NEW ORLEANS — For the second consecutive year, Xavier University of Louisiana has been awarded a home match in the NAIA Women's Volleyball National Championship Opening Round.
The Gold Nuggets (23-2) will play an Indiana school, Marian (27-5), Saturday on the XULA campus.
XULA qualified automatically for nationals for the seventh straight year by defeating Dillard 25-20, 25-16, 25-13 Saturday in the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Tournament final at SUNO.
It will be the first-ever volleyball meeting between XULA and Marian. The winner will advance to the 2017 NAIA Women's Volleyball National Championship presented by Delta Hotels Nov. 28-Dec. 2 at Sioux City, Iowa.
The XULA-Marian match will be one of 12 Saturday matches in the opening round. Twenty teams received first-round byes and advanced automatically to Sioux City.
XULA Captures 7th Straight GCAC Title
NEW ORLEANS — Xavier University of Louisiana put the finishing touches on a perfect run through Gulf Coast Athletic Conference volleyball with a 25-20, 25-16, 25-13 victory Saturday against city rival Dillard in the championship final of the GCAC Tournament at SUNO's The Castle.
For the seventh consecutive season, the Gold Nuggets (23-2) won the league tournament and an automatic berth to the NAIA National Championship. Nationals will begin next Saturday. The NAIA will announce Monday the 44-team field and pairings.
In 14 matches this year against GCAC opponents — 12 in the regular season, two in the tournament — XULA did not lose any sets. XULA is the first Louisiana or
GCAC college to win every set against conference opponents.
The Gold Nuggets got double-doubles from their two primary hitters, both first-team All-GCAC players. Senior Juliana Tomasoni hit .346 and had 11 kills, 14 digs and two aces; freshman Kayla Black had 10 kills, 13 digs and two blocks.
Also contributing to the victory were Vivica Price-Spraggins with eight kills and a .538 hitting percentage, and Adili Rikondja and Lauryn Taylor with six kills apiece. Rikondja had four blocks, and Price-Spraggins and Hasani Salaam had two blocks apiece. Eva Le Guillou had 24 assists, and Tiffany Phillips had 17. Price-Spraggins, Taylor and Le Guillou are freshmen. Le Guillou is the GCAC Setter of the Year.
XULA's Anna Dalla Vecchia, the GCAC Freshman of the Year, had a match-high 18 digs, nine in the first set.
Shelby Stewart led Dillard (21-19) with eight kills and three blocks, but the GCAC Player and Attacker of the Year finished her career 0-6 against XULA. Stewart hit .150 against the Gold Nuggets, .257 against everyone else in her four seasons. Saturday she hit .103.
"We played a cleaner game than we did yesterday in the semifinals," first-year XULA coach Pat Kendrick said. "I thought we missed too many serves today, but other than that I thought we played with more energy today than yesterday."
Dillard led 4-1 in the first set, but XULA took the lead for good with seven consecutive points after a tie at 8. Rikondja and Taylor each had a kill and a block during the run. Two Price-Spraggins kills fueled a 6-0 run that gave XULA a 16-9 lead in the second set, and the Gold Nuggets dominated the final period after Tomasoni served back-to-back aces during a 7-1 opening run. Black ended the 70-minute match and secured her double-double with a kill after a Phillips set.
XULA outhit Dillard .266 to .038 and held advantages of 45-23 in kills, 4-0 in aces, 53-39 in digs and 7-4 in blocks. In three matches this season with the Lady Bleu Devils, XULA outhit them .258 to minus-.019 and had a 114-60 advantage in kills.
Kendrick won her ninth conference tournament championship as a head coach. She won eight Colonial Athletic Association tourney titles while at NCAA Division I George Mason, most recently in 2009. This was the 13th time a Kendrick-coached team reached a final.