If Mississippi University for Women volleyball coach Halee Hensley was looking for a stern test for her team, she certainly found it this weekend in the Berry College Tournament in Mt. Berry, Georgia.
The Owls lost three straight-set matches against three highly regarded opponents: the hosts, Berry College, who are ranked No. 8 in NCAA Division III; Maryville, which received votes in the D-III preseason poll; and undefeated Sewanee.
On Saturday, the Owls lost to the hometown Vikings by set scores of 25-17, 25-7 and 25-16, then were defeated in the afternoon match by the Tigers 25-21, 25-20, 25-19
”The ladies played well the first and final set against Berry,” Hensley said. “The second set we played very scared and timid. Berry is ranked top 10 in D-III, so us competing with them that close for most of the game is great.”
Jasmine Kelly led The W with 3 kills and 2 aces versus the Vikings.
On the defensive half, Maggie Griggs, Llayne Skinner and Caledonia High School graduates Madison Suggs and Camryn Johnson each contributed 4 digs. Griggs, Skinner and Suggs combined for a strong .950 receiving percentage, making just 2 errors in 40 receiving attempts.
In the Sewanee setback, The W back row turned in a strong .940 receiving percentage to help keep the Tigers in view. Zoe Hansen of Caledonia committed just 1 error in 26 reception tries, good for a .962 average. Hansen also chipped in 3 kills and 10 digs toward the MUW cause.
Griggs led the attack with 7 kills. Duran added 4 kills and a .214 attack average for the match.
“The ladies played great this weekend,” Hensley reflected. “I saw so many great things — things that we’ve never done in practice — this weekend. Great things to come this season.”
The Owls will next be in action at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Bethel University in McKenzie, Tennessee.
The Mississippi University for Women women finished ninth and men finished eighth at The Opener hosted by Mississippi College.
The host school won both 5,000-meter divisions.
“Today the heat got the best of us,” The W coach Dedrick Burnett said. “Overall, I’m very proud of everyone who competed today. This was a good opener for us to use to start our season. Now, we build off of this race and prepare for the next one.”
In the women’s race, Kaitlyn McRee and Kalee Sanders were The W’s top finishers, crossing the line back-to-back in 65th and 66th places. McRee had a clocking of 31 minutes, 12.2 seconds, while Sanders crossed in 32:21.4.
Also running for the Owls were Vonisha Towns in 43:59.3, Aziyah McGhee in 42:58.6 and Michaiah Adams in 42:58.9 minutes.
Joshua Gonsalves led The W men with a 66th-place finish. Gonsalves had a time of 20:34.0, an average of 6:37.2 minutes per mile.
Carson Holly was 71st in 21:00.8, while Brandon Brown (25:33.9) and Tavonta Macon (26:03.8) finished back-to-back in 81st and 82nd.
Kemarie Wade placed 86th Jerald Shelvy was 87th to round out The W’s finishers.
The Owls will be in action Friday at the University of North Alabama Invitational.
In its final pre-season exhibition match before Monday’s opener, the Owls posted a 5-4 road win over Northwest Mississippi Community College on Friday. The Owls and Rangers tallied seven of the match’s nine goals during a wild first half, led by The W, 4-3.
“It’s always good to win before the regular season starts,” The W coach Louis Alexander said. “We found different ways to score with four different guys getting on the scoresheet. Guys stepped up in place of others, who were a bit banged up, with little to no dropoff. We still have work to do, but I’m definitely happy with where we are at this point of the season.”
The Owls jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead thanks to unassisted goals by Pedro Santana and Paulo Carneiro in the third and fourth minutes, respectively. The Rangers tallied in the ninth minute, only to have The W’s Asahel Salgado make it 3-1 in the 18th minute.
After neither team scored for 12 minutes, . NWCC connected for scores in the 31st and 41st minutes to knot the match at 3-3.
But following the tying goal, Reggi Pech punched the ball in just 8 seconds after the restart to give the Owls a 4-3 lead at half.
As much as the first stanza was an offensive display, the second showcased both squad’s defenses. The only scoring in the final 45 minutes came on a penalty kick by each team.
The W’s Salgado[i] sent a PK past NWCC goalkeeper Xzavier Paylor in the 58th minute, as the Owls took a 5-3 lead. In the 78th minute, NWCC converted a penalty kick that accounted for the final score.
The W’s keeper David McCutchen made 9 saves.