Lions volleyball looks to continue first half of season success

The Lions volleyball team rallies together before their big game with the University of West Alabama Sept. 30. They were victorious with a 3-0 win. Six of the team’s seven straight wins were against GSC opponents, including University of West Florida.

The volleyball team’s 3-0 sweep of Kentucky State University Oct. 2 marked the end of the first half of the season for the Lions. After the victory — the team’s seventh straight win — UNA’s record stood at 11-4 overall and 8-2 in the Gulf South Conference.

The team experienced a big turnaround this season after finishing (8-25, 4-14) in the 2013-2014 season.

Hard work, great team chemistry and enthusiasm out on the court have been the keys to UNA’s success so far this year, said head coach Stephanie Radecki.

“The team is working very hard to improve daily and has done a great job focusing on being a better team every day,” Radecki said. “I think enthusiasm comes from results, but the energy and communication this team has created on the floor is a definite factor.”

The team started the season in the Southern Indiana Dunn Hospitality Invitational in Evansville, Indiana winning two of the four matches. Since then, the Lions have won nine of their last 11.

Team chemistry and communication are usually two things that take the most work to build when putting together a team, but this year’s squad meshed well from the beginning, said freshman outside hitter Lexie Bradley

“I have been on many volleyball teams over the years, and I have never experienced this type of team chemistry from any of them,” Bradley said.

“We all were comfortable with each other from the start. Team chemistry makes or breaks a team, so I’m glad we all still enjoy each other.”

Six of the seven straight wins for UNA came against GSC opponents, including a 3-1 victory over the University of West Florida, ranked No. 15 at the time.

“I think beating West Florida showed that we can win the conference,” said sophomore outside hitter Natasha Fomina. “I think we should definitely win the conference with the way things are going right now.”

UNA has been great all year on both sides, but the defense has made a huge difference, Radecki said.

“I have been the most pleased with our overall defense,” she said. “Ashtyn (Kapovich), Shantel (Federick), Macie (Pringle), Sarah Ann (Tillery) and Elana (Rebholz) are all defensive players for us. When you have that much depth defensively you are going to have a strong defensive system. They are making our team better and giving our hitters more swings.”

Freshman Ashtyn Kapovich, who leads the GSC with 258 digs, and the rest of the defense have created more opportunities for UNA’s hitters. Senior Megan Gorey and Fomina have made the most of them.

“Megan Gorey has been doing a fantastic job. She has definitely shown what a strong player she is and has been very consistent,” said Radecki. “I have been extremely impressed with Natasha’s transition to playing right side. She is a fast, dynamic hitter and has been low error.”

Gorey finished the first half of the season with 221 kills while Fomina followed with 174. Gorey and Fomina are No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the conference

“Right now it is important for our team to focus on one day at a time,” Radecki said. “We need to continue to reach our daily goal of improving and adding things into our system that can help us be successful.”

The Lions have 14 regular season matches remaining and only three are at home, and 10 of the 14 games are in conference. The Lions also have a tough match on the road when they face a No. 1 ranked University of Tampa in Lakeland, Florida Oct. 18. The next home game is Oct. 21 at 6 p.m. against Lee University.