Defense wins championships. The1995 Barry University volleyball team proved that adage to be painfully true to its opponents last season, as the Bucs blocked their way to the NCAA Division II National Championship.
The Buccaneers used their intimidating height -- five of six starters were 6'0" or taller -- to build a wall of defense which opponents, for the most part, found impenetrable.
It did not take long for the Bucs to show what they were capable of. After a season opening set-back to NCAA Division I opponent Central Florida, Barry reeled off 23 consecutive wins. The long win streak included some of the seasons' top moments:
- The Bucs hosted and won their own two-day tournament, including a 3-0 sweep of two-time defending National Champion Northern Michigan University.
- Winning the Air Force Academy Premier Tournament in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Barry edged North Dakota State 3-2 in their semifinal match, then went on to defeat Central Missouri State 3-0 in the title match.
- Defeating Division I Central Florida 3-0 in front of a strong turnout at the Heath & Sports Center.
The Bucs finished the regular season at 33-2 and ranked #1 in the nation. Barry steamrolled through the NCAA South Regional, defeating Rollins College 3-0 in the final match.
News came quickly after the defeat of Rollins that Barry would be the host site for the Elite Eight Championships. Home court advantage gave the Bucs emotional support, but surely brought pressure to produce a title in front of their fans.
Head coach Leonoid Yelin had the Bucs ready for the first round, as Barry's defense produced 15 blocks in a 3-0 win over St. Cloud State. Senior All-America hitter Mikisha Hurley stole the show with 13 kills and 6 blocks.
Barry cruised past semifinal opponent Cal-State Bakersfield with a similar formula: block everything. The Buccaneers amassed 23 blocks in holding the Roadrunners to just 13 points the entire match.
In the finals, it was power versus power, as two-time defending National Champion Northern Michigan battled Barry and 1,650 raucous fans, for the 1995 title. The battle lines were drawn, as the Bucs quickly realized the defending champions were on their game. NMU took game one 15-6.
Barry established its trademark defense in game two, jumping out to an 8-1 lead behind freshman All-America selection Sonia Gubaidulina. The 6'4" outside hitter from Moscow, Russia, provided three kills and two blocks during the run. NMU closed to within 10-7 but could get no closer in dropping a 15-11 decision.
Both teams knew they had to have game three, and the result was a clash to remember. The score was tied at 5-5 and 8-8, before the Bucs managed a 10-8 lead. NMU again fought back to within a point, at 11-10. But the Wildcats would score nor more in a 15-10 loss. Barry seized the wave of emotion and closed out the championship by winning game four, 15-9.
When it was over, the statistics helped tell the story. Barry collected 31 blocks and rattled NMU into 50 attack errors. Freshman Cindy Yuan tied Harley for a team-high 14 kills in the match. Hurley also provided 9 block assists, while Gubaidulina recorded 4 block solos and 5 block assists.
The Bucs finished 34-2, undefeated, against NCAA Division II competition, 14-0 in Sunshine State Conference play for the second straight year and the program's first National Championship.