Lions finish undefeated in UNA Volleyball Classic

by Associate Sports Editor Kadin Pounders

The volleyball team hosted the UNA Volleyball Classic at Flowers Hall Sept. 11-12. The Lions finished undefeated through four tournament games.

Five teams — UNA, Kentucky Wesleyan, Southern Wesleyan, Quincy University and Montevallo University — competed in the two-day round robin event.

For the Lions, it was their first taste of action at home after playing their four previous matches at the Tony Banner Invitational in Pennsylvania.

“It was fun playing at home in front of our fans (this weekend),” said junior outside hitter Natasha Fomina. “It was great to get to play and get a feel for how our season is going to go and to show our fans how good we’re going to be this year.”

UNA started the weekend against the Kentucky Wesleyan Panthers. The Lions were able to knock off the Panthers in straight sets, but head coach Stephanie Radecki said her team’s home debut performance was not quite up to par.

“I didn’t like a whole lot that I saw in the first match,” she said. “I thought we played pretty sloppy. I mean, we won and we executed some things — which is good — but, it was probably the worst match we’ve played so far.”

Attributing “the jitters” to their opening performance, the Lions cleaned up their game and were able to defeat the Montevallo Falcons 3-0 in Friday’s nightcap game.

“I think we adjusted well to what Montevallo was giving us,” Radecki said. “They were throwing some tips at our defense. Andrea (De Leon) and Sarah Ann Tillery made some great plays for us.”

De Leon finished with 158 assists in the Classic while Tillery had 29 digs.

The Lions returned again Saturday afternoon to take on the Southern Wesleyan Warriors. The Lions defeated the Warriors 3-1 with help from Fomina, Jessica Austin, Lexie Bradley and Victoria Quintanilla.

Each finished with double-digit kills, led by Fomina, with 56 for the weekend.

“Offensively, I still think we’re extremely diverse right now, which is nice,” Radecki said. “We’re running a lot of different stuff, a lot of different people, and it’s someone different that’s putting the ball away all the time.”

The final match of the Classic was the toughest and most exciting match for UNA. Despite taking a 2-0 set lead over Quincy to start the match, the Hawks fought back in the third set to win 25-23 and force a fourth set.

“In volleyball, one of the hardest things to do is to stop a team that has momentum,” Fomina said. “When the other team has momentum and you’re down, it’s hard not to hang your head, but for us not to back down in that situation proves how close we are.”

Quincy had momentum leading the set 14-8 before a well-placed timeout and a kill by Bradley set UNA’s own comeback in motion. A kill by junior Peyton Lang gave UNA an 18-17 lead, and the Lions never surrendered it.

Undefeated in the UNA Volleyball Classic, the Lions improved their record to 6-2. After falling in their first two matches of the season, UNA has won six straight and has plenty of momentum heading into conference play.

“I think the first game of the season we were kind of nervous,” Fomina said. “It was our first time playing in our starting lineup against someone else and against a good team. I think, after winning six straight and the four here at home, it gives us a lot more confidence playing conference (games) next week.”

The Lions next game will be Sept. 18 against the Shorter Hawks.