Spring Hill's strong start eliminates XU in NAIA first round
November 19, 2011
MOBILE, Ala. — Third-team All-American Yiting
Cao had 16 kills, 12 digs and two aces Saturday to lead 16th-ranked Spring Hill
to a 25-13, 25-11, 25-21 women's volleyball victory against Xavier University of
Louisiana in the opening round of the NAIA National Championship.
The Badgers (39-1) snapped the school-record eight-match
win streak of the Gold Nuggets (23-7) and advanced to pool play in the NAIA National
Championship final site Nov. 29-Dec. 3 at Sioux City, Iowa.
Freshman Taylor Reuther had 14 kills and 12 digs in her
Xavier-leading 12th kill-dig double-double. Iva Bobkova had six kills, and Patrice
Hightower had 27 assists and nine digs for the Gold Nuggets.
Three Cassandra Marchand-Stewart kills keyed an 11-2 run
which gave Spring Hill a 15-7 first-set lead. Two Cao kills and seven Xavier errors
gave the Badgers a 10-1 lead in the second set. There were 15 ties and nine lead
changes in the third set before Spring Hill took advantage of four consecutive XU
errors to emerge from a tie at 20. Jamie Hall's kill, her sixth, ended the match.
Spring Hill outhit Xavier .354 to .097 and had advantages
of 38-31 in kills, 57-50 in digs, 5-2 in aces and 10-1 in blocks.
"We were nervous in the beginning, and the first two sets
were a struggle for us," said Xavier first-year coach Christabell Hamilton.
"We finally started to play Xavier ball in the third set, but it was too late.
We waited too long to get settled in. Spring Hill is a very talented and solid team,
and they took advantage of our slow start."
vXavier, the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament champion,
set program records in its fourth season for victories, home victories, conference
victories and victories on opponents' courts. Xavier was 11-26 a year ago.
"I'm so very proud of my team and how they came together
and made history this year," Hamilton said. "No one ever thought we'd get this far.
We will miss our four seniors, but we're very excited about getting better in spring
practice, and we look forward to more improvement next season."