The NJCAA vacated nearly all of the Salt Lake Community College volleyball team’s 2018 wins and suspended SLCC’s star freshman outside hitter Hellen Lacava this week after the Bruins committed an amateurism violation, according to College of Southern Idaho athletic director Joel Bate.
SLCC and Lacava violated an “NJCAA amateurism bylaw,” said Bate, who could not provide more specific information about the infraction. The NJCAA did not respond to a request for comment as of Thursday night.
The Bruins were ranked No. 7 in last week’s NJCAA Division I poll and had a 26-3 overall record before the sanctions struck. They had to forfeit all but one of their wins — against Colorado Northwestern CC on Oct. 12, when Lacava didn’t play — and will be without Lacava for the remainder of the season. They are, however, still eligible for the postseason, including this weekend’s Region 18 tournament in Twin Falls.
The NJCAA’s first ruling on the violation barred SLCC from the postseason, according to Bate and SLCC athletic director Kevin Dustin. But after the Bruins appealed, the NJCAA chose to strip wins and suspend Lacava while allowing them to play in the Region 18 tournament and beyond, if they get that far. SLCC can reach the NJCAA Division I tournament if it wins this weekend’s tournament.
“You live with the outcome,” Dustin said. “That’s what we did, and we’re grateful the sanctions committee lifted the harshest of it.”
The vacated victories left the Bruins with a 1-28 overall record and the six seed at the Region 18 tournament. They’ll face third-seeded and eighth-ranked Snow College at 10 a.m. Friday to open the single-elimination tournament. SLCC beat the Badgers in five sets on Sept. 28 but lost to them in five on Oct. 20. Lacava, who leads the Bruins in kills, played in both matches.
SLCC’s vacated wins were reassigned to the teams they beat, and that affected this weekend’s tournament. With two losses to the Bruins, Utah State University Eastern ended the regular season with the third-best record in the Scenic West Athletic Conference, behind CSI and Snow. Now that those defeats are victories, USU Eastern jumped ahead of Snow in the conference standings to receive the tournament’s second seed and a first-round bye.
Fourth-ranked CSI was swept by SLCC on Oct. 5, and it swept the Bruins last Friday (they played without Lacava and fellow freshman outside hitter Ryley Daniel). So the Golden Eagles gained a win, but it didn’t affect their seeding or their path to the NJCAA tournament.
At 7 p.m. Friday, top-seeded CSI will face the winner of the 1 p.m. match between No. 4 Southern Nevada and No. 5 CNCC. That side of the bracket looked the same before SLCC was sanctioned.
“I don’t know if it will have a huge effect on us,” CSI head coach Jim Cartisser of SLCC’s punishment. “We have to win to go (to the national tournament). It doesn’t matter who we have to beat.”