Volleyball team utilizes multiple offensive threats

Senior hitter Natasha Fomina sends the ball to the opposing court against Mississippi College Oct. 1 at Flowers Hall. Fomina is one of four Lions to have more than 100 kills in the season so far.

by Managing Editor Mike Ezekiel

The UNA volleyball team continued its winning ways the last two weeks, sweeping five straight opponents en route to a 15-1 overall record.

The team has won 18 straight sets, including three straight in a come-from-behind 3-2 win against Lee Sept. 17. Since, the Lions have beaten Union, Christian Brothers, West Georgia, UAH and Mississippi College.

Tied for first place in the Gulf South Conference standings with a 7-1 record, the No. 24 Lions are on a six-game winning streak and lead the GSC in multiple statistical categories, including kills with 13.70 per set.

But not all of the kills are coming from one source, as four UNA hitters have over 100 kills so far.

“We really have a lot of depth offensively,” said UNA head coach Stephanie Radecki. “I think the great part about our hitters right now is that their hitting percentages seem to be really high. That’s really nice to see as a coach.”

Many teams in college volleyball have one or two bonafide hitters, but UNA has five at its disposal, Radecki said.

Senior hitter Natasha Fomina is second in the conference with 221 kills this season. Following her are junior hitters Lexie Bradley and Jessica Austin, who have 137 and 130 kills, respectively.

“It’s really hard for the other team to know who to block,” Fomina said. “The setter can give the ball to anyone, and anyone can put the ball away and get a kill. That depth has been what’s made us so successful.”

Senior Peyton Lang, who plays both the backline and frontline, has 134 kills thus far to go with 144 digs. Lang is third on the team in both categories.

“To be able to do both is really good for a college player,” Lang said. “(The other team) doesn’t expect it, and it’s good to be on the court the whole time helping.”

Newcomer Ana Gabriela Pacheco, a junior from Uberlandia, Brazil, has seen extensive time in the rotation, adding 86 kills on the season.

UNA’s depth comes in handy against some of the top teams in the conference, Radecki said.

“It’s really important to have (depth) when you go up against a lot of strong blocking teams, like we did (against Alabama-Huntsville),” Radecki said. “Their blockers couldn’t focus in on just one or two hitters, and that’s really helpful to us.”

Radecki said a big part of the hitters’ success is Jayden Davila-McClary, who leads the GSC with 603 assists (10.96 per set).

“I think she distributes the ball so well,” Radecki said. “That’s part of why our hitting percentage has been higher. She does a really good job of knowing who to set, when to set them and putting up a nice ball.”

Fomina said communication between hitters and setters is important.

“We work a lot with Jayden outside of practice and inside practice,” Fomina said. “It’s so important for us to be in sync with her. It’s awesome that she has so many hitters to pick from, and she has a lot of confidence in us to put the ball away anytime she sets us to.”

The Lions hope to continue utilizing its depth with two tough opponents coming up in road games. UNA travels to Valdosta Oct. 7 before venturing to No. 22 West Florida Oct. 8.