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