ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Loyola falls short against Spring Hill

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General studies freshman and defensive specialist Rachael Lopez bump passes during a full set practice in August.

CRAIG MALVEAUX

By CRAIG MALVEAUX

The Maroon

Adjustments matter. That was the theme for the Springhill College Badgers, who faced an early deficit to conference rival Loyola University after committing six errors and killing the volleyball only nine times in the first set.

The Wolfpack, however, made few changes. “Tactically, not a lot changed,” said Tommy Harold, head volleyball coach. “The game plan stayed the same.”

And it cost them. Springhill cut their errors in half in each of the remaining sets, placed their foot firmly on the throttle and responded with three consecutive victories to win the match 3-1 Thursday, Oct. 20.

“It was a good hard match,” Harold said. “They are always a great team. They do not have a perfect record by accident.”

The win clinched the second consecutive Southern States Athletic Conference West Division crown for the 19th-ranked 29-0 Badgers. Springhill outside hitter Yiting Cao led all attackers with 18 kills. Kailey Tuthill, marketing sophomore, posted a team-high 13 kills for the Wolfpack, who fell to 14-9 overall.

Springhill capitalized on several Loyola mistakes to take a 5-0 lead in the first set, but the Wolfpack buckled down putting together a combination of blocks and serving aces to tie the score at 12 apiece. From there, the Wolfpack used a 13-8 run to claim the set.

This marked only the third time this season the Badgers dropped the first set in 29 total matches. Faulker University and Lee University represent the only other two teams to accomplish the feat.

“We stayed aggressive,” Harold said. “We found some holes in their defense and went after them and didn’t back down from a good team.”

Initially, they didn’t. Loyola continued its aggressive play from the first set powering themselves to a 7-1 lead. After a Badger timeout, Springhill went on an attacking binge scoring in bunches of three points or more five times throughout the match en route to a 25-18 win.

“(Springhill) had a lot of great kills and great plays but what hurt us the most was our side of the net, our unforced errors,” said chemistry and history sophomore Sabrina Stansberry.

Although Springhill shut out Loyola the final three sets, the match was much closer than the scoreboard read. The Wolfpack remained a play or two away from a different outcome, unlike the first match four weeks prior when outside hitter, Gina Gill, marketing senior, tore her anterior cruciate ligament in the opening minutes.

Sam Worsham, political science junior, credited Cao and Springhill for applying continuous pressure offensively, but said the Wolfpack couldn’t control their emotions down the stretch, which ultimately sealed their fate.

“We feed off of our emotions and sometimes it isn’t always good energy,” Worsham said. “Once we let the emotion of the game get the better of us tonight, we stopped doing what we practiced.”

Craig Malveaux can be reached at [email protected]