Volleyball dominates in two-day Billiken Tournament

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Volleyball dominates in two-day Billiken Tournament

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At the Billiken Invitational, SLU won every match as it marched to a tournament victory. It was a milestone moment for one of the team’s seniors. SLU’s victories included three sweeps and one 3-1 win. The four wins brought SLU up to a 10-5 record on the season, and will provide a solid foundation for the Friday, Sept. 25 match against La Salle and the Sunday, Sept. 27 match against Duquesne, the first two conference matches of the season.

SLU’s first match took place on Friday, Sept. 18, and was against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, an opponent that SLU had already swept during the Marcia E. Hamilton Classic, also hosted by SLU. This outcome was no different, with another 3-0 sweep of UAPB. The first set saw redshirt senior outside hitter Nicole Sniffen hit five kills on six attempts and also record two blocks. SLU won the set comfortably, 25-10, behind a .429 hitting percentage from the team. Junior outside hitter Danielle Rygelski was SLU’s top attacker in the second set, with four kills that led to another 25-10 win. The third set saw junior middle blocker Taylor Paulson register four kills on four attempts as the team posted a .419 attack percentage on the way to a 25-15 victory. Rygelski led all attackers with 11 kills, while Sniffen posted seven kills and the match’s highest attack percentage of .417.

The Billikens’ second match was against North Dakota, and was won by SLU 3-1. SLU lost the first set 25-21, despite sophomore outside hitter Nenye Okoro and Rygelski tallying five kills each. The second set saw five kills from Paulson and a .375 hitting percentage by SLU overall in a 25-18 win, while the third saw four kills each for Rygelski, Okoro, freshman outside hitter Monica Loftus and senior middle blocker Megan Gilbert to power SLU to a 25-19 victory. Okoro and Gilbert also notched four blocks each. The final set went comfortably for SLU, 25-12, as Rygelski had four kills and the Billikens hit .438 while holding North Dakota to only a .154 attack percentage. SLU also posted an 84% sideout percentage in the set.

In the match, Rygelski posted a match-high 17 kills along with 12 digs, good for her seventh double-double of the season, while senior setter Meredith Boe tallied 56 assists, a season-high. Paulson and Loftus were SLU’s most efficient offensive players, with Paulson having 13 kills on 24 attempts and with only three errors, while Loftus recorded 10 kills on 16 attempts and no errors.

SLU’s third match took place on Saturday, Sept. 19, against UT Martin. Okoro led all players in the match with 15 kills, while Sniffen recorded eight kills and a .500 attack percentage. Boe also chipped in with 44 assists. These assists were good to take Boe over 3,000 assists for her career, the third Billiken to do so. The top two are Shelly Metzler with 3,284 assists and Whitney Roth with 5,463.

The first set against UT Martin saw Okoro record five kills on ten attempts with no errors, while Paulson had four kills on seven attempts to lead SLU to a .375 attack percentage. SLU won the first set in a close affair, 25-22. The Billikens won a very closely matched second set 28-26 behind seven kills and seven digs from Okoro. Sophomore middle blocker Lauren Leverenz then hit five kills on five attempts after entering the match in the third set, leading SLU to a .481 hitting percentage and a 25-15 victory.

SLU’s final match came against USC Upstate, with Rygelski hitting four kills in the first set to help SLU to a 25-18 win. The second set also went SLU’s way, 25-20, with Gilbert and Okoro each having four kills. Rygelski then had another four kills in the third set to complete the sweep 25-21. As a team, the Billikens hit .347 while holding USC Upstate to an attack percentage of .182, while Gilbert hit 9 kills on 12 attempts with one error to hit .667.

The Billikens carried their success from the weekend into Wednesday night’s matchup with regional rival Mizzou.  The Tigers were 12-0 going into the match and about to round out their non-conference play.  The Billikens, 10-5, were ready to defend their home court and the fight for the state of Missouri.

SLU breezed through the first set 25-16.  The Bills had a total of 17 kills and only five errors.  Mizzou brought back the energy in the second set, but the Billikens remained in control.  They were never down in the set, save the first point, but the Tigers kept it tight by allowing a five-point lead at most for SLU.  The Billikens finished the set 25-22.

With one set standing between the Billikens and victory, SLU had no trouble keeping the momentum going.  The large crowd kept the team, as well as their constant lead, strong over the Tigers throughout the set.  Even though they only had 12 kills, the Billikens took the win 25-19.

SLU led the Tigers all around statistically with more kills on fewer attacks, and higher hitting percentages.  SLU only had 12 attack errors compared to Mizzou’s 22, and had an exponentially higher hitting percentage of .333 compared to Mizzou’s .136.

Like Mizzou, SLU is now heading into conference play.  The Billikens are on the road for their first weekend in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to face La Salle and Duquesne on Sept. 25 and Sept. 27.