Sports Editor

The Heritage Christian Lady Eagles have returned to Kissimmee with another National Association of Christian Athletes national volleyball title.

The tournament was held Oct. 24-26 in Dayton, Tenn.

The Eagles (26-2) claimed the Division 3 title with a 22-25, 25-18, 15-6 win over Daniel One of nearby Cookeville, Tenn., the fourth match Heritage played that championship Friday.

Heritage Chr national championship

The Heritage Christian Eagles have now been national champions or runners-up in three different divisions in the last four years at the National Association of Christian Athletes national volleyball championship.

“It was really special,” Coach Jim Estrella said. “We put the webcast on a big screen in the gym back at school for our kids to watch the 1 p.m. (quarterfinal match).”

The Eagles have history at the NACA event — they were Division 2 national champions in 2015, runners-up in 2016 and the Division 1 runners-up last year.

“What’s amazing is that we lost a lot of talented seniors and transfers,” Estrella said.

In fact, before heading to Tennessee, the Eagles fell in the championship game of the Florida Christian Conference finals to Grace Christian after Heritage had won the last four years (2014-17).

“They were heartbroken, but I told the girls our the conference record over the last four years was 64-1,” Estrella said.  “The girls came in next Monday and practiced, erased it, then we loaded up to go and it was like the girls wanted to erase that feeling and win a national championship.”

During the season the team lost just once, to Celebration, and lost a match in pool play at the NACAs.

With pool play on the opening day, after which teams are seeded into divisions, the bracket play the remaining two days, Heritage played the equivalent of 12 matches in three days.

“It’s about mentality and conditioning. Our girls are in shape and it’s no problem,” Estrella said.

The Eagles had to play without junior Tatyana Lyons, the FCC season MVP, for parts of the tournament with an injury, but Estrella said other players, including JV call-ups, filled in nicely.

The roster included Lyons, All-Conference selections Kaylie Hodges and Kaitlyn Nieves, Kaitlyn Vazquez, Mariacamila Espejo-Garcia, Andrea Teran, Brigina Lewis, Jenna Gutierrez, Lenny Quinones, Veronica Fernandez, Andrea and Genesis Ambert and Assistant Coach Megan Gulledge.