Lady Lions split pair at nationals
Sodich, Cisneros lead big win over Malone
SAGU faces #1 and #5 seeds on Friday
KISSIMMEE, Florida -- The difference between the results in two volleyball matches played on the same day was dramatic. A stirring upset of the #4 seeded Malone University was a huge triumph. The loss in straight sets to #9 Colorado Christian University a tough setback.
Competing as the #8 seed at the National Christian College Athletic Association’s national championship, Southwestern Assemblies of God University opened the first day of pool play with a 1-1 record.
They need to win both of their matches on Friday to be guaranteed of advancing to the Final Four. SAGU, now 23-16, will meet the #1 seed, California Baptist University (22-10) at 9:00am (CST) before taking on #5 Grace College (31-11) at 1:00pm (CST).
Cal-Baptist went 2-0 on Thursday by rolling past Colorado Christian and Grace with 3-0 verdicts. Getting past the CBU Lancers will take a similar effort to the one the Lady Lions had in topping Malone. Both CBU and Malone are members in the NCAA’s Division 2.
Southwestern could have an outside chance of progressing to Saturday’s semi-finals with a victory against the Grace Lancers, who lost 3-0 to Cal-Baptist, then easily swept Malone, 3-0.
Fans can view the action of both matches at no cost. Video Webcasting will be available via GPSN* Online (www.gpsnonline.com). Once established, the links for these contests will be available via the NCCAA website at www.thenccaa.org. All games will be archived for viewing for 24 hours and then will be deleted. Individuals can purchase permanent copies of games.
Recap of 5-set win over Malone
Behind a sensational effort by freshman Jessica Sodich (Ovilla, Tx / Ovilla Christian), the Lady Lions defeated Malone; 21-25, 25-20, 28-26, 22-25, and 15-13 in the decisive fifth set. Sodich racked up 22 kills against a lone error to hit .467. She also scooped up 21 digs, second only to the 23 she registered against York College during the Central Regionals.
Each game was as exciting as five rattlers in a canoe.
Both teams exchanged scoring runs throughout the contest that may have been the tournament’s best of the day. In game five, the Lions jumped to a 2-0 lead and never trailed. It reminded some of this team’s capabilities and was reminiscent of their best play of the season.
Krystal Cisneros (El Paso, Tx / Del Valle HS) had 16 kills and blocked five shot as SAGU outhit Malone .273 to .223. Cisneros hit .389, her sixth best percentage of the 39 matches the Lions have played. The 16 kills her second best.
To be fair, the Pioneers were playing without their top hitter, Hannah Haver. She suffered a season-ending knee injury a couple of weeks ago. Still, they had four players in double-digits in kills, led by Lauren Townley’s 20. While Malone had a 67-61 edge in kills, they also made 10 more hitting errors (26 to 16) and an additional six serving miscues (15 to 9).
SAGU had a solid match by Kassy Cox (Lufkin, Tx / Lufkin HS), who totaled 10 kills, many of them strategic soft tips at the net the Pioneers couldn’t handle. Amanda Laney (New Braunfels, Tx / New Braunfels Christian) added seven spikes for points. Three of them were clutch hits into the teeth of the Malone defense.
Taylor Calverley (Mansfield, Tx / Grace Prep) contributed 52 assists, while Laura Espinoza (Duncanville, Tx / Duncanville HS) had a strong game with 23 digs and a pair of service aces.
Tina Brown (New Braunfels, Tx / Lifegate Christian) and Caitlyn Hudson (Mansfield, Tx / Legacy HS) made 14 and 12 digs respectively.
Recap of loss to Colorado Christian
The match against Colorado Christian, a team SAGU defeated 3-1 two weeks ago at regionals, saw the Cougars play lights out at the net. The NCAA D2 Coogs took all three games, 25-16, 25-15 and 25-18.
During the second set, the Cougars uncorked 16 kills, made only one mistake and hit .556.
CCU hit .410, with only eight errors in three games. They added 10 aces as well. Andi Weber, a six-foot junior, had 14 kills and hit .462.
SAGU’s lone bright spot at the attack was the senior, Cisneros. The only player to hit over .200, she swung for 8 kills against a lone misfire. Renowned for her quick hits on the frontline, she had just 14 attempts, fourth-most on the team.
Combining with their offensive output, the Coogs defense was stellar. They limited SAGU to .115 hitting by making eight blocks as well as a 42-30 advantage in digs.
Sodich backed the performance of Cisneros with eight kills, while Hudson and Cox each had four. Calverley netted 20 assists and three of the team’s four aces. Espinoza led in digs with 10.
A tough blow for the Lady Lions occurred during the first game. Laney, one of the tri-captains, experienced a knee injury that will keep her out of the remainder of the tourney.
“After Amanda's injury, we could not get back on track,” explained head coach Hansford Moore. “It is hard to lose any player, but it is even harder to lose a captain and leader.”
Laney is one of five players in purple and gold to rack up over 200 kills this season.
“We will play hard tomorrow,” he assured. “We’ll get after it. Cal Baptist is a very good team, as is Grace College. But, so is SAGU!”
This is the fifth appearance in seven years for the Lady Lions at the NCCAA Nationals. The venue is being held at the Kissimmee Civic Center, just 18 miles southwest of Orlando.
About Central Regional champion, DBU
Fellow Central Region member, Dallas Baptist University, went 0-2 (in Pool B) on Thursday. The Patriots were nipped by the #3 seed, Trinity Christian College (35-9 record), 3-2; 21-25, 25-23, 25-14, 23-25, and 15-13. In the nightcap, they were routed by #2 Palm Beach Atlantic University (29-3 record), 3-0; 25-14, 25-16 and 25-15.
For more details on all matches and video schedule, visit the NCCAA website.
*GPSN – Game Plan Sports Network.