Volleyball Team Hammering Dynamite Tonight
SAGU Faces Big Challenge at 7:00pm
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- The late James G. Huneker, a colorful American writer, once spoke of something that was "as dangerous as hammering dynamite."
That surely is the way head coach Hansford "Hank" Moore and his womens volleyball team at Southwestern Assemblies of God University must feel about Tuesday night's clash with the University of Dallas. "They are very good," coach Moore said of the U-of-Dallas Crusaders. "And they are very hungry."
Last fall seems like a distant memory to the Lady Lions. They rolled past U-D twice in 2009, team sweeping six games by an average score of 25-15. The Crusaders were taller and larger than Southwestern, but Southwestern's experience and execution were the difference.
While SAGU went 28-12, the Crusaders (20-19) finished strong, qualifying for the NCAA Division III national tournament. Rachel Hanson, now in her fifth season as their head coach, returns much of the team's talented core. They have played with great confidence in stacking up a 13-1 won-lost record, which ranks them in the Top Ten in the D3 poll. "They are a dangerous team to play right now." Like hammering a stick of dynamite.
Six times they have gone to a deciding fifth set to determine a winner, and they have yet to lose. "They are a very improved team," coach Moore said during Monday's practice in the Sheaffer Full Life Center, site of the 7:00pm match. SAGU's vocal fan base, the "Cru," are being counted on for a solid showing. Those planning to attend should arrive early.
Dallas' defense is especially tough to beat. The 'Saders have five players averaging 2+ digs per set, and possess four who make a living blocking at the net. Those categories reflect a team's desire to compete and to win.
What Makes the 'Saders so Super
The Crusaders are pace by 6'0' sophomore Theresa Wohldmann, an outside hitter. She averages 3.75 kills per game while hitting .242. The Missouri native makes 3.12 digs per game, has blocked 19 shots and served up a team-leading 30 aces. Meanwhile, Danielle Fuchs, a 6-foot-0 junior from St. Charles, Mo, is at least her equal. Fuchs makes 3.3 spikes per game and hits for a .272 percentage. She is second on the team in both blocks (25) and aces (22).
The U-of-D line-up has more impact players. A pair of 5'10 middle blockers are filling up stat pages as well. Liz Baska, a junior, and freshman Laura Yokell give them two more enforcers up front. Baska is tops in hitting with a .306 accuracy rate, including 2.42 kills per game. She has rejected 20 opposing attacks with blocks. Yokell leads the team with 35 blocks.
The Crusaders back line has a pair of standouts in libero Kelli Fuentes, their lone senior, and Amanda Kitten, a 5-foot-8 sophomore setter. They could be the key to what has triggered the turnaround on their Irving campus. Fuentes has been holding the defense together with 4.54 digs per game. That figure would rank her at #71 in the NAIA.
Kitten has gotten off to a sensational start, feeding teammates with 10.5 assists per game. That figure would rate her a #16 place in the NAIA stat list. She is hitting .235 and her service game is the most effective on the club with 17 aces against only five errors.
One of the few areas of lack is Dallas' depth. The unit suits up only nine players.
The Purple Pride's Counter-Attack
Riding a four-game winning streak, Southwestern hopes this contest is a great tune-up as they head into a critical road trip this weekend. The Lady Lions will be in San Antonio (227 miles from Waxahachie) on Friday (6pm) to face Our Lady of the Lake (6-1 overall, 4-1 in the RRAC). Travelling another 250 miles to the border, they will take on the University of Texas at Brownsville (14-0, 5-0) at 1pm on Saturday. The Scorpions were ranked #6 in the nation in last week's poll.
A year ago, UTB went 16-0 against the conference, winning all 48 sets. With two of their top players transferring to Tennessee's Lee University (ranked #3), including Arlene Ferreira, the RRAC Player of the Year, they have dropped a pair of games while building a 15-2 mark in conference games. Wiley College and Texas Wesleyan have taken a set from them in recent weeks.
SAGU boasts four players with about 100 kills, led by 5-foot-11, All-American Brittani Toole (Whitehouse, Tx / Whitehouse HS), who has 200. Her 3.7 kills per game leads the Red River Athletic Conference and is #33 nationally. Junior Krystal Cisneros (El Paso, Tx / Del Valle HS) has 131 kills, sophomore Caitlyn Hudson (Mansfield, Tx / Legacy HS) 125 and Kassy Cox (Lufkin, Tx / Lufkin HS), a freshman, another 97.
An added plus for Southwestern is the health factor. For the first time all season, those frontliners are near 100%, though Cox is still mending a bum shoulder. Toole is back, and both Cisneros and Hudson are pounding the ball like they mean it.
Freshman setter Taylor Calverley (Mansfield, Tx / Grace Prep), also recovering from being sidelined with an injury, is averaging 9.0 assists per game. She is second in the RRAC in sets, and has risen to #47 in the NAIA nation.
When it comes to the service game, SAGU has five who have accounted for double-figures in aces. Jordan Briggs (Maypearl, Tx / Maypearl HS) has blistered 23 unreturnables. Tina Brown (Seguin, Tx / Lifegate Christian) has 18, with Laura Espinoza (Duncanville, Tx / Duncanville HS) and Hudson with 17 each. Calverley has 15.
The real strength of any Hank Moore-coached team begins with it's blue-collar work ethic: defense. They get after it with hustle, refusing to give up on plays.
Typified with construction helmets, this squad can stymie most any attack with blocks at the net and more digs than the Kellogg cereal Honey Smack's mascot, Dig 'Em, the frog.
Five players average over two digs per game, led by the senior libero, Briggs. She tops the leader board with 3.8 per game, followed by Espinoza at 3.3, Hudson at 2.9, Calverley at 2.3, and Brown, who makes 2.2 per game.
Six players on Team Lioness have reached double-figures in blocked shots, topped by Cisneros, who has 54. Toole is second with 33; followed by Cox with 27, Hudson 20, Calverley 15 and Brown with 13.