Saint Leo, Fla. (August 30, 2008) – The Saint Leo University volleyball team fought off two formidable opponents in St. Thomas University and Northwood University (Mich.) on Saturday afternoon in the SLU-hosted portion of the Florida Southern/Tampa/Saint Leo Labor Day Tournament at the Bowman Center. The Lions defeated St. Thomas in the day’s opening match 3-1 (25-18, 22-25, 25-18, 25-21) and closed out the tournament by upending Northwood 3-1 (23-25, 25-9, 25-10, 25-22).
The Lions, who have jumped out to 4-0 overall just two days into the 2008 season, dominated the Bobcats in the first game but were surprised by the visitors from Palm Beach, Fla. as they stormed out to an early 3-0 lead in the second and then rallied after the Lions tied the score at four to retake the lead and not surrender it through the remainder.
With the score knotted at one game apiece, the Lions, with a little encouragement from Head Coach Sam Cibrone and his assistants, left little doubt in the third and fourth games as they closed out the third victory of the year outscoring their opponents 50-39.
In the win, two Lions hit greater than .500 with the reigning NCAA attacking champion sophomore Kaitlin McKenna (Farmington Hills, Mich.) leading the way with a .571 hitting percentage (13-for-21) and freshman Danielle Bletso making her college debut with a .556 attack percentage (5-for-9). Junior setter Michelle Nogueras posted her third double-double of the year as she posted 34 set-assists and 14 digs.
Defensively, senior Emily Frey (Mason, Ohio) came up big in the middle with three block assists and a solo stuff. Sophomore Leah Perry (Salem, Ohio) completed blocking tandem as she collected the other half of the three block assists.
After the morning contest, the Lions took the court six hours later, where they were quickly surprised in the opening game against Northwood as the visitors from Michigan outhit Saint Leo while capitalizing on eight Lion attacking errors to steal Game 1 from the hosts.
An angry Lions team came out in the second game and shut down the Timberwolves hitting at an almost .400 clip while Northwood was limited to just four kills and a -.235 hitting percentage.
The Lions repeated the feat in Game 3 but Northwood would try and rally in the fourth game as both teams traded points all the way up to 22. With either team looking for a break, the Lions received it in a big way from McKenna as she put Saint Leo ahead for good with a resounding kill that sent the fans wearing the Green & Gold into a frenzy.
That would prove to be the crucial kill as Saint Leo quickly scored the final two points to win the match.
The stat of the evening belonged to Nogueras, who outdid her morning performance with a triple-double. She combined her 33 assists with 10 kills and 10 digs to lead the Lions.
McKenna again proved to be the attacking leader with a .682 percentage (16-for-22), just ahead of Nogureas’ .643 (10-for-14).
Senior libero Amanda Cook (Royal Palm Beach, Fla.) notched 16 digs and McKenna had three solo blocks and assisted on four more.
The Lions, who will see almost three weeks pass between home games, will now begin to prepare for the Florida Tech Invitational. Their first match is set for Friday, September 5th against Coker College at 2:30 p.m.