Up 2-0, Lady Lions Come Up Short to SNU
Volleyball Team Falls in Five
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- A packed house and a team filled with desire were not enough on Tuesday night in the Sheaffer Full Life Center.
Southwestern Assemblies of God University's volleyball team built a 2-0 lead with determined play before succumbing to the senior-led efforts of Oklahoma's Southern Nazarene University. The visiting Crimson Storm, now 3-1 this season, battled back to win the match, three games to two.
For the Lady Lions, the loss was disheartening. But the squad is young, and they played without All-American senior Brittani Toole (Whitehouse, Tx / Whitehouse HS). Still, a team that has been a proven winner for nearly a decade, coming so close and falling left them wanting. Their spirited effort, however, left their coach full of confidence.
"We played some great defense tonight. When you look up and see (that) we were playing five freshmen in the rotation, you have to be proud of the way your kids fought," Hank Moore said after meeting with his Lady Lions in the lockerroom. "We are really moving in a great direction. Right now, our record (1-3) means nothing to me. Progress is not always measured in wins and losses. I really like this team."
Southwestern won the first two games, 25-19 and 25-23. The final three sets saw Southern Naz play like their name, storm'ing down the stretch in each game to pull out an exciting comeback. They led in game three, 17-16, before rallying to win, 25-19. Ditto for games four and five. Tied at 20, they held off the hosts to claim a 25-21 triumph. In the winner-take-all fifth set, the Crimson Storm overcame a quick 4-1 deficit and another at 9-8, before gutting out a 15-10 victory.
"This was worth the trip," shouted one SNU player as the Storm celebrated the hard-fought win.
Southern Naz head coach Kevin Ingram was understandably proud of his squad. "We were playing with a new Setter (Sarah Groesbeck) tonight. So it took us a while to develop some chemistry with her. But we got it going in the end," he said.
Ingram, like his counterpart in SAGU's Moore, has won 190 times in the past nine seasons. He spoke highly of Moore's team on this night. "To come back from a 2-0 hole is rare, especially on the road, and in front of a great crowd like this," he explained. "Hank's team will dive and dig balls, and they always play great defense. They hustle and play hard. He does things the right way."
The Lady Lions parlayed 35 assists by freshman Setter Taylor Calverley (Mansfield, Tx / Grace Prep), whose all-around floor game was on display before an appreciative audience tonight. Overall, however, the frontline attack hit for a much lower than normal .098 percentage. A number of blocks by SNU appeared to take their toll on the Lions' young hitters as the match wore on. Combined with a shortage of their own blocks forced the defense to make digs to save volleys.
"We've got a lot of seniors," Coach Ingram said. "They stepped up and played like it when we needed them most."
SAGU was led in kills by 5'7 junior Tina Brown (Seguin, Tx / Lifegate Christian) and 6-foot freshman Kassy Cox (Lufkin, Tx / Lufkin HS), who each pounded 10. Junior Krystal Cisneros (El Paso, Tx / Del Valle HS) and sophomore Caitlyn Hudson (Mansfield, Tx / Legacy HS) made some blistering spikes at critical times, totaled nine and seven kills respectively. Senior Jordan Briggs (Maypearl, Tx / Maypearl HS) keyed the defense with enough digs to strike oil.
Southern Naz, 23-13 a year ago when they split two meetings with Southwestern, received outstanding play by a pair of attacking seniors. Morgan Loewen, at 5'11, and Taryn Steele, racked up 21 and 18 kills to lead the Crimson Tide.
Game One: Calverley served four straight points, including an ace for a 13-12 lead. She then set up two monster kills by Stephanie Pena (San Antonio, Tx / Clark HS) and Hudson, who smacked one deep down the left sideline for a 17-12 advantage. Hudson later added a service ace to go up 20-16, before Brown hit a well-placed shot in the far left corner for a 22-17 lead. Cisneros pounded the game winner on a Calverley assist. SAGU 25-19.
Game Two: Pena and Cox each delivered hammering spikes on Calverley sets and Laura Espinoza's (Duncanville, Tx / Duncanville HS) serving, including an ace, lifted SAGU to a 7-5 lead. Brown sent a spinning volley that straddled the top of the netting, balancing along the barrier like Blondin the tightrope walker, before finally dropping for a point after a 10-foot-long, high wire act. Hudson added an ace and a kill before setting Brown, who tipped a teardrop over the Storm front wall to put the 'Cats in front, 16-15. After Calverley helpers were finished off by Cox and Cisneros, Brittany Briggs (Maypearl, Tx / Maypearl HS) uncorked an ace for a 20-16 margin. Tied at 21, Hudson triggered a missile down the line that surely had eyes, finding the corner for a lead SAGU never relinquished. SAGU 25-23.
Game Three: Brown's strategic tip gave the Purple Pride a 4-3 margin. Cisneros came out strong, teaming with Calverley for a block, and then back-to-back jacks to go up 9-7. Espinoza's serving drew the Lions to within 17-16 with four consecutive tallies. SNU 25-19.
Game Four: A fearless blast by Cox – through a double-teaming block, pushed the home team to a 5-3 lead. Hudson added a spike (SAGU 9-8) before Cox spanked three kills, all from Calverley. Hudson deposited an Espinoza set for a kill she drove right down the middle. Brown's crosscourt shot wiped out a 5-point hole to deadlock the score at 17. Calverley's helper to Hudson, which she powered through a two-man wall, knotted things at 20. Loewen (LO-win) staved off the Lions with three plays at the net to equalize the match at 2-2. SNU 25-21.
Game Five: Cox started a promising fifth on a kill, Hudson's long serve landed on the back line and Brown drove a ball through two defenders for a 4-1 lead. Cisneros offset the Storm's defense at the net with a counter against the shift to the far right corner, and Devan Guynes (Red Oak, Tx / Red Oak HS), who played despite a heavily wrapped quad, ripped an ace to tie the score at 7. A Cisneros rejection above the net and a Pena dink when SNU overpassed a set, had the Lady Lions looking good at 9-8. Southern Naz, however, rallied behind a Steele kill along the far sideline to come from behind to win. SNU 15-10.
Next Home Match: September 18
The Lady Lions next home match is on Saturday, September 18, at 5:00pm against Bacone College (6-22 in 2009). It is also Red River Athletic Conference game. The Warriors are currently 0-4.
Lions Play Three on Saturday
SAGU travels ninety miles to East Texas this Saturday for three matches in the Mother Francis Health Systems Tournament, hosted by the University of Texas at Tyler. They play 2, 4 and 6pm against Concordia University (8-19 last year), UT-Tyler 10-21 in 2009) and Texas College (3-21 last fall).
Check back later for photos from the SNU-SAGU match.