Nuggets outlast Dillard, reach title round of GCAC tourney
November 11, 2011
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — No deficit, it seems, is too
great for the Xavier University of Louisiana women's volleyball team.
Moira Kirk had 13 kills and four blocks, and Taylor Reuther
had 10 kills, 23 digs and two aces Friday to help the Gold Nuggets
rally for a 20-25, 18-25, 27-25, 26-24, 17-15 victory against
Dillard in the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Tournament.
"It was such a great comeback," said Xavier coach
Christabell Hamilton, whose team trailed 15-8 in the fourth set and
fought off four Dillard match points — one in the third, two in
the fourth and one in the fifth. "When we won I
was jumping up and down like a kid, which is something I never do."
Xavier (22-6), the tourney's top seed and
only unbeaten team, will play Dillard or SUNO in the championship round of
the double-elimination event at 1 p.m. Saturday. It's the first time in the Gold Nuggets'
four seasons that they reached the finals.
Dillard, the defending champion and No. 2 seed,
and third-seeded SUNO will play at 11 a.m. Saturday in an
elimination match. SUNO stayed alive with a 23-25, 25-12, 25-11, 25-9
victory against Tougaloo and a 25-18, 25-12, 25-16 victory against Talladega.
A Xavier victory in the 1 p.m. match will end the
tournament. If the Gold Nuggets lose, they and their
opponent will meet again at 3 p.m. to decide the championship and the GCAC's
automatic bid to the NAIA National Championship, which begins next Saturday.
Chinedu Echebelem's fifth-set kill, her 10th of the contest, saved a Dillard match point and tied the score at
15, then Xavier advanced with its seventh straight victory after consecutive Dillard
"We have such fight and such heart," said Reuther, whose
kill-dig double-double was her 11th of the season. "I always know we have a chance
to come back."
Jeanay Butler and Iva Bobkova had eight kills apiece for
Xavier, and Patrice Hightower had nine digs and a career-best 45 assists
"We communicated a lot more those final two sets," Hightower
said. "We made adjustments on defense and in our blocking. I wasn't
surprised we came back because we've done it all year. I have faith and trust
in my teammates. I love this team so much."
The Gold Nuggets have won 10 consecutive matches which lasted longer than three sets.
They're 3-0 this season against Dillard (18-11), the defending tournament champion.
Xavier's current victory streak includes three matches
in which the Nuggets trailed by a set. It was the second time in the program's history
that Xavier rallied from a 2-sets-to-none deficit — the other time was
against Dillard a year ago at The Barn.
"Those first two sets we weren't playing Xavier volleyball,"
Hamilton said. "We were not looking like ourselves and that's what frustrated me
Reuther produced 17 digs in the final three sets and
finished with a career high.
"We started fighting as a team instead of individually," Reuther said.
"That's why we meshed so well and came back as strongly as we did."
There were 15 ties and five lead changes in the third set,
which Xavier capped with kills by Echebelem and Bobkova, but the Nuggets never led
in the fourth until Kirk closed the set with consecutive kills. Kirk, the GCAC Freshman of the Year,
had five kills in that set after the Nuggets trailed by seven.
The fifth set had 10 ties and four lead changes. Xavier
led 8-5 after a Dillard attack error, and the Lady Bleu Devils had match point
after Paula Ogbevoen's kill made it 15-14. But the Nuggets rallied one more time in
a deciding set in which Dillard aided Xavier with eight errors.
"We never, ever give up," Hightower said.