Saturday, October 22, 2016
XULA Nuggets earn 6th straight GCAC regular-season title
NEW ORLEANS — Xavier University of Louisiana clinched its sixth consecutive Gulf Coast Athletic Conference regular-season volleyball championship with a 25-13, 25-21, 25-23 victory against SUNO Thursday at The Castle.
Hasani Salaam had 12 kills and hit .364 in 22 attempts for the Gold Nuggets (13-14, 10-0), who have won 69 of their last 70 GCAC regular-season matches.
XULA also clinched the No. 1 seed for the GCAC Tournament and will play in the semifinals at 3 p.m. Nov. 4 against the No. 4 or No. 5 seed. The tournament site will be Dillard's Dent Hall.
The Gold Nuggets had 52 kills, their most in a three-set match this season, and hit .325, their second-highest percentage of the year. Eleven Nuggets had at least one kill, and seven had four or more.
Salaam, one of nine XULA freshmen, reached double figures in kills for the second time in three matches and the sixth time this season. The dozen kills were her most in 15 matches.
"Hilary (assistant coach Lobenstein) and I have really been pressing Hasani," XULA coach Hannah Lawing said. "She has incredible potential, and we've been pushing, but she's also really been pushing herself.
"She doesn't want to sit the bench, and she doesn't want to be a mediocre middle (blocker), so she comes into practice every day, and she's ready to learn. She's like a little sponge absorbing all the material we give her and then making the right adjustments and listening. She's really processing what we're saying. It's not in one ear and out the other. When she puts that to work, she's a fantastic middle."
Juliana Tomasoni had 10 kills and 12 digs — her 11th double-double of the season — Sarah Pitts-Groce had six kills and hit .857, and Tiffany Phillips had five kills and 25 assists. Tomasoni, Pitts-Groce, Adili Rikondja and Bria Moore had two blocks apiece.
A Salaam kill capped an opening 9-3 run that keyed the Gold Nuggets' comfortable first-set victory, but XULA needed a closing 7-1 burst to clinch the second set. XULA trailed 23-22 in the third set after surrendering five consecutive points, but two Pitts-Groce kills and a SUNO attack error ended the match in 66 minutes.
"Did we make more errors at certain points? Sure," Lawing said. "But we did a great job of holding our rhythm throughout the match and forcing it when we needed to."
Sonja Backovic had 11 kills for SUNO (8-14, 5-5), and Tiffany Hector and Tyjah Greenup had 10 kills apiece. Hector had 15 digs, and Greenup had 11.
XULA had 14 more kills than SUNO, and the Gold Nuggets had advantages of 4-2 in aces, 53-43 in digs and 5-0 in blocks. For the first time this season, XULA did not commit a service error.
XULA will travel to Mobile, Ala., for a 6 p.m. Monday non-conference match at NCAA Division II's Spring Hill. The Gold Nuggets' home finale will start at 7 p.m. Oct. 31 against Tougaloo at the Convocation Center.
Ed Cassiere, Sports Information Director
XAVIER UNIVERSITY OF LOUISIANA