Volleyball Thriller: SAGU-Wiley Highlights
Lady Lions Win 'Cat Fight in 5-Games
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- It was an emotional dual from the opening serve to the final whistle. In the end the Lady Lions of Southwestern Assemblies of God University had clawed past their rivals from Wiley College in women's volleyball, winning the best-of-five series, three games to two.
Wiley has a squad of skilled players who are tall, athletic and vocal. Southwestern is a hard working, never-say-die crew who are known for their tenacity. They do not lack for loquaciousness. When these two teams meet, the Lady Lions and the Wildcats are certain to battle ferociously, contesting every volley, leaving everything on the hardwood. Wiley entered with a 4-game winning streak against SAGU, with two of the meetings going the full five games.
Just days before they met, Wiley's Sports Information Director, Habtom Keleta (pronounced Hahb-tahm Kuh LEE-tah), interviewed players from the team during his weekly radio broadcast, "Halftime with Habtom." They spoke of the recent history between the teams, the energy they both exhibit on the floor, and recalled memories of the two, 3-2 decisions they earned against SAGU. It's the talk of the town when these two titans clash.
"We had a huge discussion about it on my radio show today," he said on Thursday. "I had the captain and co-captain as guests on my show. It was a thrill to hear about the rich history between our schools! It is always a battle. In 2009 I believe you guys were up 2-0 on us at Wiley, and once again we rallied back to win 3-2. Similar to the conference finals the year before. So there is plenty of rich history as of the last few years between us."
Friday's match was no exception. Every time it appeared one team had gained the upper hand, the pendulum would suddenly swing wildly in the opposite direction. It was a high stakes chess match played with human pawns.
Here's a recap of the five sets in the match:
Wiley dominated this from the outset. They built a 12-8 lead and extended it the rest of the way. Yuly Chalar, from Cali, Colombia, tipped a teardrop shot over the front line of defenders to go up14-10. Michelle Jenkins delivered a kill off a set from Eileen Burbano and it was 17-11. SAGU's only real bright spot in the first set was a demonstrative block by Kassy Cox (Lufkin, Tx / Lufkin HS), which drew her purple-cladded team to within 17-12. Jenkins added another kill and Darly Castillo, one of four teammates from Colombia, pounded a shot and WC was on the verge of taking the first game at 24-17. They won by scoring the next point, 25-17. It didn't seem that close.
Wiley came out strong again, jumping out front 4-0. Caitlyn Hudson (Mansfield, Tx / Legacy HS) gave a prelude of what was to come when she smashed one through Burbano, then served up an ace. Moments later, however, Wiley was still looking unstoppable at 8-3.
SAGU head coach Hank Moore called a timeout and made a switch in his front line, swapping Brittani Toole (Whitehouse, Tx / Whitehouse HS) with Cox, and it paid off. Cox hammered a Taylor Calverley (Mansfield, Tx / Grace Prep) assist, then Toole crushed one, crosscourt to the right side. When Toole impeded a Wiley shot, returning it to sender, things were tied at 8. It would be tied eight more times. Cox added a pair of bombs, but the Lions were trying to tread water against the ferocious hits of Jessica Lopez, Abigael Misoy and their 6'0 freshman Ingrid Diaz. Wiley led 12-9 and maintained that margin when Burbano, their setter, made a great play.
A split second before setting the ball to Lopez, she fooled everyone with a last-second wrister, misdirecting the ball into an opening in the Lions defense for a 14-11 edge. Out of nowhere came the energy of Hudson, who slammed a Calverley offering down the line, then a minute later, deposited another perfect set with a pounded cross for a 15-all score. Lopez, a 6-foot senior who is a member of the Puerto Rico national team, spanked one for a 17-16 lead, Toole walloped a kill, then teamed up with Tina Brown (Seguin, Tx / Lifegate Christian) to block a Misoy shot. Toole made a third consecutive play with a deep dart and the Lady Lions had wind in their sails at 19-17. Misoy rebounded with a kill as the teams exchanged points until it was 21-all.
Hudson connected on an angling shot, and Krystal Cisneros (El Paso, Tx / Del Valle HS) would have completed a well executed play with a counter tip to the outside. But it fell just beyond the sideline. Tied at 22. However, she more than made up for it. On the very next play, chomping at the bit, she zoomed to the net where Calverley had lifted a perfectly hung bell and Cisneros rang it with an almost straight down blast, igniting the team.
Knotted at 24, SAGU went for the jugular. During a critical volley, Devan Guynes (Red Oak, Tx / Red Oak HS) passed to Calverley, who set up Toole, who ripped a shot between defenders and it was game point. Hudson served and Wiley made an overpass that Cox jumped high to knock down. SAGU wins, 26-24.
For the third game in a row, the Wildcats vaulted out of the gate for a 5-0 lead. Toole put an end to the uprising with consecutive hits, the last two included a shot she flipped to her left and then another she tipped away from blockers. Cox sent a ball to the far right corner. A Cisneros block, one of eight she registered on the night, for a 9-7 lead.
Wiley regrouped on the strength of Burbano's floor game. Her assist to Castillo capped an 8-1 run and a five-point lead. After a kill by Jenkins gave WC an 18-17 lead, Southwestern bounced back strong. Cisneros exploded into a set, which deflected off a defender on the right side, keying six unanswered points. Another Cisneros kill and the serving of Laura Espinoza (Duncanville, Tx / Duncanville HS) finished off the Wildcats, 25-21.
Gaining momentum and confidence the Lady Lions continued a night that revealed a near flawless passing game. They graded at 97%, something that kept rallies alive. Their bumps to Calverley were placed high like pinatas waiting to be hit. And the Purple Pride had their "swing on!" Hudson punched one through a double team, Cox fired another down the sideline and it was 7-2. After Chalar sparked four straight by Wiley, Cisneros countered with a kill and united with Brown to stuff Chalar by the pole. An Espinoza ace lifted SAGU to a 10-6 lead.
Wiley was looking a bit rattled and were on their heels. Cisneros blocked a shot, Hudson pulled the trigger on a line drive to the left corner, Espinoza's jump serve garnered another ace before a Brown and Cisneros blockade refused entry of another ball for the Pride's largest lead of the night at 15-6.
Just when it looked as though Wiley might concede, they recoiled and fought back. An ace by Burbano and Charlar's block on a Cisneros tip had the visitors within six. Following a pair of Hudson hammers gave SAGU sight of the finish line at 20-13, the crowd was on their feet. Plays at the net by Toole and Cox coupled with back-to-back service errors by Wiley put Southwestern in the catbird seat at 24-19.
Like cats with nine lives, this Wiley squad wouldn't go down. Two powerful blasts from Castillo gave them hope and pressured SAGU into errors, including balls hit long and out of bounds during a spirited 6-0 string of points. Now Wiley was in front at 25-24. Hudson, the adrenaline fused sophomore, bashed a shot to even the score at 25. Lopez, who was silenced at times with blocks, came through with a sonic buster of a Burbano assist.
SAGU needed a point to save the game, and appeared to have it. Calverley's soft set to Cisneros was clubbed with such ferocity that everyone lept to their feet. Except Cisneros. As she landed, her right foot came down on the left foot of a Wiley player who had stepped over the line. Her ankle buckled and her weight shifted to right, sending Cisneros into the net, nullifying the point. It was awarded to Wiley instead, giving them a wild, 27-25, come from behind thriller. The officials declared the play under the net as accidental and didn't see a foot violation. Others disagreed, but the score stood, forcing a fifth game.
In a game played to fifteen, there would be five ties and four lead changes, and a truckload of drama. Wiley took a 3-1 advantage on a kill and a block by Lopez. Following a highly-charged Toole shot, Lopez responded with consecutive tallies made off Burbano sets. Wiley 5-2. Toole and Cox circumvented with two big hits apiece for an 8-6 Lady Lions edge.
With pressure mounting and anxiety building to a crescendo, the Wildcats retaliated. Team Lioness commited three hitting errors that catapulted Wiley into the lead at 10-8.
Coach Moore put Guynes back into the game, as her serves had proven effective earlier. A Cisneros kill and two hitting errors by the Violet Cats saw the lead swap sides again. SAGU led 13-10. The match was framing a climactic finish.
Perhaps the night's biggest play saw Wiley set up Lopez for a rocket on the left side. She was denied by Cisneros, whose dauntless positioning enabled her to get a hand on the ball and knock it down to bring about match point.
What ensued was a long, nerve wracking volley that ended badly. For both teams. SAGU's tenderhearted freshman, Guynes, who was overcoming from a nagging injury to left quad, made a move during a dig attempt and felt her right hamstring resist sharply, sending her to the floor. The anguish could be heard throughout Sheaffer Full Life Center. Trainers rushed to her side while the game was halted. Five minutes later she was lifted off the court.
Meanwhile, Wiley's own, Yuly Chalar (Yule-EE Chuh-lar) suddenly doubled over and went down. The sophomore's quad seized up and she, too, had to assisted off the floor. These teams had gone all-out, and an appreciative crowd let them know it.
Trailing 14-11, Misoy (Muh-soy), a native of Kenya, sent a serve across the net. Southwestern set up Brown, and her line drive attack down the middle found a crease in the Wildcat defense, and the ricocheted off two players and landed harmlessly on the back line for the final point of the match. SAGU won, 15-11.
Praise from Wiley Coach, Nancy Sikobe
Nancy Sikobe (Suh-KO-BEE), the head coach at Wiley, was pleased with her team's effort, and full of compliments for Southwestern.
"The difference tonight?," she said as she repeated the questioner's query. "SAGU was a very good team. They have improved and they are athletic, and, as always, they played their hearts out."
"They attacked us strongly and took the lead. We found ourselves playing catch up. And you can't do that against a team like SAGU. They were strong. And today they were the stronger team. After we came out and played so well early, they (Lady Lions) settled down and began to play," she added.
Sikobe, along with Assistant Coach Emmanuel Isanda (Uh-SAHN-duh), are from Kenya. She made sure to praise the Lady Lions' quickness on defense and said, "Their middle was very good. They made good blocks, more than usual, especially number 12 (Cisneros)."
These teams a quite familiar with one another, though Wiley is the one who had SAGU's number of late. They won all three meetings in 2009, and edged the Lady Lions in the Red River tournament finals two years ago. They will meet again in Marshall in a few weeks, and could square off in Fort Worth in November, when the stakes will be high. Just the way they like it.
Speaking of Numbers
Teams keep their own statistics, and they can vary. SAGU's hitting percentage in the victory was .130. They had 177 attacks (balls intended to cross the net), which were converted into 60 kills. Subtract 37 errors and you get the percentage, which is a figure arrived at much like a baseball team's batting average. Wiley hit .257 with 57 kills in 136 attempts making only 16 errors according to figures sent in to the NAIA.
The 60 kills by Southwestern tied for their second most this year. They totaled 67 in a win over St. Thomas and bashed 60 when they beat the University of Dallas two weeks ago. U-D brought a 13-1 record into that match.
Lady Lions Leader Board
Kills - Toole 18, Cox 15, Hudson 13, Cisneros 11. Total Attacks - Hudson 51, a season high. Toole 48. Assists - Calverley 52. Digs - Hudson 20, JBriggs 20, Espinoza 16, Calverley 14. Blocks - Cisneros 8, Brown 4, Toole 2, Cox 2, Hudson 1. Service Aces - Espinoza 3, Hudson 2, Toole 1, Calverley 1, Briggs 1. Passes - Briggs 27 of 30, Espinoza 24 of 27, Brown 20 of 20, Guynes 13 of 13. Serving Points - Calverley 12, Espinoza 11, Hudson 7, Guynes 6, Toole 6.
Complete Stats On-Line
For a complete listing of all player and team statistics, visit the Red River Athletic Conference website. Click on Volleyball, then on SAGU in the standings. The next page will show the team's schedule and roster. Above are several links, including one for Statistics. Click, then select the categories of choice.