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NEW ORLEANS, La. -- Xavier University of Louisiana remains entrenched as the ruler of Gulf Coast Athletic Conference women's volleyball.
The Gold Nuggets won their fourth consecutive GCAC Tournament championship Saturday, beating SUNO 25-9, 25-19, 25-17 at XU's Convocation Center in a matchup of city rivals and the top two seeds.

Xavier (20-5) earned an automatic bid to the NAIA National Championship and will learn Monday afternoon where it will play in the opening round next weekend.Xavier-Louisiana VolleyballStephanie Buhl on the attack for XULA

Tournament MVP CeCe Williams' second career double-double, 12 kills and 16 digs, led the Gold Nuggets to their 59th consecutive victory against GCAC opponents. Williams, a junior outside hitter, also had two assists and a block.
"This award would not have been possible without my teammates," Williams said. "Everyone played a part in this championship, and it feels amazing."

After encountering little resistance in the first set, the Nuggets took command in the second when Williams had five kills to turn a 9-6 deficit into a 15-10 XU lead. A 9-1 run early in the third set helped Xavier reach the sweep.

"CeCe has been consistent all season," second-year XU coach Hannah Lawing said. "Her stats aren't as spectacular as other outside hitters in the conference or NAIA, but she is very much an important component of our team, especially with her ball control."

Joining Williams on the seven-member all-tournament team were teammates Claudia Haywood, Franziska Pirkl and Jodi Hill.
Haywood had nine kills and four blocks. Pirkl produced her second straight double-double, 25 assists and 14 digs, and had a block and three kills. Hill had eight kills, three blocks and hit .438.

GCAC Player of the Year Chinedu Echebelem had eight kills and 19 digs for the Gold Nuggets, who clinched their fourth consecutive regular-season championship two weeks ago.

"SUNO gave us a good fight and didn't make it easy for us," Lawing said. "But we found the open spots on the floor and took care of our serve and pass.

"Staying unified was one of our biggest goals. It was all about staying together,  playing as a team and finishing as a team. We were unified, smart and efficient,  and it was powerful."

Christal Hollins and Milica Golubovic had seven kills apiece for SUNO (25-10), which lost to Xavier for the third time this season. The Lady Knights are 0-6 against Xavier and 26-0 against the rest of the GCAC during the last two seasons.
It was the third time in four years that Xavier beat SUNO in the final. SUNO finished second in the tournament for the fourth time in five years.

Xavier outhit the Lady Knights .248 to .009 and had advantages of 41-24 in kills, 3-1 in aces, 65-50 in digs and 8-1 in blocks. Xavier committed 18 errors, and SUNO made 32.

SUNO entered the match with a .241 hitting percentage which ranked 14th in the NAIA. But the Lady Knights hit .119 against Xavier this season.

"I am so proud of our effort and our success as a cohesive unit throughout the tournament," Williams said.

Xavier has more victories against SUNO, 12, than against any other GCAC team during its winning streak. The Gold Nuggets have not lost in conference since a five-set decision to SUNO in the 2010 tournament semifinals.

Xavier has won all 45 sets it has played against GCAC opponents in the Convocation Center, which became the Nuggets' home in 2013.



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