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2014 Xavier University of Louisiana Women's Volleyball Preview
Nuggets, 3-time defending champ, put streaks on the line

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     Xavier University of Louisiana's women's volleyball program will take aim at extending a slew of streaks in 2014.
     The Gold Nuggets, 26-8 overall and 12-0 in the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference a year ago, seek fourth consecutive GCAC regular-season and tournament championships, plus a fourth straight appearance in the NAIA National Championship.
     Xavier also will enter the season with a 17-match regular-season win streak, a 13-match home win streak (9-0 in 2013) and 43 consecutive victories against GCAC opponents, 34 in the regular season.
About the Gold Nuggets

Head Coach:  Hannah Lawing (South Carolina 2011), second season
Assistant Coach:  Hilary Lobenstein (West Alabama 2012), first season
2013 Record:  26-8 overall, 12-0 Gulf Coast Athletic Conference (first place)
2013 Postseason:  GCAC Tournament champion; first round of NAIA National Championship
Returning Players:  6
Newcomers:  5

     There are six returning letterwomen, including 2013 GCAC Tournament MVP Claudia Haywood at middle blocker and two-time first-team all-conference setter Franziska Pirkl. A third returning starter is outside hitter CeCe Williams, who was second-team All-GCAC as a freshman in 2012. All three are juniors.
     "This team is capable of reaching the goals we reached a year ago," said second-year head coach Hannah Lawing, who led the Gold Nuggets to a school-record victory total in her debut season. "We have several new players and some key players to replace, but I believe this team can grow quickly and be as successful as recent Xavier teams."
     Haywood hit .298 in 2013 — .441 in the GCAC Tournament — and had 180 kills and 58 blocks. At 5-feet-11, she's the team's tallest player.
     Pirkl had a team-leading 878 assists last season. She also hit .314 with 53 kills, 20 aces, 195 digs and 28 blocks. She has produced 12 assist-dig doubles — two in the national tournament — in two seasons.
     Williams had 50 kills and 238 digs a year ago. Three times she recorded 17 digs, twice against GCAC runner-up SUNO and the other against nationals qualifier Mobile. All three matches were XU victories.
     Also back is middle blocker Jodi Hill, who recorded 124 kills and 33 blocks in a breakout sophomore season in 2013, and libero/defensive specialist Darian Harris, who had 96 digs and 12 aces. Both are juniors.
     "Our juniors are finally taking a leadership role and doing a fantastic job with it," Lawing said. "Claudia and Jodi are turning into greedy hitters who always want the ball, which is something a coach wants to see. Fran has transformed from a shy, timid player to a leader on the court who gives all the credit to her hitters.
     "CeCe and Darian will run the back row. CeCe is always inquisitive about reading the hitter. Darian is a fantastic communicator who does a great job at serve-receive, defense and setting from the back row. She has made tremendous improvement since she arrived at Xavier."
     New to the Nuggets are middle blocker/right-side hitter Jada Broussard, setter Ralitsa Hadzhistoyanova, libero/defensive specialist Kayla Jones, outside hitter/defending specialist Kaelan Temple and outside hitter/setter Jelena Vujicic. All are freshmen except for Hadzhistoyanova, a transfer from NCAA Division I's Chicago State.
     "Our newcomers are talented and bright," Lawing said. "The elements and experience they bring to Xavier will add more variety and depth to our team."
     Redshirting this season will be outside hitter Taylor Reuther, the 2012 GCAC Player of the Year and All-GCAC and All-Louisiana three times. Reuther had offseason surgery to repair a labral tear in her right shoulder. She expects to play her senior season in 2015.
     Also new to the program this season is assistant coach Hilary Lobenstein. "As a coach, Hilary brings a great technical aspect to our team," Lawing said. "She can effectively evaluate any position on the floor, and our players appreciate her constructive analysis."
     Of Xavier's 23 regular-season matches, a school-record-tying 13 will be at home. Eleven of the Gold Nuggets' first 13 matches will be at home, including a school-record five in a row from Sept. 20-29. The GCAC Tournament will return to New Orleans for the first time since 2010, with an automatic bid to the NAIA National Championship awaiting the winner.


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, tennis and track and field and women's teams in basketball, cross country, tennis, track and field and volleyball.

Department of Intercollegiate Athletics
Xavier University of Louisiana
1 Drexel Drive
Campus Box 92
New Orleans, LA 70125
(504) 520-7329 phone
(504) 520-7934 fax

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