VBall jousted by pair of Lancers
Cisneros, Sodich shine in Orlando
Lions take a game from top-seeded Cal-Baptist
KISSIMMEE, Florida -- After an early upset of fourth-seeded Malone University (Ohio), the women’s volleyball team from Southwestern Assemblies of God University finished pool play at the NCCAA Nationals with a pair of defeats on Friday.
Top-seeded California Baptist University rolled to a 3-1 triumph at 9am before nationally-ranked Grace College (Ind) ended the Lady Lions season in straight sets during the afternoon.
SAGU concluded the 2011 post-season play with a 5-6 mark, capping their overall ledger at 23-18. They have now put together winning records in six of the past seven seasons. The Lions have also racked up winning campaigns in 9-of-11 years under head coach Hansford “Hank” Moore.
The Lady Lions were 1-1 in the Red River Athletic Conference tournament, 3-2 in the NCCAA Central Regional in Kansas and 1-3 at Nationals near Orlando.
Cal-Baptist found the going against SAGU tougher than expected early. They claimed a 25-17 win the first set, and then toyed with their line-up while the Lions roared to a 20-12 lead. Southwestern held off the Lancers, who rallied to within 22-20, to post an impressive 25-21 triumph.
The Lancers regrouped and laid claim to 25-12 and 25-13 conquests to run their tournament mark to 3-0. Later they swept Malone, 3-0, advancing to the semi-finals with a 4-0 record in pool play, including 12-1 in individual games.
CBU has now won 16 of their past 18 matches. They finished in a tie for third in the Pac West but did not receive an invitation to the NCAA D2 tournament.
Grace took a competitive game one, 25-21, before capturing the match with back-to-back 25-16 victories.
“It has been a great season,” Coach Moore acknowledged after the last match. “They (Grace) are a great team.”
True, they are the only team in the field that was ranked (#41) by the NAIA at the end of the regular season. Coach Andria Harshman led the Lady Lancers from a 16-14 mark in her third season to 32-11 after taming the Lions.
The Lancers hit .326 (56 kills, 14 errors) for the match, but ran into a feisty Lady Lions squad in the second game. It would be CBU’s only loss at 25-21.
Several players played large, including Tina Brown (New Braunfels, Tx / Lifegate Christian), Jessica Sodich (Ovilla, Tx / Ovilla Christian), Krystal Cisneros (El Paso, Tx / Del Valle HS) and Caitlyn Hudson (Mansfield, Tx / Legacy HS), according to the broadcast announcers.
The Lancers, from Riverside, Cal., jumped to a 5-0 lead before a resilient SAGU squad raced to take a 7-6 lead behind the serving and playmaking of Brown, a senior. The Simba Sextet would not relinquish the lead. Sodich and Cisneros had kills for leads of 14-11 and 18-12.
Throughout the tourney the 5’11 Cisneros scored effectively with her quick hits, pounding the ball before it reached its apex. When she made contact, the angle and velocity of the Brine was often too hot to handle. The senior was the team's most consistent player at Nationals.
Perhaps her biggest hit was not with power, but rather, a change-up. Her easy dink found the floor for a 20-12 lead that prompted a time-out by coach Ryan McGuyre, who has a 273-96 mark in ten seasons at CBU.
The Lancers stormed back to within 20-17, but became rattled in crunch time. Five errors (three on serves, a lift and an attacking misfire) revealed a kink in their metal while SAGU's mettle displayed only resolve. SAGU extended a 22-20 margin to 24-20, and then won on a service miscue.
Southwestern could muster just a .103 attack (28 kills, 16 errors), but never lost their fight.
Cisneros piled up the best numbers, with 12 kills and a solo block. Kassy Cox (Lufkin, Tx / Lufkin HS) and Hudson both were credited with 6 kills. Sodich, who had an impressive tourney, was limited to three by a CBU defense that countered her power game with double-teams.
Taylor Calverley (Mansfield, Tx / Legacy HS) bagged 25 assists, while Laura Espinoza (Duncanville, Tx / Duncanville HS) and Brown racked up 13 and 11 digs respectively.
The Lions’ service game was hindered by eight errors, though Brown and Espinoza had solo aces.
From the backline, CBU was completely out-of-sync, with 20 errors against 11 aces. They were able to overcome it and win with fewer mistakes in their 129 attacks at the net than they made from the back row.
The Lady Lions final match of the season saw them take on a second Lancers team, this one from Winona Lake, Indiana, battling fearlessly. SAGU made less hitting errors (10 to Grace’s 13), but struggled in their passes and setting as a result of Grace’s serves (nine aces) and muscle on the frontline.
Needing to win to advance to the semi-finals, Grace outhit SAGU .366 (47 kills, 13 errors) to .202 (28, 10). They also held a 43-30 margin in digs.
The Lions’ best hitting came in the third game when the Purple Pride swung at a sizzling .391 clip (10 kills, 1 error). Grace negated the effort with their finest as well, at .469 (18, 3).
Cisneros again paced Team Purp with nine kills while hitting .421. Cox and Sodich had identical numbers; 20 swings, eight kills, three errors, hitting .250. Taylor finished with 26 assists. Espinoza piled up 12 scoops.
Super Season Summary
The Lady Lions, even with a less than desired 1-3 showing in Central Florida, produced another successful season at 23-18.
SAGU scored a handful of notable triumphs, including wins over Friends University (26-11 record), John Brown University, rallying from an 0-2 deficit to beat Texas Wesleyan in the RRAC tourney, beating #1 seed Colorado Christian University, 3-1, at regionals, and opening play at nationals with a 3-0 sweep of #4 Malone.
Once again, SAGU qualified for the RRAC tourney, something they have done in all eight seasons since joining the league. Coach Moore’s squad had the third best record in the Red River Athletic Conference, including the second most wins of any team.
The only team with more, UT-Brownsville (30-2), has made it to the semi-finals in the NAIA national tournament in Sioux City, Iowa. They are the #2 seed and will meet #3 Lee University (Tenn) (34-2) on Saturday, December 3.
#1 Concordia University (Cal) (36-1) faces #4 Columbia College (Mo) (39-3) in the other semi.
The matches are available on-line via the NAIA website.
SAGU’s top performers during the two-day tourney included the following Top Four;
Kills: Cisneros 45 (3.0 per gm), Sodich 41 (2.7 pg), Cox 28, Hudson 16.
Digs: Espinoza 58 (3.9 per gm), Sodich 40, Brown 35, Hudson 26.
Aces: Espinoza 5, Calverley 5, Brown 2, Sodich 2.
Assists: Calverley 123 (8.2 pg).
SAGU played 15 games during the four matches, going 4-11.
NCCAA Final Four
#2 seed Palm Beach Atlantic University (30-4) advanced to face #1 Cal-Baptist (24-10) in the semi-finals at 9:00am (CST) on Saturday.
The Sailfish were 3-0 before losing a 5-set thriller to #3 Trinity Christian College (37-9). TCC won 20-25, 25-20, 31-29, 15-25 and 15-12. It was the third 5-set win for the Trolls, who are from the Chicago suburb of Palos Heights. Their record in individual games was 12-6.
#5 Grace (33-11) will meet #3 Trinity, who won Pool B, in an 11am (CST) semi-final. Grace was swept by Cal-Baptist, 3-0; 25-17, 26-24 and 25-16.
The #4 seed, Malone University (29-15), went 0-4 at nationals. They had to play without their top hitter, Hannah Haver, who missed the post-season with a serious knee injury.
The championship will begin at 2:00pm (CST) on Saturday from the Kissimmee Civic Center. The action is accessible for fans to view by logging on to the NCCAA website.
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