Lions dominate UNA Volleyball Classic

Junior hitter Jessica Austin attempts the kill during a UNA Volleyball Classic tournament match against Northwood Sept. 2 in Flowers Hall. The Lions finished the tournament with a 4-0 record.

The UNA volleyball team breezed through its first four games in Flowers Hall Sept. 2-3, starting the season undefeated.

The story of this year’s UNA Volleyball Classic was the depth of this year’s Lion roster, which included six returning starters and 10 lettermen.

“We’re just really dynamic across the board,” said UNA head coach Stephanie Radecki. “It’s nice because I think other teams can’t really focus or key in on one or two of our hitters. The minute they do that, another one of our players steps up.”

Seniors Natasha Fomina and Peyton Lang, along with juniors Jessica Austin and Lexie Bradley combined for 162 kills for the tournament. Fomina led the way with 61 tournament kills. Junior libero Ashtyn Kapovich led the lions with 60 digs.

Along with strong performances from the returners, transfer sophomore setter Jayden Davila-McClary made her presence felt with 162 assists through all four games, averaging 12.46 assists per set.

“I think Jayden is doing a good job of running our offense as our new setter,” Radecki said. “It was a big question for us when we graduated Andrea as to who would step into that role for us. This weekend Jayden has done a good job distributing the ball and setting up our hitters.”

McClary said she felt instant chemistry with her teammates, beginning in the summer.

“I just feel really connected with the team,” McClary said. “I’ve actually never had hitters so great, and if one of them makes a mistake they will tell me to set them again and they are going to fix it. It’s really good that they are confident in themselves and they are confident in me.”

The Lions opened the season against Martin Methodist, cruising past the Redhawks to a 3-0 win in sets of 25-16, 25-10 and 25-11.

The nightcap game was not as easy, as the Northwood Timberwolves posed a threat early. Northwood took the first set in dramatic fashion, sneaking away with a 25-22 set victory.

The Lions answered with three consecutive set wins, taking the second and third sets 25-12 and 25-18. Northwood gave the Lions another run, but UNA held off the Timberwolves to close the game with a 25-21 win.

Day two of the tournament brought the same amount of success, as UNA swept both Tiffin and Trevecca Nazarene in a double header Saturday.

UNA started the first set strong against Tiffin with an ace by Lang to gain momentum. The Lions went on an 8-0 run, eventually closing out the first set with a 25-14 set win.

The next two sets did not come as easy.

Tiffin took an early single-digit lead in the second set before the Lions strung together another run with Lang serving. The Dragons never caught up, falling 25-22.

Lang started set three with another ace, but the momentum did not last.

Tiffin started strong, extending their lead to 19-11. The Lions battled back in the final set, tying the game at 21-21, going on a 10-2 run. The Lions finished Tiffin with four final scores to take the set and the match.

“I was just a little frustrated because I felt like we should have been playing a little bit better even at this point in the season,” Radecki said. “I think that with as many returners as we have that we should handle those situations a little better, but I think we definitely responded, which is the most important part.”

In the final game, UNA had no problems putting away Trevecca Nazarene, sweeping the Trojans 25-19, 25-12 and 25-14. Freshman newcomer Ana Gabriela Pacheco helped the Lions with a career-high nine kills.

The Lions will travel to Indianapolis for their next four games, taking on West Texas A&M, Truman State, Ashland and Saginaw Valley State in the U-Indy Invitational Sept. 9-10.