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Lady Blazers head to tournament

  The Lady Blazers Volleyball team wrapped up their regular season schedule this week with both a win and a loss. The team now will prepare for their second consecutive trip to the Gulf South Conference Tournament, where they will look to make a push to win the title.
The first of their two matches last week came against Saint Leo University on Friday. The match was held in Pensacola, Fla. at a neutral site, roughly 250 miles from each campus, even though both universities are separated by less than 40 miles.

 The first two sets were indications that it would be a close and tough match, as the Lady Blazers took the first, 25-22, and the Lions the second, 25-23. The third set was even closer, as extra points were needed to decide the winner. VSU and SLU pushed the set past 30 points until the Lions could finally muster to a two-point lead to seal the deal, 32-30.

 The first three sets were indicating that the rest of the match was going to be a shootout, however, it wasn’t meant to be. Saint Leo dominated VSU in the fourth, 25-13, to secure the victory. 

 “They’re a really good team who played in the Sweet 16 of nationals last year,” Head Coach Sia Poyer said. “However, we definitely had our chances to win the match, but couldn’t seal it. Putting the ball away has been our biggest challenge in the big matches this season.”

 Following a difficult loss, the Lady Blazers came home and prepped for their final match of the season.

 The Lady Blazers finished their regular season Monday against a struggling Fort Valley State team, who they had already swept on Oct. 4 on the road.

 This match was almost identical to the one earlier in the year, and that factor alone was a relief.  By sweeping FVSU again, it gave VSU the momentum they needed as they prepare to begin their postseason campaign.

 The Lady Blazers finished with a team average .446 attack percentage, which was due in large part to Arielle Parnell’s .750 on her own. Parnell, who had 12 kills on the day, had support from Irene Hannan, Ruthie King, and Katie Onushko who posted kills at 10, 8, and 8, respectively.

 “We definitely needed the momentum back on our side,” Poyer said. “Not to take anything away from Fort Valley, but it was an opportunity for us to get some more repetitions in before the Conference tournament, especially since we won’t have a lot of time to practice this week.”

 The showcase was just another impressive performance for Hannan and King, who have put together an outstanding season. The Gulf South Conference seemed to agree, as they announced the duo to their First All-Conference Team for the second year in a row. Tania Tauiliili and Chelsea Logan made the Second All-Conference team. Both announcements should only boost the confidence of this strong team.

 VSU closed out their 2010 regular season with a 21-10 record (7-3 Conference). The outing was good enough for a berth in the Conference tournament, which has been their goal since losing in the first round a season ago.

 The Lady Blazers will ironically play again in Pensacola this Friday, a week after their regional loss to Saint Leo. However this time, a Conference title is on the line.

 “I feel really good about our chances this year,” Poyer said. “The first round is a re-match from last year and the girls are really excited about that part. We haven’t seen [Harding] this season, but we’re all confident we will be able to go in and do what we need to.”

 Entering the tournament, the Lady Blazers are the No. 3 seed and Friday’s match will be against Harding, who is No. 2 and ironically, the team who defeated them in the first round of last year’s tournament. The other match for the West division will be against Henderson State and the host, West Florida. The winners of both matches will meet Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in the semifinals.

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