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Nuggets beat SUNO, win GCAC championship outright
October 29, 2011

Box score

     NEW ORLEANS — Xavier University of Louisiana got 18 kills from freshman Moira Kirk and defeated SUNO 25-12, 15-25, 25-19, 25-8 on Saturday at The Castle to win the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference regular-season championship outright.
     The Gold Nuggets (18-6, 9-0) won their first volleyball championship in four intercollegiate seasons. They were 11-26 in 2010 in their first season since 2004.
     Kirk hit .533 in 30 attacks and had five blocks. She had four kills during a 10-0 run which gave Xavier a 11-2 lead in the fourth set.
     Chinedu Echebelem and Taylor Reuther had seven kills apiece for Xavier, which won its third straight, and Jeanay Butler had five. Reuther had 16 digs, Celeste Poe 13, and Butler and Kia Smith had six apiece. Patrice Hightower assisted on 32 of the Gold Nuggets' 44 kills.
     Xavier hit .579 in the first set, then hit .130 in the next to help SUNO (13-9, 7-3) even the match. But the Gold Nuggets, with Kirk collecting five kills, four blocks and an ace, regained control in the third.
     "We were too relaxed in the second set and lost our focus," Hightower said. "We didn't make the necessary adjustments, especially with blocking.
     "But in the third set we came back out and forgot the second set. I just thought we wanted it more, and we made the adjustments we didn't make eariler."
     Senior Iva Bobkova, an All-GCAC performer a year ago but a reserve for the majority of this season, was part of the adjustments.
     "We put Iva in the match in the third set to give us a bigger blocker," Xavier coach Christabell Hamilton said. "That allowed us to get in front of some balls we weren't getting to earlier."
     SUNO aided Xavier in the final set with errors on eight attacks and two serves. Reuther ended the match with a kill.
     "The difference this season was attitude," Bobkova said. "People are just more willing to play for each other than last year. We did not have the desire last year.
     "It's frustrating for me to not play as much, but we always think about the team. I'm definitely happier this year."
     Hamilton, hired in mid-June, is the third first-year XU coach to win a conference championship. Giles Wright won the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference men's basketball championship in 1937-38, and Alan Green won the GCAC women's tennis title in 2002-03.
     "From the very beginning in August I knew we had a lot of work to do," Hamilton said. "After the first home match I knew I had a good team. I just had to put them all on the same page."
     Xavier will close the regular season at 2 p.m. next Saturday against city and GCAC rival Dillard at The Barn, then travel to Nashville, Tenn., for the GCAC Tournament on Nov. 10-12. The tournament winner will receive an automatic bid to the NAIA National Championship.
     "We're still not done," Hamilton said. "There's lots more to do. We can celebrate Sunday, but Monday it's back to work."
     NOTES:  Xavier never had a winning season before this year and won 30 percent of its matches the first three seasons . . . Kirk's kills were her second most this season. She recorded 23 kills Friday in a five-set victory against Faulkner . . . The Nuggets had two service errors — none until the middle of the third set — after committing 10 Friday . . . Xavier swept both regular-season matches against SUNO after losing all four, two in the league tournament, to the Lady Knights in 2010 . . . All three XU fall teams won GCAC Championships. The men's and women's cross country squads won their league titles for the sixth straight time this past Saturday.


 

 
Gulf Coast Athletic Conference

National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics

The Xavier Gold Rush and Gold Nuggets compete in Division I of the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) as a member of the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference (GCAC). Xavier fields men's teams in basketball, cross country and tennis and women's teams in basketball, cross country, tennis and volleyball.

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