RCTC Yellowjackets are national volleyball champs

Jessica Foster would never have predicted this.

11-14 ashely bichel johanna bungum sj.jpg
RCTC's Ashley Bichel and Johanna Bungum hug as they celebrate following the Yellowjackets winning the NJCAA Division III volleyball national championship Saturday over Brookhaven (Texas) at UCR Regional Sports Center. More photos from this match are available at

Jessica Foster would never have predicted this.

A national championship for her Rochester Community and Technical College volleyball team? No way.

Well, Foster — the lone returner from last year's Yellowjackets team — was presented the mostly unlikely of gifts Saturday afternoon. The RCTC sophomore setter got that national title all right.

And in good part, she can thank herself for it. Her Saturday afternoon at UCR Regional Sports Center concluded not only with RCTC having beaten Brookhaven (Texas) 3-1 in the NJCAA Division III title match, but with Foster being named the national tournament's most valuable player.

Foster compiled 41 assists, seven digs and two aces in the championship. This was one day after she'd also played a lead role in the Yellowjackets coming up with an even bigger upset, with RCTC knocking off No. 1-ranked and two-time defending champion Madison 3-2 in an epic battle.


Quite a couple of days for Foster and these No. 4-seeded Yellowjackets, who brought the school its first volleyball national title.

"I never thought we'd make it this far this season," Foster said. "But we all became really close. We all can talk to each other about anything."

Now they can talk to each other about this championship season. RCTC started off with a bang against perennial power Brookhaven. It won the first two games 25-22, 27-25. Then after a lull in Game 3, losing it 25-13, the Yellowjackets regrouped in a hurry and blistered the Bears 25-13 for the clincher.

RCTC had looked and acted every bit like a champion.

"(RCTC) won because they were the best team here," Brookhaven standout outside hitter Kelsey Rogers said.

As good as Foster was, she was anything but a one-woman show for RCTC. The Yellowjackets got excellent performances from a bevy of players.

Among them was Rochester Century graduate Jesnasha Jamison. The freshman outside hitter turned in one of her best matches of the year, coming up with one big kill after the other in that championship-clinching Game 4. She took turns with Tori Peterson (Fillmore Central graduate) doing that as they combined for at least eight kills there.

Jamison finished the match with 12 kills and nine digs. Peterson was her usual do-everything self with 10 kills, 10 digs and five blocks.


"When we are all on, like we were today, no one can stop us," Jamison said. "The best thing about us is we really work well together as a team. We were all so focused to win today."

RCTC stretched its record to 27-6 overall. This came one season after the Yellowjackets had also reached the national tournament, but fell in the semifinals.

Yellowjackets fourth-year coach Amber Zitzow said a couple of things separated this team from others she's coached. Primarily that was its ability to dig up shots, block, and generally play defense. It also helped to have a libero like freshman Carly McCabe (Mabel-Canton graduate) in the middle of things.

"That libero of (RCTC's), she as phenomenal," Brookhaven's Rogers said of McCabe, who had 19 digs.

But just as key was Zitzow's players' willingness to listen to her and each other.

"I've always known that they had another gear, and I kept pushing for that," Zitzow said.

Turns out they found it.

"This group means everything to me," said an emotional Zitzo, who was named national coach of the year. "Their work ethic has been phenomenal."


NOTES:Middle hitter Ashley Bichel, McCabe, Jamison and Peterson joined Foster on the all-tournament team. McCabe and Bichel are both freshmen.

RCTC 3, Brookhaven 1



RCTC:Jesnasha Jamison 12 kills, 9 digs; Tori Peterson 10 kills, 5 blocks, 10 digs; Jessica Foster 41 assists, 7 digs, 2 aces; Ashley Bichel 9 kills, 5 blocks; Carly McCabe 19 digs; Johanna Bungum 8 kills, 10 digs.

Brookhaven:Alex Garner 13 kills; Erin Terry 13 kills; Mathis Popelsky 12 digs.

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