Lions volleyball team appear strong heading into crossover

Junior Victoria Quintanilla (18) and sophomore Lexie Bradley (12) go up together for a double block. The UNA volleyball Team won in straight sets against Shorter University Sept. 18.

The UNA volleyball team is over halfway through the regular season, and is still in a good position to make a run back to the Gulf South Conference tournament.

The Lions hold a 14-4 overall record and an 8-2 conference record through the first 18 games of the season.

UNA started off the season with two quick losses on the first day of the Tony Banner Invitational in Pennsylvania, but regrouped and won the next 12 matches.

“I was extremely impressed with how our team handled early season competition,” said head coach Stephanie Radecki. “I think the majority of what we’ve seen so far in the first half of conference, (the players) have handled it well. Right now we just want to keep focusing on improving.”

Over the course of their 12-match winning streak, the Lions swept eight opponents and were never forced to go to a deciding fifth set.

The streak ended Oct. 1 when UNA traveled to Alabama-Huntsville, where the Chargers swept the Lions.

“A lot went wrong for us, and a lot went right for UAH,” Radecki said. “Up until that night, all season we had five hitters that could put the ball away and were very effective. We just didn’t have that night.”

Following the UAH match, the Lions swept Mississippi College and Valdosta State in their next two matches but fell to conference favorite West Florida 3-0 at home.

“We had two tough losses against UAH and West Florida that put us in second place (in the GSC),” said sophomore outside hitter Lexie Bradley. “We all expect us to be in first place, but we are doing some amazing things on the court. We just need to continue to do that.”

Even with 18 matches under its belt, UNA still has plenty of crucial matches remaining on its schedule.

The next big test for the Lions will be in Carrollton, Georgia, where UNA will participate in the GSC/SSC (Sunshine State Conference) Crossover Oct. 16-17.

“The crossover is huge,” Radecki said. “It’s the first time Sunshine State-associated teams and Gulf South Conference teams will be at the same site. We’ll play three matches and how we play is huge in determining where we’ll be ranked in regional rankings.”

Following the crossover tournament, UNA will play in nine more conference matches to finish off the regular season. Five of the nine remaining matches will be on the road.

UNA’s strength to this point is offense. Through the first 18 games, the Lions lead the GSC in hitting percentage and are second in kills per set.

To complement the offense, the Lions have progressed in other areas throughout the season.

“I think our whole game as a team has improved — hitting, blocking, defense, serve receive — everything,” Bradley said. “We strive to improve every aspect of the game every day. That’s definitely what has helped us with our success.”

UNA’s next two matches take place Oct. 16 against Nova Southeastern and Tampa in the GSC/SSC Crossover. The first game for the Lions begins 1:30 p.m. CST.