VALDOSTA, Ga. – The Saint Leo volleyball team (17-3) swept through the second day of action at the GSC/SSC Crossover Tournament Saturday afternoon at the PE Complex in Valdosta, Ga. The Lions struggled in the four set victory over the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers (1-15) but held on for the match victory (25-16, 23-25, 25-18, 25-17). The Green and Gold came out much more aggressive in the second match, sweeping host school the Valdosta State University Blazers (25-19, 26-24, 25-21).
Saint Leo was led by Michelle Nogueras, as she registered her second triple-double of the season. She accumulated 22 kills, 64 assists and 21 digs. Jenna Jordan had 16 total kills and 20 digs, while posting her fifth double-double on the season against the Chargers. Audrey Starkebaum totaled 19 kills while Leah Perry added 11 kills. Danielle Bletso had 10 kills and hit .421 on the afternoon, including nine kills in the final match of the day against the Blazers. Kaitlin McKenna also added ten kills and Amanda Cook led the team with 26 digs. Chelsea Armer added ten digs on the day.
The Lions played their best volleyball of the match in the first set, hitting .419 as a team. The Lions totaled 17 kills, only committing four errors. Nogueras led the Lions during the set with six kills and Armer contributed four digs. The set was back and forth for the first ten points, but the Lions exploded scoring 15 of the next 21 points.
The next two sets were more difficult, as untimely errors and loss of concentration led to the Lions two lowest hitting percentages of the entire tournament. The Lions dropped the second set, hitting just .167 and committing five errors. Saint Leo quickly found themselves out of sync dropping five of the first six points of the match. Even through mediocre play, the Lions battled back to tie the set at 20. The Chargers rattled off the next three points not allowing the Lions to complete the comeback. Starkebaum led the team with three kills.
The third set statistically was the Lions worst of the tournament, hitting 0.69 as a team, committing eight errors. Still, the Lions managed to gut out a very important set. Starkebaum and Jordan combined for six kills and Cook added seven digs in the slim victory. The Lions gained the lead back from Valdosta State from a 14-14 tie, when Starkebaum lined a kill down the right side of the court giving the Lions the lead for good.
The Lions regrouped in game four, hitting .345 and hammering out 13 kills. The teams exchanged points until seven. An 18-10 run put Leo over the top. Both Starkebaum and Jordan combined for six kills during the stretch and secured the Lions match victory.
Saint Leo out hit the Chargers as a team, hitting .257 compared to Huntsville’s .119. The Lions out blocked their opponent’s with eight and a half team total blocks to five.
The Lions turned up the heat on the Blazers in the second match.
Saint Leo was led by Nogueras in the first set, totaling six digs by herself and hitting .750. The Lions as a team hit .432 and had 18 kills. SLU found themselves with a 16-10 lead near the midpoint of the match and refused to relinquish the lead, squashing any comeback attempt by the Blazers with heavy pressure at the net. The Lions scored the final three points of the set for the opening victory.
The Lions appeared to be rolling in the second set as well, opening a 21-10 lead. But, Valdosta did not fold, going on a 14-4 run and tying the set up at 24. The Lions maintained their composure though and weathered the storm as Valdosta made two consecutive errors at the net solidifying the win for the Lions. McKenna added three kills for the Green and Gold, while Amanda Cook sprawled out for ten digs in the set.
With a 2-0 lead, the Lions and Blazers went point for point until the set was tied at 21. The Lions finished off Valdosta State with four consecutive points including two important kills by Starkebaum during the four point rally. The Lions hit .464 during the set committing only one error. Jordan finished the set with three kills, two digs and a block assist.
Saint Leo out blocked the Blazers seven and a half to two total blocks, while out hitting Valdosta .360 to .144.
The Lions return to Sunshine State Conference play this Tuesday, September 30, at the Marion Bowman Activities Center against Rollins College. The match is scheduled to tip off at 7:00 p.m. and will be broadcasted live on the SaintLeoLions Audiocast Network.