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The Student News Site of University of North Alabama

The Flor-Ala

The Student News Site of University of North Alabama

The Flor-Ala

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Indoor volleyball has successful start to season

Treasure Franklin

With a 7-4 overall record and a breakout win in their first conference game, The University of North Alabama’s Indoor Volleyball team has proven themselves to be a force to be reckoned with this season.

The team began their season with their first game against Louisiana Tech at the A-State Invitational on Friday, Aug. 25. Both teams put up a strong fight, each taking two set victories before moving onto the final set, where the Lions ultimately broke away with a score of 15-11. It was clear from the jump the match would be competitive. 

“It taught us right away that we had to be willing to fight back and showed us we will have to be on it all the time,” said Head Volleyball Coach Tristan Johnson, welcoming strong competition.

Compared to Louisiana Tech, the Lions led offense with .211. Middle blockers Anna Katherine Griggs and Maggie Sullivan both had the number of lead kills, an impressive 14. Libero Katie Gerig stuck by a skilled total of 19 digs in the match. Junior setter Elif Ozsoy led the team with 26 assists, followed by senior setter Kennedy Johnson’s 21 assists. 

 Their next game of the day was against the Little Rock Trojans, where they fought to take all three sets, 25-20, 25-20 and then 25-17. Again, the Lions held onto their superior attack percentage of .343, compared to Little Rock’s .188. A common theme for this team is their ability to put the ball down. 

“Our team is really loaded offensively,” said Junior Katy Floyd. “We have a gun on every rotation, and any one of the girls is able to put the ball down.” 

To aid her teammates, Ozsoy had 21 assists in this game, followed by Johnson’s 20. Freshman outside hitter Olivia Fenoff put down 10 kills. Griggs and junior outside hitter Brenna Tietz both had three blocks. Freshman outside hitter Avery Markham added eight kills for the Lions.

Through a brief losing streak, the team learned how to come back swinging.

“After every loss, we talk a lot about growth and how we can use that game to win the next one,” Floyd said. “It’s all about learning, and we are so willing to pick our teammates up as well.” 

Hitting the ground running, the Lions forcefully came back to dominate against Alabama State on Tuesday, Sept. 5. Taking them to four sets, scores were 25-21, 27-29, 25-18 and 25-20. The Lions were able to set the tone after the Hornets’ win in the second set, coming out with an early lead in set three and extending it further in set four. Griggs led the team with 16 kills and two blocks. Graduate libero Luana Bulara held an impressive 19 digs. Kennedy brought an astonishing 45 assists. 

Next, the Lions traveled to Washington DC for the DC Showdown on Friday, Sept. 8 and Saturday, Sept. 9. The team had two matches on Friday, the first against George Washington, with the second against Georgetown. 

Against George Washington, the Lions took them to five sets. Even when the Revolutionaries took the first two sets, the Lions refused to back down. Griggs came out with 14 kills, followed by Markham and Tietz’s 10 kills. They ultimately shut down GWU’s attempted revival in the fourth set, winning 25-18. In the fifth and final set, the Lions broke away for the early lead, pumped up on their previous set victories and secured the first ever win against George Washington in the history of the program. 

Against Georgetown the same day, the Lions won the first two sets, with Georgetown fighting back to take the third. In the fourth set, the Lions effectively built a 17-12 lead, allowing them to maintain their momentum to win 25-21. Markham had 13 kills and 16 digs. Griggs totaled 11 kills and three blocks. Floyd maintained 12 kills in the match, and freshman hitter Nicole Sargent contributed four crucial kills, four digs and three blocks. For the total day, setters Johnson and Ozsoy finished with 44 and 50 assists. Bulara led with 39 total digs of the day. 

Coach Tristan mentioned how pivotal the win against Georgetown was for the women and the program. 

“That match was the best we’ve played and the best we’ve competed as a program,” Coach Tristan said. “I walked away extremely happy and prideful for the growth we’ve shown.”

Following the successful weekend, the Lions picked back up with gameplay against Alabama A&M on Tuesday, Sept. 12. The team won in four well-fought sets, with the scores being 25-13, 25-23, 25-27 and 26-24. Griggs broke her career high in kills with a record number of 19, in addition to her six blocks. Markham added six kills for the Lions. Sullivan and Floyd both tied with four kills, where Sullivan also had two blocks and Floyd had two aces. Notably, Bulara broke the record for service aces with a total of five. The Lions proved to be more efficient with a .153 attack record compared to A&M’s .128. Overall, the Lions also proved to be more disciplined, holding their errors down to 22, while A&M’s rose to 31.

On Friday, Sept. 15, the Lions geared up for their first conference match of the season. Against Central Arkansas, the Lions held the Sugar Bears to four sets, not allowing many errors to skate through. Fenoff led the team in every aspect, setting her career high of 11 kills, four service aces and 16 digs for a total of 15 points. Griggs led the team in kills with her 12, aided by Johnson’s 24 assists. Throughout the match, UNA’s hitters were able to put the ball down time and time again, allowing for their opponents to make the mistakes. All in all, the Lions proved more superior in fundamentals, which ultimately allowed for the Lions to secure their first conference win. 

The following day, the Lions dominated against Pine Bluff and Mississippi Valley State. Shutting both teams down in three sets, the scores were 25-16, 25-9 and 25-8 against Pine Bluff with an attack percentage of .378. Against MVS, the scores were 25-10, 25-8 and 25-8 with an attack percentage of .481, the highest of the season so far. Tietz led with 20 total kills for the day. Johnson led with 54 assists and five aces. Bulara held 29 digs, and Griggs added six blocks. Notably, sophomore outside hitter Lucy Wedding set her career high of three kills for a hitting percentage of .600 against MVS. After the weekend, the Lions maintain their perfect 4-0 record at home, bringing their total record to 7-4 in invitationals. 

So far, two players have truly stood out on the court. Coach Tristan commends Griggs for how well she has led the team. 

“Anna Catherine Griggs has really done a tremendous job on the court,” Coach Tristan said. “Her statistics speak for her talent and her work ethic.” 

Coach Tristan also made note of Avery Markham’s excellence. 

“I’m very happy to see Avery Markham excel,” Coach Tristan said. “She’s come in and is already able to help us in a big way. It makes me proud of my staff for how well we’ve trained our players, but also how well we are training our newcomers.”

In terms of the rest of the season, Coach Tristan is confident and hopeful.

“We have all the talent in the world to go out and have the best season the program has ever had,” Coach Tristan said. “This is such a great group of girls, and they’re so fun to be around and spend time with. I’m very optimistic about the rest of the season.”

The Lions look forward to taking on Austin Peay on Friday, Sept. 22 at Flowers Hall.

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About the Contributors
Tristan Gregory
Tristan Gregory, Staff Writer
Treasure Franklin
Treasure Franklin, Deputy Chief Photographer
Treasure Franklin is a junior majoring in Psychology with a minor in Applied Behavior Analysis. She is a member of the LaGrange Society, Student Government Association (SGA), and is in the Cole Honors College, as well as the Presidential Mentor's Academy. She is currently serving as a Staff Photographer; she has previously served as the website editor, and she has been a volunteer photographer/writer with The Flor-Ala since August of 2021.

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