Lamar finishes 1-2 in opening weekend of season
Aug. 27, 2011
BEAUMONT - Lamar University split a pair of matches on Saturday at McDonald Gym in the final day of action of the Lamar Volleyball Tournament, defeating Texas Southern 3-0 (25-19, 25-9, 25-10) to begin the day and then falling to tournament champion Houston Baptist 3-0 (20-25, 22-25, 16-25) in the finale.
The Lady Cardinals (1-2) opened their home tournament with a 3-1 loss to North Texas on Friday evening. HBU (3-0) won the tournament without losing a match, while UNT went 2-1 and Texas Southern finished 0-3.
"It was really nice to be on our home court to open the season, and the environment was fantastic," said seventh-year head coach Justin Gibert. "I think it helped our confidence to play in front of our fans, and we were able to keep it close in most of the games.
"Overall, we were able to target some things that we need to work on in the upcoming days. We were able to identify some things that we need to improve on, but we are looking at the long haul and getting better for conference play."
Lamar led just 17-16 in the first set of the Texas Southern match before reeling off five straight points to go up 22-16. Sophomore outside hitter Sierra Whittaker, who was named to the all-tournament team, served up three of her career-high four service aces during the run to spark the Lady Cards' opening set win.
The Lady Cardinals exploded offensively over the following two sets, attacking at a .522 percentage in the 25-9 second set win and .500 in winning the decisive set 25-10.
For the match, Lamar finished with 39 kills and a .443 attack percentage, while holding the Tigers to just 19 kills and a negative .027 percentage. Lamar also had a 10-0 advantage in team blocks, and finished the match with 10 service aces.
In addition to her four service aces, Whittaker led all players with 10 kills on a .615 attack percentage. Junior middle blocker Christina Hobbs finished the match with eight kills and no attack errors, and matched her career-high with seven total blocks.
"It was nice to get our first win of the season, regardless of competition," said Gibert. "We served really well and were able to keep the pressure on their serve receive game. We made them have to play some really tough first balls, and they struggled with that."
Mona Reed and Precious Spenser each had five kills for TSU (0-2).
Lamar's offense faced a much stiffer challenge against HBU as the Huskies used a solid blocking game to control the match. HBU finished with eight team blocks, including a match-high five from middle blocker Jolie Graf.
"They (HBU) just did a great job of passing the ball and getting it to the setter in good position," Gibert said. "She (setter Victoria Weatherly) was so good at putting the ball where their hitters wanted it, and working all parts of the court.
"The match really came down to offensive production as they hit .243 as a team, and we were at .088."
The first set with HBU saw the match stay even through the first 17 points. However, the Huskies ran off three straight points to pull ahead 20-17, and Lamar could not pull back to even. HBU finished with 13 kills in the first set, while Lamar managed just nine on an anemic .069 attack percentage.
The Lady Cardinals looked as though they would even the match in the second set, jumping out to an 8-3 lead. However, HBU responded with a 6-1 run to tie the match at nine, and then pulled it out from that point on.
Whittaker led the Lady Cardinals with 10 kills for the second straight match, adding a pair of blocks. Freshman Madi Martin, who started at setter for the Lady Cards, added five kills, 20 assists and four blocks.
Graf and Christie Dorch each had 11 kills to pace HBU, but the play of Weatherly is what made the difference. The tournament MVP finished with four kills and 29 assists.
Lamar will return to action Friday at the SMU Doubletree Invitational, opening with Alabama at 4 p.m. The Lady Cards will also face host SMU and TCU on Saturday.