Lady Lions edged by Wiley, 3-2
SAGU builds 2-0 lead; falls in fifth, 15-13
Calverley, Smith, Sodich, Hudson, Cox shine brightly
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- The Southwestern Assemblies of God University volleyball team built a 2-0 lead with impressive play against Wiley College on Friday night. The visiting Wildcats, the league’s #2 team, would not fold. They rallied for a 3-2 triumph by taking the final three games, including the fifth by a 15-13 count.
The two squads donned similarly jerseys, both highlighted with purple and white decor. In the end, they had a lot more in common than threads and color.
SAGU staked their claim to the first two games, with scores of 27-25 and 25-17. Wiley regrouped and roared back during 25-14 and 25-15 victories to level the best-of-five match to set-up the decisive final game, which is played to 15.
The Lady Lions built a quick lead and still had it at 6-5. Wiley, as they revealed all night, had plenty left in their tank.
They came from behind with a 6-1 surge for an 11-7 advantage. SAGU resisted, slicing a five point deficit to 14-13, before succumbing on a well-executed spike.
The setback dropped SAGU's overall record to 15-14 and their Red River Athletic Conference ledger to 5-4. Wiley, who has taken seven of the past eight meetings with the Lady Lions, improved to 21-7 and 9-1 in the RRAC.
The top six teams in the league qualify for the single-elimination conference tournament next week, November 9-10, in Ft. Worth. SAGU must win one of their two final matches on Saturday to receive a tourney bid.
Coach gets 'more' from frontline
Head Coach Hank Moore had his team clicking on all cylinders. With junior setter Taylor Calverley (Mansfield, Tx / Grace Prep) at the controls, the team had Wiley on their heels from the start.
Her battery of arms was firing early and often, with the Wildcats forced to defend and react.
Senior Caitlyn Hudson (Mansfield, Tx / Legacy HS) and junior Jessica Sodich (Arlington, Tx / Ovilla Christian) were unleashing projectiles from the outside. They had 11 kills apiece through the first two games.
Sodich and Hudson have been 1-2 in kills and in matches in which they reached double-figures in kills all season.
The slide move, where Kassy Cox (Lufkin, Tx / Lufkin HS), spins behind Calverley, moving from the middle to the right side for a tailor-made assist, was paying huge dividends.
Over the past month Cox has risen to take a solid team lead in hitting percentage.
The "Big Three" hitters were full of munitions and the Wildcats struggled to keep up with them.
In the second game the Lions extended a solid lead to 10, 20-10, and only a late flurry by the guests made the score somewhat respectable.
Momentum switches purple jerseys
Then, during a longer intermission before the third set, Wiley’s Head Coach Nancy Sikobe, a native of Kakamega (KAH-kah-MAY-gah), Kenya, made two strategic moves to counter the Lions dominance.
Like her hometown, who experienced a gold rush in the 1930’s, she switched from a 5-1 attack, with one setter, to a 4-2.
It enabled her squad to set-up both of their outside hitters. Sikobe (sah-KO-bee) then moved the5-foot-11, athletic Magda Santos, one of seven international players, to the right to double-team the slide move.
The one-two punch proved effective as strainer nets for gold nuggets, both on offense as well as defense.
The Wildcats entered the match with a team hitting percentage of .270. The total ranks #10 in the NAIA. SAGU's average was .204.
When the dust had settled, Wiley hit .278 to the Lions .162, even though the teams had identical totals for kills.
Wiley stormed back to even the match, getting off to large, early leads and rolling to a pair of double-digit wins. They forced SAGU to adjust many of their their attacks from power to finesse.
Dynamic Duo on defensive back line
Meanwhile, the Lady Lions were trying to shield the lead. Two of their players came up with great performances on defense.
Sodich, who leads the team in both kills and digs, was doing it all. She registered a season-best 23 digs, to go along with the same number of kills; tying her second-best effort of the fall.
Not to be outdone was freshman libero Emmalee Smith (Red Oak, Tx / Red Oak HS). She covered the court like an attorney.
Smith’s play was passionate, as though she could single-handedly thwart the Wildcats attack. She racked up a season-high 29 digs and placed an order for asbestos gloves.
Her previous high was 24 against Peru State (Neb). The defensive whiz has reached double-figures in 19 matches and 11 of the last 12.
After holding Wiley to .143 hitting in the second game, they heated up quickly, firing away for .333 and .471 in games three and four. SAGU cooled off just as dramatically, going from .302 to .089 and .068 in the fourth.
Coach Moore’s troops, however, recovered.
The decisive fifth saw them build a 6-4 lead behind a pair of Hudson hammers. Wiley, though, had too much momentum. They returned to their pair of senior powers in Ingrid Mosquera and Santos.
Mosquera leads Wiley with a .286, while Santos swings a .278 arm, which is akin to a baseball player's batting average. They rank #3 and #5 in the RRAC. Nationally, however, Mosquera comes in at #86.
Mosquero, who is second only to Sodich in kills per game, launched three to give Wiley an 11-7 lead. SAGU rallied to within 14-13 behind the serving of Smith, before Mosquero rang the 'death knell' with a match point, crosscourt bullet.
She hit .328 on 23 kills. The senior made only four errors. Santos had 15 and 5, while Susan Tsisiche (pronounced SEE-SEE-chee) delivered 11 kills against a lone error.
Their precision and control, in the end, was the difference. The Wildcats and Lions each hit 65 kills in the five games, but Wiley made just 16 errors compared to SAGU’s 31.
Part of that credit goes to their defensive wall. SAGU managed four assisted blocks while Wiley rose up for 20 combo blocks.
Sodich equaled Mosquero’s 23 kills, with Cox pounding 17. The barrier at the net forced them into 12 and 10 errors. Hudson fared better, rocking 18 kills against five for a team-best .232 hitting percentage.
Calverley set more tables than a maître d. She registered 55 assists, her second-best ever. She also had two of the team’s four combo blocks.
Wiley’s two-setter move was reflected in the numbers produced by a pair of freshmen; Jessica Izquierdo and Johanna Ewald (EE-vahld). From Colombia and Germany respectively, they totaled 37 and 23 helpers apiece.
It was a classic college volleyball duel that was decided by just two points.
Season winding down; Lady Lions winding up!
The Lady Lions could get another shot at Wiley in the semi-finals of the RRAC next week.
The team has two more matches to play at home on Saturday (Nov. 3) against Texas College (11:00am) and Jarvis Christian College (4:00pm)