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Team Captain Sophia Ivy in Action

Waxahachie, TX – The 2019 SAGU volleyball season will mark head coach Hank Moore’s 19th year as a head coach. Moore’s entire volleyball career has been spent at SAGU in the head coach position. This sport year finds Moore and the Lady Lions in the unique position of being chosen as the Sooner Athletic Conference (SAC) preseason favorite. In addition, the year begins with Moore chasing his 400th victory as a head coach. Currently he sits at 384 career wins. That calculates to winning over 21 matches a year.

The Lady Lions are coming off back-to-back seasons as SAC conference champions, a position they have shared with Oklahoma City University. Doing a three-peat for the conference championship may be one goal but breaking into the NAIA National Tournament is just as desirable of a task. The Lady Lions have had their NAIA season end in the same position each of the last two years, on a loss in the conference tournament semifinal. The 2019 team is looking to rectify that shortcoming and continue playing in the national tournament.

When asked to reflect on the upcoming season Coach Moore expressed, “The 2019 season has great promise for SAGU. If you look at our schedule we have a very difficult start to the season. We start off on the road for the first four weeks of the season. Last year we were told that our non-conference schedule was not tough enough to merit NAIA National Rankings. So we purposefully scheduled two tournaments where we will be seen by eight national raters.”

In response to the team expectations for the year Coach Moore stated, “Being picked as pre-season favorites is just that, preseason. It is our goal to be at the top of the poll in November. There is a lot of volleyball to be played between now and then. OCU, TWU, JBU and WBU will all be very good. And in order to three-peat we will have to play at a very high level over the entire season.”

SAGU added players to the 2019 volleyball roster to form a developmental squad. “The challenge of adding a developmental squad has afforded many good players an opportunity to come into the NAIA level of volleyball and have a chance to develop and grow as players. This will give some of younger player’s court time against collegiate competition aiding in the developmental process,” declared Moore.

Key Losses

The 2019 returners and newcomers will try to replace the loss of Kali Shaw, Suzannie Figueiredo, and Celi Bruce. Shaw was the 2018 Player of the Year in the SAC and was named a 3rd Team NAIA-AVCA All-American. Figueiredo transferred to SAGU for her final season and made an immediate impact on the team and conference culminating in being named 1st Team All-Conference. Throughout her career Bruce was a consistent, steady, four year player for the Lady Lions and was a 2nd Team All-Conference performer in her senior season.

When the question was posed about replacing these individuals Moore explained that it was not possible to replace players from the 2018 squad. “We look at our roster and know that we will be very young. We are not asking any of these amazing young players to replace four year starters. What we will ask is that newcomers step in and be the very best version of themselves as we form a completely new looking team.”

Top Returners

The Lady Lions Volleyball team return nine performers from the 2018 squad. Senior Sophia Ivy, the 2018 Sooner Athletic Conference (SAC) Setter of the Year and a 1st Team All-Conference designee leads the list. Ivy, a three-year starter, has an opportunity to leave a legacy of records for other SAGU setters to chase in coming years. Senior middle hitter Maddie Hartline garnered 2nd Team All-Conference honors in her junior campaign. A pair of sophomores, Alexis Mealer (OH) and Jancee Akers (MH) are being counted on to provide power for the Lady Lions. Mealer was named Honorable Mention All-Conference and Akers was a 2nd Team All-Conference performer in 2018.

Moore commented that beyond the returners mentioned, three-year starter Brittany Stallaby, and two year starter Nikki Almaguer will continue to play key roles for the Lady Lions. Hartline, Ivy, and Stallaby have been named captains for the 2019 season.

Top Newcomers

Eleven individuals create the incoming class for the 2019 Lady Lions. The class is a solid mixture of freshman and transfers including graduate transfer Aeriel Horton. Horton is a 2019 graduate of Houston Baptist University where she participated in four years of NCAA Women’s Beach Volleyball. Wanting to return to the indoor version of volleyball she enjoyed as a high school player in Waxahachie, TX, Horton contacted Coach Moore about an opportunity to pursue a graduate degree and play at SAGU.

Incoming freshman players expected to make an impact include highly touted hitter Emma Tompkins (6-1, MH), Ava Meyers (5-9, OH), Leilani Gonzalez (6-1, MH/OH), and Emily Little (5-8, S).

Final Thoughts

Putting together a team is rarely a one person job. Moore credits assistant coach Nick Moore for his work in recruiting and former player and student assistant Jessica Sodich for their work in accepting “the challenge of developing players not just as athletes, but helping to instill Godly character. We are excited to see all that God has in store for our program in 2019.”

The Next Step

The Lady Lions open their season on the road in Hutchinson, KS on August 23-24. SAGU is participating in the KCAC Volleyball Fall Fling and will begin play at 11:00 AM against Southwestern College (KS). More information regarding the tournament can be found at KCAC Volleyball Fall Fling .

As a leading Christian university, SAGU educates and prepares individuals who want to serve Christ and others. SAGU helps students discover and develop their God-given callings in a Spirit-empowered, learning community.

We believe in affordable tuition, made possible in part through the financial support of donors who embrace the mission of SAGU and the importance of affordable, accredited programs to train Christians for leadership in ministry, business, education, and service.

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