Lady Lions Defeat Nemesis in Epic Thriller
Southwestern Netters Top Wiley in 5-Sets
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- Behind a highly stoked team effort, the Southwestern Assemblies God University women's volleyball team defeated Wiley College on Friday night in five sets, three games to two. It snapped a four match losing streak to the talented Wildcats.
SAGU, now 10-10 overall and 3-3 in the Red River Athletic Conference, dropped the first game, 25-17, giving little evidence that an upset was brewing. They rebounded to win the next two sets, 26-24 and 25-21. Wiley rallied from a nine-point deficit in the fourth game to claim the equalizer, 27-25, bringing about a decisive fifth game.
The Lady Lions, down 10-8, came from behind to stun Wiley, 15-11. The Wildcats, with six international players, are a team picked to qualify for their third straight trip to the RRAC tournament finals. The emotionally draining match had more twists and turns than a mystery novel.
Brief Summary of the Match
In the second set, already having lost the first, the Lions were quickly down 4-0. They slid further into an 8-3 deficit. It looked like it could get away from Team Lioness. Losing the first two games to the 'Cats appeared imminent.
That's when the Purple Pride began mounting an improbable upset.
SAGU was coming off an 0-2 weekend in South Texas where they were swept by both Our Lady of the Lake (7-1) and UT-Brownsville (16-0). So, what confidence that fueled the comeback had to come from a deeper strength.
They tied the second set at 15 and went on to win a grueling 26-24 triumph. In game three they trailed by five (15-10), before calling a pivotal time-out. They responded by going on a 13-3 run.
A strategic move during that time-out paid big dividends. Veteran head coach Hansford Moore started the match with Brittani Toole (Whitehouse, Tx / Whitehouse HS) hitting outside and positioned Kassy Cox (Lufkin, Tx / Lufkin HS) in the middle. "We were trying to match Brittani up with Jessica Lopez (Wiley's 6'0" All-Conference player). During the time out we flipped Brittani back to the middle. Kassy then started the run with a huge swing," he pointed out. The next three points were made by Toole; a big block, and two straight kills. "Then we got another swing from Kassy and we went on to take the lead."
The fourth game, as former NBA great Darryl Dawkins would say, was a "spine-chiller supreme." SAGU assembled a 15-6 lead, continued it at 17-10 and then 21-14. On the verge on nailing the door shut with a 24-19 advantage, they surrendered a 6-0 run and fell, 27-25, on a questionable call. Wiley had risen from the canvas to knot the series at 2-2.
The fifth and final game was tied five times and the lead changed hands four times. Trailing 10-8, Southwestern regrouped and surged to win on a 7-1 scoring spree. Freshman Devan Guynes (Red Oak, Tx / Red Oak HS) had the hot hand serving, igniting five unanswered points and a 14-10 lead.
Hank Moore Earns 200th Career Win
Almost overshadowed was the milestone achieved by Coach Moore. Now in his tenth year at SAGU, the Ohio native earned his 200th career victory, a fact not lost on his team. They celebrated around him after the post-match prayer with Wiley, and then doused him with a cooler of ice water. They finished off the memorable win by treating the crowd to a huge cake in recognition of Moore's landmark win.
Great Rivalry, Even Better Sportsmanship
Wiley has had the Lady Lions' number of late. The previous four matches, all won by Wiley, were marathon battles. Three of the past five have gone the 5-set distance. The two schools have grown to have a visible, mutual respect for one another, easily detected in their sportsmanship. On the court, however, they fight tooth and nail.
Lopez is a member of the Puerto Rico national team and a standout hitter for Wiley. She said afterwards that "it's a great rivalry. It's friendly, and we hug, but we know each other will play especially well trying to get a win."
"J-Lo," as she is affectionately called by teammates and fans, went on to say that "...we have to win these kinds of matches to prepare for the conference tournament. And we fought hard."
Jessica Lopez Tips Cap to Lady Lions
The two-time First Team All-Conference player was full of gracious praise for SAGU. "They are a very good team," she said in her Spanglish brogue. "They have good communication on the floor, and they never give up. They always hustle. Tonight they hustled more than us. And the more they hustled, the more they minimized their errors."
Wiley has played an aggressive schedule this fall, primarily to better prepare them for a chance to qualify for a bid in the NAIA tournament. The Wildcats have a 10-7 record and 3-3 in the RRAC. They had lost only to UT-Brownsville and Our Lady of the Lake in the Red River until Friday.
The Catalysts for SAGU "Got it Done"
Southwestern needed to have several players step-up their performance in order to contend with a Wiley team that has a deeper arsenal of weapons. They got it.
Reigning All-American, senior Brittani Toole; senior libero Jordan Briggs (Maypearl, Tx / Maypearl HS) and junior outside hitter Tina Brown (Seguin, Tx / Lifegate Christian), the tri-captains, fulfilled their faithful workload as expected.
Coach Moore agreed. "Our kids played extremely hard against Wiley," he said. "They had a "we will NOT lose" attitude. Our leaders really stepped up and led the team on the court."
Allies on the Frontline
It was the level of play by Krystal Cisneros (El Paso, Tx / Del Valle HS), Kassy Cox (Lufkin, Tx / Lufkin HS) and Caitlyn Hudson (Mansfield, Tx / Legacy HS) on the front line that drew most of the attention. They rose to the occasion with a fearless effort. Facing the high-powered attackers from Wiley, they stood tall. They added the needed resistance by contesting the Wildcats power game, and rejected many incoming bombs with solo and double-teamed blocks.
A mixture of power and finesse, Toole generated a game-high 18 kills. She can unload a lethal smash or wrist a tip into a seam in the defense with such finesse that the ball appears to have eyes. She is the defending RRAC champion in both hitting percentage and kills per game in 2009, and continues to lead the league in kills.
Friday she was joined by three others in double figures in kills. Cox, a commanding freshman, delivered 15 kills and hit .321 for the match. Hudson heated up in the middle games and totaled 13, while the junior middle blocker, Cisneros, pulverized eleven.
Toole, Cisneros, Brown, Hudson, and Cox united as a barrier. In force, they often negated Wiley attacks, limiting Lopez to only nine kills. That's less than two per game. Yuly Chalar (pronounced YULE-ee Chuh-LAR) and Abigael Misoy (Muh-soy) had eight, though Darly Castillo managed to lead with 11.
Moore said his team's "...defense at the net was the key in the game. Krystal, Kassy, Brittani, Tina, Caitlyn and Taylor won the battle of the net. That was the key to the entire match."
"Vegas Gold" Diggers
Unable to contain all of the missiles by Wiley's internationally-flavored barrage, the Lady Lions elevated their play with a wheelbarrow full of digs. Hudson and Briggs resembled 49ers panning for gold nuggets. They sifted through and salvaged a combined 40 digs, saving many a rally. And they were not alone. Brown, Guynes, Laura Espinoza (Duncanville, Tx / Duncanville HS), and Taylor Calverley (Mansfield, Tx / Grace Prep), all contributed heavily by aptly handling blasts from the 'Cats with defusing bumps. All four were in double digits in digs.
In fact, SAGU's passing game was near perfect. A read-out of the game statistics revealed that of an even 100 passes between teammates, Southwestern was successful on 97. That is roughly 10% better than normal, and it may have been the biggest difference in the game, though fans of spikes, blocks and digs might argue.
Briggs, the superglue adhesive for this team, was sensational all night. The senior libero not only had 20 digs, some made while standing in the line of fire to dismantle would-be kills. She was true on 30 of 33 passes as well. Brown was undaunted in her hybrid position between outside hitter and defensive specialist. She graded 100% as a passer with 20 attempts. Guynes came off the bench and connected on 13 of 13 passes, while also proving effective in her service game.
Jordan Briggs, SAGU's New Record Holder for Career Digs
The match was especially sweet for Briggs. Needing eight to become the school's all-time leader in digs, she obliterated the old mark, and still has a month to go in this season. She also moved into 2nd in career aces, trailing only Kelani Keoho Daniels.
Setting the Table
The back row kept volleys alive, then bumped the ball to the freshman setter, Calverley. And she was "on" her game. The 5-foot-10 redhead was red hot in setting the launch pad for SAGU's attack 'Cats.
"Taylor simply had a great night," said Moore.
She entered the match tied with Wiley's Eileen Burbano as a nationally ranked setter, both averaging 9.0 assists per individual game. By night's end she had outplayed Burbano head-to-head, ringing up 52 assists to her 35. That's 10.4 per game to 7.0. Plus, Calverley was credited with 14 digs, giving her a double-double.
Chalar had a game-best 24 digs for Wiley, followed by Misoy's 19. Burbano added 15.
For more on the match, look for added stories in the days to come, including a more detailed list of highlights in each game.
Lady Lions Hit the Road
SAGU will take to the road for four matches this week, all out of state. On Thursday the Lady Lions will be in Bethany, Oklahoma when they face Southern Nazarene University at 5:00pm. The Crimson Storm (15-10, 3-4 in the Sooner Athletic Conference) edged SAGU earlier this season, 3-2, in the Lions' home opener.
The Lions will be in Siloam Springs, Arkansas on Friday for a 7pm clash against John Brown University. It will be the second ever meeting between the schools. Two years ago in Waxahachie, JBU topped the Cats in five, 3-2. The Golden Eagles (15-9, 4-3), like Southern Naz, are in the SAC.
Southwestern heads west on Saturday. In a 3-team event, they will play Bacone College (4-17, 2-5 in the RRAC) at 11am and then take on McPherson College at 1:30pm. The Lady Bulldogs (9-6, 3-2) compete in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference. They are from McPherson, Kansas. Both matches will be played in Muskogee, Oklahoma.