FRANKFORT, Ky. — After opening the season with five straight losses, the Albany State volleyball team began the SIAC Crossover Tournament on Thursday with a trio of games against three of the weaker teams in the conference.
The Lady Rams cruised to three victories, and coach Robert Skinner said it might have been the perfect confidence booster for his team.
The Lady Rams lost just one set all day with wins against Tuskegee (3-1), Stillman (3-0) and LeMoyne-Owen (3-0) to improve to 3-5 overall and 3-0 in the SIAC.
“It feels good to win,” Skinner said. “All of that losing got a little depressing. We played hard (Thursday) but just didn’t have much intensity. But playing this level of competition will do that to you sometimes.
“But I think winning is going to make a difference. I think the girls will be more confident and play with more enthusiasm now that they have won a few games.”
The Lady Rams were able to get into the win column without star setter Amanda Cook, who severely sprained her wrist Sept. 10 against Valdosta State and will likely miss at least two weeks of the season. Cook played sparingly against Stillman on Thursday but sat out the other two games as junior Desiree Hardy filled in as setter.
Skinner said Hardy, who finished the day with 81 assists, played well, but it still wasn’t the same without Cook.
“It hurts a whole lot (to lose Cook),” Skinner said. “You can see a difference in the cohesiveness on the offense. She is the type of leader who holds us together.”
ASU won its opener against Tuskegee, 21-25, 25-19, 26-14, 25-18. Jillian Anderson led the way with 12 kills, while Ashley Johnson and Jennifer Evans added 11 and 10 kills, respectively. Kaliah Carter had a team-high 25 digs.
In Game No. 2, ASU swept Stillman, 25-22, 25-20-25-17, and was led by Anderson (10 kills) and Evans (8 kills). In the Lady Rams’ final game of the day, they beat LeMoyne-Owen 25-23, 25-20, 25-12 and were paced by Nicole Lamb (7 kills), Johnson (6 assist) and Evans (6 assists).
ASU plays Lane and Miles today before wrapping up the tournament Saturday with a matchup against host Kentucky State.
LADY CAVS TO HOST RIVAL GPC: At 6 p.m. today the Darton women’s soccer team will kick off what is arguably its toughest game of the season as it hosts Region XVII rival Georgia Perimeter College, which is ranked 13th in the country.
But there’s more on the line than just Darton’s ninth straight victory.
A win would lift the Lady Cavs to the top of the region rankings and could go a long way in improving the team’s No. 5 national ranking. It would also tie Darton coach Ken Veilands for the most wins in Region XVII history for a women’s head soccer coach.
“That’s awesome,” sophomore goalkeeper Hong Tran said. “He’s going to be the most winning coach in our region? That’s going to be one more accomplishment toward making it as a national champion.”
And Darton might be on its way to a national title.
The Lady Cavaliers are a perfect 8-0 overall and have allowed only six goals all season, while offensively they’ve hammered teams with a total of 42 goals. Eighteen of those have come from Lyana Perez, who ranks No. 4 in the nation in scoring.
But watch out for sophomore captain Stephanie Anes, who last week changed roles from a defender to a central midfielder and has already scored three goals and dished out one assist.
“It’s different but I like it,” she said. “I have more freedom. I feel more involved with the game.”
Anes’ leadership in the midfield will be an important factor today against a Georgia Perimeter team that is also undefeated.
“It will be a brutal battle,” Tran said. “It will be one to watch. We’re nervous and excited at the same time. It’s going to be the most intense game of our season.”
Should the Lady Cavs win, it will be win No. 224 for Veilands, which ties a record set by Kathy Brown during her 13-year span as women’s soccer coach at Young Harris College.