Saturday, October 1, 2016

Temple, Gold Nuggets celebrate by beating Talladega

NEW ORLEANS — Birthday celebrant Kaelan Temple and her Xavier University of Louisiana volleyball teammates blew out the candles on Talladega Saturday.

With five kills on five swings, Temple scored all but one of the Gold Nuggets' final six points in a 25-19, 25-18, 25-22 Gulf Coast Athletic Conference victory against the Lady Tornadoes at the Convocation Center.

XULA (9-13, 6-0) won against a GCAC opponent for the 78th time in the last 79 matches (including tournaments) and snapped the five-match win streak — the longest in the GCAC this season — of Talladega (7-11, 3-3).

The Gold Nuggets will try to extend their overall win streak to three in a GCAC home match against Edward Waters at 1 p.m. Sunday.

Temple's late surge seemed out of the blue. Prior to the final nine rallies, the two-year letterwoman had four kills and 12 errors in 42 attacks this season. In the second set Temple produced two errors in three attacks.

"It was unexpected," Temple said. "I had been having issues with my shoulder. But I've been working really hard in rehab, and it was my birthday, so there was a little extra enthusiasm. I was able to pull through."

Talladega led 22-21 in the third after J'Lynn Jefferson and Carla Novaes combined for a block, but Temple responded with three kills, including the match clincher.

"Kaelan did not surprise me," XULA coach Hannah Lawing said. "When she's confident, she's capable of being successful at the net. She's really explosive. Some people see her as a defensive specialist, but I recruited her as an outside hitter. I saw her whale on balls in high school."

Temple's five kills equaled her career best, and she produced 10 digs to reach double figures for the sixth time this season.

No XULA player reached double-figure kills, but seven had four or more, led by Hasani Salaam with nine and Monet Fontaine and Taylor Ducros with six apiece. Three starters — Juliana Tomasoni (five kills, four digs), Tiffany Phillips (11 assists) and Kayla Jones (three digs) — did not play after the first set.

"We wanted to get people some playing time," Lawing said. "We've got depth, so why not use it?"

Phillips' replacement at setter, Terri Drake, responded with her first collegiate double-double: 20 assists and a career-high 12 digs. Brittanie Cockrell, playing for the first time in six matches, had a career-high-tying four kills. Ducros' six kills were one fewer than her career best.

XULA's Amanda Perry had a match-high 16 digs and reached double figures for the 20th time this season. The Gold Nuggets had a 73-61 advantage in digs.

Novaes, the GCAC Preseason Player of the Year, had 13 kills, 14 digs and four blocks. But she hit .182 in 44 attacks and finished below .200 for the fifth straight time against XULA. Novaes is hitting .135 (62 kills, 35 errors, 200 attacks) in six career matches against the Gold Nuggets — .234 against everyone else.

The Gold Nuggets hit .130 — their lowest ever in 24 matches against GCAC opponents at the Convocation Center — but limited Talladega to .065 and had a 44-26 advantage in kills. The Lady Tornadoes entered the match as a top-10 NAIA team in aces per set but served four, their second-fewest this season.

Ed Cassiere, Sports Information Director

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