MONTREAT, N.C. — The Shawnee State volleyball got the 2013-14 athletic year off to a quick start with a pair of 3-1 victories at Montreat (NC) College’s Volley in the Mountains Tournament Friday afternoon.
The Bears started off the day with a 3-1 win over Mount Vernon Nazarene, (18-25, 26-24, 25-23, 25-23) before another 3-1 victory over Montreat (25-27 25-19, 25-15, 25-18).
With the win over the Cougars, SSU has now won its season opener in back-to-back seasons. The Bears are also 5-1 over the last six seasons in the season openers, improving them to 13-12 all-time in this scenario.
The win over the host Cavaliers was the first time SSU has met up with Montreat since former Bears head coach Kristy Kamer left Portsmouth after the 2010 season.
The opening match saw returning All-Mid South Conference performer Paige Zelich lead the attack for Shawnee State as she tallied 12 kills over the four sets. Behind her was Tiffany Jackson with 11 as she hit .450 in her 20 attack chances.
Lauren Helbig just missed a double-digit kill total in her first collegiate action as she put nine kill attempts away while Kristi Humble and Kirsti Yates killed eight and seven attempts, respectively.
Freshman Bonnie Huesing totaled 23 assists over the course of the opening match while Hannah Gephart recorded 17 helpers. As a team, the Bears limited MVNU to just a .168 hitting percentage.
In addition to forcing 19 errors, four different players tallied 12-plus digs in the winning effort. Carly Mazza moved from setter a season ago to a more defensive role and led the team with 20 digs. Yates also dug out 19 attack attempts while Gephart (15 digs) and Madison Smith (12 digs) were also consistent throughout the victory.
After a break, SSU went back on the court against the Cavaliers. For the second-straight match, the Bears found themselves down early after an extra-point loss in the opening set. However, they would again rebound as Montreat did not get over 20 points in any of the remaining three sets.
Once again, it was Zelich that led the Shawnee State attack with 14 kills for a grand total of 26 for the day. She was the only player for the Bears to record a double digit total. However, Helbig (seven kills), Jackson (six kills) and Yates (five kills) all contributed key points.
Just as key to the Shawnee State attack was the errors the Bears forced the hosts into committing. The Cavaliers recorded 32 kills compared to the 43 by SSU. Montreat was guilty of 31 errors while the visitors made just 17 attack miscues.
In the second match, it was Gephart that led the team in assists with 18 while Huesing also contributed 14 to the winning effort. Defensively, Mazza’s 17 digs led the team for the second-straight match while Gephart (16 digs), Smith (13 digs) and Yates (11 digs) gave the Bears four players with double-digit digs for the second match of the day. Shawnee State also blocked 11 attacks for points in the win with Humble tallying a team-high six blocks (two unassisted).
The Bears wrap-up their opening weekend Saturday with two more matches against Coastal Georgia (1 p.m.) and Northwood (FL) University (5 p.m.).