The Southwestern University Pirates volleyball open conference play this weekend at the SCAC Group A Divisional in Shreveport, La. looking for consistency, having fallen into a patter of two wins followed by two losses to open the season.
In their last two contests, the Pirates defeated Concordia Texas and East Texas Baptist University at home, winning the first match in four sets and the latter in three. The Pirate defense solidified over that time, holding Concordia Texas to a .045 hitting percentage and East Texas Baptist to a .102.
A possible factor in those two team-wide defensive performances is Head Coach Don Flora moving sophomore libero Ali Grona from a left back to middle back alignment.
"We just put her back into her comfort zone and the last two matches, she's been stellar defensively," Flora said. "She has a chance to be great."
Grona was everywhere against Concordia, putting together a career-high 26 digs in four sets. Against East Texas Baptist, she had 16 in three; the most digs she's had in a three-set match this season.
The two matches have moved her to per set dig average to 4.50, good for fourth in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC).
Middle Blocker first year Riley Brantley has emerged as the Pirates' most well-rounded weapon as of late, racking up double-digit kills in five of the past six matches, including four consecutive matches. She also had five assists blocks each in matches against Texas-Dallas and Concordia Texas.
Southwestern remains in the middle of the pack in the SCAC in most offensive categories, though it has shown a balanced attack with first year setter Katelyn Whitehead leading the conference in assists per set (8.92) with no Pirate in the top 10 in kills per set but four in the top 30.
Volleyball vs. Schreiner
Historical Record: Southwestern leads series 27-1.
The Pirates have held a vice-like grip over Schreiner, sweeping both games in three sets each last season. Schreiner enters the weekend with a 3-6 record and have not shared a mutual opponent with Southwestern so far this season.
Schreiner is in the middle of the pack in many of the conference's statistical categories but do attack in volume, leading the SCAC in team attacks per set at 40.77, which ranks fifth in the nation.
Leading the way for Schreiner is outside hitter and defensive specialist Kayla Lofland. The 5-foot-8 first year from San Antonio, Texas leads the SCAC in attacks per set (11.23), kills per set (3.63), and points per set (3.88).
Volleyball vs. Centenary
Historical Record: Southwestern leads series 16-0.
Centenary is still searching for its first win against Southwestern and takes a 3-8 record into the weekend. Mutual opponents so far include Concordia Texas, East Texas Baptist (2x), and Whittier. Southwestern is 3-0 against those teams and Centenary is 0-4.
The Centenary Ladies do defend and pass well, leading the conference in digs per set (21.71) and boast a quality sophomore setter in Rachel Demerjian, who is second in the SCAC in assists per set with 8.50, funneling most of the offense to outside hitters Lauren Kelley (3.33) and Ami Powers (3.29), who are currently second and third in the SCAC in kills per set.