Volleyball looks to end on a high note

Sophomore setter Jayden Davila-McClary sets the ball up for a play in the Lions Oct. 22 match versus Shorter. North Alabama’s final two opponents are Valdosta State and West Florida who are the only teams in the Gulf South Conference to defeat the Lions this season.

by Managing Editor Mike Ezekiel

The North Alabama volleyball team closes its regular season this weekend with two games that have heavy postseason implications.

The Lions (25-4, 15-3 Gulf South Conference) welcome West Florida into Flowers Hall Nov. 11 before hosting Valdosta State the following afternoon in two revenge games. The Argonauts and Blazers each gave UNA its only losses by sweeps this season.

“I think (the team) is really focused right now,” said head coach Stephanie Radecki. “We control our own destiny at this point, and that’s a good place for us to be. I think they’re really excited, but it’s still business.”

UNA will host the conference tournament with two wins. The Lions are in a three-way tie with Shorter and West Florida, who also hold a 15-3 GSC record.

UNA holds the head to head advantage over Shorter, which is determined by set wins. In two matchups this season, UNA holds a combined set advantage of 5-4 over the Hawks.

As far as against West Florida, the Lions can win Friday night and inch ahead, then clinch the top seed with an additional win. A loss to the Argos would put things out of UNA’s hands.

“Hosting the conference has been a goal for us since the beginning,” said senior outside hitter Peyton Lang.  “We play great at home, so being able to host would give us an advantage.”

Junior outside hitter Lexie Bradley said celebrating the 2015 conference championship in Pensacola was nice, but she would love to celebrate it in Florence this season.

“The past two years we have been one or two games off from being able to host,” Bradley said. “We saw how awesome it was for soccer and softball to win on their home field. We want that feeling, and we are doing everything we can do to accomplish that.”

The team is relieved to finally see the West Florida matchup approaching, meaning they no longer have to look ahead, Bradley said.

“We are practicing and watching a lot of film this week to prepare for the games,” she said. “It’s also more of a pride thing to win this weekend. We had a bad weekend last time we played these two teams and lost both games. It’s time for us to show them the team we really are.”

UNA hopes to break a school record for attendance Friday night. The current record is 935, which the Lions set last season against West Georgia in a 3-0 sweep.

Radecki said she would color her hair purple for the rest of the season if UNA hits the attendance milestone.

“I’m dying it for the whole postseason if we get 1,000 fans,” she said. “It’s going to stay that way for awhile. I’m not doing this ‘spray for an hour’ thing.”

Radecki said the student section is part of the team’s success, as they give UNA a psychological advantage.

“I just want to encourage as many students to come as possible,” Radecki said. “We would love to get a really big student crowd because they really get into (the game).”

The first serve will happen at 6 p.m. for the Nov. 11 contest and at 1 p.m. the following day.