VALDOSTA, Ga. – The Saint Leo University volleyball team (15-3) swept the first day of action at the Gulf South Conference/Sunshine State Conference Crossover Tournament Friday afternoon at the PE Complex in Valdosta, Ga. The Lions sprinted out of the gate sweeping the Montevallo Falcons (10-6) (25-18, 25- 20, 25-15). In the second match, SLU roared past the University of West Georgia Wolves (5-8) in three sets (25-21, 25-9, 25-14).
Audrey Starkebaum led the way for Saint Leo accumulating 18 kills in the two matches while Leah Perry and Kaitlin McKenna added 13 kills apiece. Michelle Nogueras had a two match triple double as she combined for 11 kills, 49 assists and 24 digs. Kim Nuckols also had a good day, hammering our eight kills and scooping up 11 digs. Jenna Jordan sent seven kills to the floor while picking up six digs. Both Chelsea Armer and Jessi Lynn added 13 digs each in the sweep.
The Lions found themselves in a fight for the first set, as the Falcons opened up a 6-2 lead on the Lions. SLU bounced back though, eventually fighting to tie the set at 16. After trading points, the Lions rattled off seven of the next eight points to end the set. Starkebaum finished the set with five kills to lead the team.
The Green and Gold raced out to 7-0 lead in the second set, as Nogueras toed the line for eight serves, including three consecutive service aces. The Falcons clawed to within three points near the mid-point of the match at 15-12. Consecutive handling errors on the Falcons, coupled with great offensive play by Nogueras and McKenna stopped the Montevallo momentum. Nogueras finished off the match with a quick attack kill.
The third set turned out to be the Lions most impressive volleyball of the day. They hit .526 as a team and committed only one error and had 11 kills. With the score 8-5 in favor of Saint Leo, Nuckols toed the line seven consecutive times, contributing two service aces blowing the game wide open, 13-5. Later in the set, Perry blasted a kill past two Montevallo players to open up an 22-11 lead. SLU never looked back closing out Montevallo on an 8-5 run.
The Lions hit .342 as a team in the match while committing only nine errors. The Lions had six team blocks in the victory
The Lions were slow out of the gate in the first set against the Wolves, but still held on for the victory. The Wolves battled SLU point for point, pulling within one, 22-21. The Wolves helped the Lions by committing two errors and Starkebaum dropped in a kill. The Lions ended the set on a block assist by Perry and Danielle Bletso.
The second set was much different, as SLU controlled every aspect of the match. The team hit .419 and only committed three errors. The Wolves and Lions were tied at five when Saint Leo began to role. SLU outscored West Georgia 20-4 the remainder of the match with McKenna and Starkebaum recording 7 of the kills.
SLU didn’t give the Wolves any breathing room in the final set, opening up an 11-6 lead early in the match. West Georgia compounded their problem with multiple errors throughout the set, letting the big hitters for Leo seal the deal. Jordan and Perry added important kills down the stretch and Emily Frey unloaded the final kill of the game.
The Lions held the Wolves to a negative hitting percentage at -.011. The Green and Gold hit .278 as a team and out blocked West Georgia seven to two.
The Lions return to action Saturday, September 27 in the final day of the GSC/SSC Crossover Tournament. The Lions first match is scheduled for 11:00 a.m. against the Alabama-Hunstville Chargers. Their final match of the tournament will tipoff at 4:00 p.m. against the Valdosta State Blazers. The second match will be broadcasted live on the SaintLeoLions Audiocast Network. Also, the Valdosta match will be televised through http://vstateblazers.tv/