Volleyball Preview: Eye on Lions
Early Starting Line-Up Projections
Tri-Captains Introduced: Hudson, Cox, Calverley
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- Showing much vigor in leading his twelfth edition of the Southwestern Assemblies of God University volleyball team, Head Coach Hank Moore is as eager as hunting dogs on a leash!
Tonight in Oklahoma City the Lady Lions commence the start of the 2012 season with a best-of-five match against Mid-America Christian University. The team will then compete in a two-day tournament against a six-team field that is chocked full of established volleyball programs.
With the winds of seven consecutive winning records in the regular season propelling them, SAGU, 23-18 in 2011, should again be a contender in the Red River Athletic Conference.
A top four finish and berth in the RRAC post-season tournament is in their sights.
Should the squad press Wiley College (19-8 last year) for a shot at the three-time defending league champions from the University of Texas at Brownsville (32-2), SAGU could qualify for an even bigger prize; a place in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics’ 32-team national playoff.
UTB (32-2), ranked #1 in the country to start the season, won the NAIA national crown last December.
The Lady Lions will follow the lead of tri-captains. Caitlyn Hudson (Mansfield, Tx / Legacy HS), the team’s lone senior, was introduced at the start of camp as one of the threesome. Kassy Cox (Lufkin, Tx / Lufkin HS) and Taylor Calverley (Mansfield, Tx / Grace Prep), both juniors, complete a strong leadership cast according to Coach Moore.
“Kassy is a sound leader,” he said this week. “She sets the tone in many areas. Caitlyn, our senior, is the example of what it means to work hard. She is an unselfish leader who will outwork everyone. She is going to have a great year.”
“Taylor is one of the smartest players on our team. She has worked very hard and is one of the best setters in the RRAC. I'm very proud of all three of these girls. They are all three exceptional young ladies."
"They will represent our university with Christ-like attitudes and high standards.”
Along with sophomore Jessica Sodich (Ovilla, Tx / Ovilla Christian), the robust foursome will anchor the Lady Lions’ hopes for another successful season. She led the team in kills as a freshman. SAGU have four players returning who racked up over 200 spikes-for-points (a kill) last fall.
Entering the MACU match tonight, the team’s primary rotation will consist of four returning starters and four or five who appear ready for action!
Moore listed the line-up as Cox and freshman Caitlin Paschall (Waxahachie, Tx / Midlothian HS) as middle hitters. The duo stands 6’1 and 5’11, respectfully.
The outside hitters are Sodich (SO-ditch) and Hudson, with sophomore Jessie Giese (Tulsa, Ok / Union HS) getting the nod as right-side hitter.
Cox should be the top target of Calverley’s assists, while Sodich and Hudson will see their share of set balls. The level of performance of the frontline, fueled by Calverley, is critical for SAGU to compete at a higher level.
According to Moore, the dean of RRAC coaches, the group is capable of that kind of effort.
Fans watch the combat zone at the net, though the Lady Lions have been known as much for their defense and all-out hustle than anything else. Their digs, bumps, dives and passes prompt the approval of their loud campus fan base.
The starters at defensive specialist are sophomore Alissa Kirk (Pataskala, Oh / Gahanna Christian) and junior Brittany Briggs (Maypearl, Tx / Maypearl HS).
Kirk, Briggs and freshman Emmalee Smith (Red Oak, Tx / Red Oak HS) have battled tooth and nail for the libero (le-BAIR-oh) position, which wears a different jersey color to indicate their active entry status. The trio will all have ample playing time.
Briggs is the leader at libero, earning the edge over Smith. They are even in production so far, with experience the ally of Briggs.
Coach Moore describes the clash for the starting job as a “great battle.” It has also benefitted the team as the competition has raised the play of the troika.
Kirk will play the back row for outside hitters, while Smith takes the back-right position.
Entering the fray on the front is JJ Abbott (Kenmore, Wa / Cedar Park Christian), a skilled, 5'11 freshman who is battling for court time.
Amanda Laney (New Braunfels, Tx / New Braunfels Academy) was the right-side hitter last fall. The junior has been on the mend from knee surgery and is close to her former execution. She has proven very resilient.
Overall, the Purple Pride is working towards complete health, though a few players are nursing injuries.
Giese (GEES, as in flock) is at full strength after foot surgeries early in the year, and Cox is tending to shoulder aches. Beka Dollar (Brock, Tx / Brock HS) is out through much of September, and is a very dependable, defensive specialist and server.
Coach Moore describes the work from the backline as very strong. “Everyone who steps to the line is serving at a high level,” he admitted over last weekend. SAGU was third in the RRAC in service aces (210), an average of 1.4 per set.
Summary of the 2012 Lady Lions
Hailing from the Buckeye State, the coach said on Tuesday this is the best-ever shape the team has entered camp.
“We have had an excellent camp,” he pointed out. “The girls have worked very hard this summer. They came into camp in shape and ready to play.”
“We had every kid pass the (Lady Lions’) fitness test we have used for the past several years,” praised Moore. “This is the first time this has ever happened.”
SAGU will run a 5-1 attack, with the 5-foot-10 Calverley as the setter. Paschall, who is also a gifted setter, has fought her way into the line-up on the attack. Her athleticism is a clear asset.
When Smith is on the floor with them, SAGU would have three setters to aid in the passing game.
The biggest void to fill is replacing Krystal Cisneros (El Paso, Tx / Del Valle HS), the two-time All-Conference First Team Middle Blocker.
Coach Moore believes Cox, who was chosen Second Team All-RRAC last season, is up to the task.
“Kassy is a great middle,” he stated this week. “I believe she’ll play at a Brittani Toole (Whitehouse, Tx / Whitehouse HS) level as one of the best middles we have ever had.” Toole was a three-time All-RRAC performer and All-American.
SAGU's home debut is Tuesday night, September 18, against Jarvis Christian College.
The time is now! Optimism is high. The hunt for big game begins.
Lady Lions Returning Stat Leaders
2011 Overall Record: 23-18. 5-4 in RRAC (4th place). 7-3 at home. 10-10 at neutral sites.
Jessica Sodich 378 (2.6 per set)
Kassy Cox 307 (2.3)
Caitlyn Hudson 290 (2.0)
Amanda Laney 211 (1.6).
Taylor Calverley 222 attacks, 75 kills, .266. (1.55 attacks per set)
Kassy Cox 780 attacks, 307 kills, .238. (5.86 attacks per set)
Jessica Sodich 1,116 attacks, 378 kills, .190. (7.75 attacks per set)
Caitlyn Hudson 1,104, 290 kills, .140. (7.59 attacks per set)
Kassy Cox 133 sets, 96 blocks (17 solo).
Amanda Laney 134 sets, 68 blocks (8 solo).
Taylor Calverley 143 sets, 62 blocks (11 solo).
Caitlyn Hudson 144 sets, 47 blocks (9 solo).
Assists Per Set
Taylor Calverley 143 sets, 1,309 assists, 9.2 assists per set.
Digs Per Set
Caitlyn Hudson 144 sets, 393 digs, 2.7 per set.
Taylor Calverley 143 sets, 332 digs, 2.3 per set.
Alissa Kirk 97 sets, 152 digs, 1.6 per set.
Brittany Briggs 78 sets, 123 digs, 1.6 per set.
Total Aces Served
Taylor Calverley 37 aces, 35 errors.
Caitlyn Hudson 35 aces, 34 errors.
Jessica Sodich 22 aces, 43 errors
Beka Dollar 7 aces, 8 errors.
Volleyball matches are best of five sets/games.