This is not just a sports story although on the surface it appears to be. 

Ocean County College women's basketball team (OCC)

The Ocean County College Women’s Basketball team is leaving today for Rochester, Minnesota to compete in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division III National Championship.

The Vikings are one of just eight teams who have earned a shot at the national title and clearly on paper they are the least impressive of the eight and have been seeded last in the field.

OCC’s record of 18-11 is the worst of the group and they will be a decided underdog when they play 29-2 top-seed Rock Valley College of Illinois in the quarterfinals Thursday afternoon. However it’s the road the Toms River school has traveled that is especially impressive and the fact they’re on their way to Minnesota is in itself a minor miracle.

For the record the Vikings qualified by upsetting Cumberland in the Region 19 championship game earlier this month as MVP Amber Nafziger scored 20 points.  Nafziger along with Emily Kunzman, Corinne Morgan, Heather Tice and Jackie Caravella combined to lead OCC to the championship and their first trip to the national tournament since 1999.  While they face 7 formidable opponents in Minnesota it’s another competition off the court that is far more interesting.

The Women’s Basketball Coaches Association on Monday in Atlanta announced the four finalists for the 2nd annual Russell Athletic “Together We R” Team Award.  The quartet is made up of the University of Oklahoma, Purdue University, Cal State Fullerton and….you guessed it, Ocean County College.  It’s one thing to be in the company of Rock Valley College but to be listed with the Sooners, Boilermakers and Titans…well that’s serious stuff.

Ocean County College women's basketball team head coact Dana Kovich (OCC)

The award honors programs that have overcome extraordinary adversity to somehow stick together and the finalists were chosen based on a video submitted about their circumstances.  The OCC team, like many in our area, was impacted by Superstorm Sandy as Vikings head coach Dana Kovich lost her home to the storm.

While the start of their season was delayed the team participated in numerous community service projects and after losing 7 of their first 10 games rallied to earn the trip to the nationals.

Beginning yesterday and running through this Friday at 5pm people can vote by “liking” the video for the team they think is most deserving of the award.  The videos are posted at and the Ocean County College video can be viewed below.

Here’s wishing OCC the best on the court in Minnesota and in the court of public opinion.