take on roles they weren’t used to and they executed everything perfectly.” 
Despite the lack of experience, Owens found a way to win their first seven matches in a row to begin the season. After a loss to Glen Oaks on August 30, the Express would reel off 16 straight victories. As a sophomore, Bekier found herself in a leadership role.
        “I really enjoyed being a team leader this year and helping all of the freshmen adjust to this level of competition and always reassuring them that things would always work out because we were such a great team,” Bekier said.
        “We have two of the best coaches in the country who always know how to get the absolute best out of each individual and make us into a team that always works together.”
The Express never lost consecutive matches more than once all season, and the team hasn't lost a set since their Region XII championship match against Columbus State back on October 26. Owens also kept their regular season OCCAC winning streak alive, having now won 76 consecutive regular season matches. The Express captured their fifth straight OCCAC title this season as well. 
The Express won the Region XII tournament and the Mid-Atlantic District Tournament, beating the Cougars both times. 
The Express finished the season with a record of 43-4, marking the fifth straight year where the team has won 40 or more games. They finish three wins shy of the all-time mark of 46 victories in a season set by the 2000 and 2002 team. The 43 wins also marks the third most wins in a season since 1994. 
Despite all that success, the team had to overcome adversity as well.
        “We have a list of 29 unfortunate events that happened to our team throughout the season,” Bekier said.
        “I give major props to every single person on this team for overcoming everything we were put through and coming out on top. All of our hard work this season really paid off in the end. Despite everything that has happened to us this year, this was the dream team and I am so grateful to have been able to be a part of it.”
Owens had two players named to the Division III NJCAA All Tournament Team. Bekier, who had 33 kills during the tournament, including 15 against Brookhaven, and5-10 freshman Rebecca Brown (Maumee), who is the program's new assists leader for a single season, tallied 133 assists in the three-game tournament. Brown finishes with 1,648 total assists for the season, which was best in the country in Division III. 
Tyriana Settles (Fostoria), a 5-8 freshman outside hitter, was named the tournament's MVP. She had a team high 41 kills during the three game run, and she also finished with 26 digs in the championship match. She finished as the national leader for D-III for kills with 640 on the season. 
Sonny Lewis, who won his 700th career game back on October 26, was named the Coach of the Year for the second straight season. Lewis is now 708-200 in 19 years as coach of the Express. He has won 78 percent of the games he has coached at Owens. 
The back-to-back national championships are the second time an athletic program has completed such a feat in the school's history. The Owens men's Basketball program won back-to-back titles in the 1991-92 and the 1992-93 seasons under then coach Jim Welling, an Eastwood graduate.
(Chris Schmidbauer is the sports information director at Owens CC. Press Sports Editor J. Patrick Eaken contributed).


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