Lady Lions Slip in Volleyball Opener
Loyola breaks 1-1 tie, takes match, 3-1
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Shining through the dark clouds of a season-opening defeat were the streaks of sunshine and the silver linings of better days to come. The women's volleyball team from Southwestern Assemblies of God University came up on the short end of a 4-set loss to Loyola University at the Fourth Annual Becky Hughes Classic.
Loyola's Gina Gill keyed the Wolfpack to their 3-1 triumph with a double-double, making 19 kills and 15 digs. They won the first game, 25-20, before the Lady Lions tied the best-of-five series at a game apiece with a solid 25-19 score in the second set. Loyola, who is from New Orleans, Louisiana, pulled away with 25-18 and 25-15 wins.
Neither team attacked for high hitting percentages, with SAGU finishing at .120. In the four games they had 158 attacks – volleys played from balls hit to SAGU from Loyola, converting them into 48 kills. They had 29 errors, which prompted the low overall team percentage. The Wolfpack hit far less, with an .075 total.
The young Lady Lions, who played all ten healthy players, struggled in two areas, both of which figure to improve. The squad made just one solo block and four assisted blocks at the net, but their Achilles heel on Friday was in receiving serves. They made more errors there, 36, than they did in all of their attacks and sets.
Assistant Coach Jacob Rodriguez pointed to some unforced mistakes as an example of things the squad will straighten out. "We're young and we're mixing a lot of new players together. Getting experience playing as a unit takes time, but this group will get there."
"Our ladies played hard and their effort was there," Head Coach Hansford Moore chimed in after the team returned home. "We did many things well and I am encouraged. We're building something good here, and I am very confident in this group."
He went on to point out some bright spots.
Highlighting Calverley, Toole and Espinoza
Freshman Taylor Calverley (Mansfield, Tx / Grace Prep), in her first collegiate match at Setter, did very well, racking up 37 assists, an average of 9.2 per game. All-American Brittani Toole (Whitehouse, Tx / Whitehouse HS) picked up where she left off a year ago when she led the Red River Athletic Conference in kills per game (4.0). Against Loyola, who went 20-15 last season, the senior totaled 21 (5.2). He also cited junior Laura Espinoza (Duncanville, Tx / Duncanville HS). She made a career high 25 digs and was perhaps the best at cooling off some blistering serves from the Tigers.
"She had a very good summer," Moore said of Espinoza. "She worked hard and honed her skills. She earned more court time."
Calverley and Toole reached double figures in two categories (a "double double"). The former added 17 digs to go along with her assists. She also smashed six kills, one on a fake set she turned into a left-handed spike at the net. Toole bagged 13 digs and was one of five Lady Lions with two assists.
Those three players were not alone. Solid performances were turned in by others.
Senior Jordan Briggs (Maypearl, Tx / Maypearl HS) combined to make 22 digs as the Libero (lib-AIR-O). Tina Brown (Seguin, Tx / Lifegate Christian) and Caitlyn Hudson (Mansfield, Tx / Legacy HS) had 11 digs, while freshman Brittany Briggs (Maypearl, Tx / Maypearl HS) added eight. Brown also powered six kills, tying Calverley for third on the team.
For Hudson, who broke a bone in her foot last month, the return to the lineup was quicker than expected. She entered the match late in the first set, and it didn't take her long to warm up. Her 8 kills were second to Toole, and she will only get better.
Krystal Cisneros (El Paso, Tx / Del Valle HS), junior Middle Blocker, had four kills, while a pair of freshmen, Kassy Cox (Lufkin, Tx / Lufkin HS) and Stephanie Pena (San Antonio, Tx / Tom C. Clark HS), had their first-ever kills on the college level. Pena added SAGU's lone solo block.
Saturday's Matches in Cowtown
Southwestern returns to action on Saturday at the Hughes Classic. They take on Mid-America Christian University (Oklahoma City, Ok) at 1:00pm, followed by a meeting with Brenau University (Gainesville, Ga). The MACU Evangels were 10-25 last year, while Brenau (BREE-now) posted a 24-11 mark. The Golden Tigers, however, graduated three of their best players and are breaking in new replacements during the early stages of the season, much like SAGU.
The tournament is hosted by Texas Wesleyan University, fellow members of the RRAC. It is named after Becky Hughes, their Head Coach from 1980-1991. She holds their mark for career wins with a very impressive twelve-year total of 369.
Home Sweet Home: August 31
Southwestern will begin their 10-match home season this Tuesday, August 31, when they welcome a familiar foe in the Crimson Storm of Southern Nazarene University (Bethany, Ok). A large crowd is expected to cheer for the fan favorites of SAGU. Game time is set for 7:00pm. SNU went 23-13 in 2009. They split two matches with Team Lioness.
Game Day programs will be available for a nominal price. Also, be expecting the new Media Guide for the volleyball team, also on sale.
Pep Rally, August 30
Fans may want to attend Monday night's Pep Rally in the Sheaffer Full Life Center, which will begin about 6:30pm. It is part of New Student Orientation. All members of the volleyball team and every SAGU intercollegiate sports team will be introduced.
Hungry for Numbers?
For more on Southwestern volleyball, visit RedRiverConference.com and click on volleyball. Or, check out the NAIA website at naia.cstv.com. By clicking on volleyball, you can go to the RRAC site, or see how SAGU ranks as a team or how individual players stack up nationally. These sites are updated daily, usually within hours of completed contests.