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Exhibition Match Is a Kind of Springboard

This is the Don of a new era. (sorry, couldn't resist)
This is the Don of a new era. (sorry, couldn't resist)

April 15, 2011

LUBBOCK, Texas - With solid serving, ball control and better conditioning, the Red Raiders beat the intramural men's club team in four sets in exhibition, spring volleyball action at the United Spirit Arena. Set scores were: 25-20, 27-29, 25-23 and 25-20.

"This was a fantastic opportunity for us to simulate a real match atmosphere on our home court and in some ways we got everything we could handle," first-year head coach Don Flora said after the match. "Playing on our home court, with most of our in-game environment and with some good fan support, gave us a chance to really put into use what we've been working on during spring practices."

After an even start, the Red Raiders began a series of little runs in the first set, in a sort of one for you, then three for me contest. Because the men were playing on a significantly shorter net than they use in competition, Tech's hitters had to adjust to a formidable blocking effort from the club team.

"Yes, I think that was key for us in mimicking some of the really tall, physical teams we'll face in the fall," Flora said. "We were able to stress what we mean when we instruct players to 'use the block' for example. It's one thing to say it in practice, but in game-time speed and with a taller, more athletic opponent, it's easier for our players to experience the adjustments in the moment."

After Miara Cave's kill, resulting from an overpass off a tough Tech serve, ended the first set, the Red Raiders came out sloppy in set two and found themselves down, 8-13, before soon-to-be senior setter Karlyn Meyers and former senior Alexxa Roberts came off the bench to spark a 12-7 run and knot the score at 20. The next 16 points were some of the best action all night as the teams traded offensive explosions in a back and forth stretch.



"Even with our backs against it, down 21-24, we didn't give up and that's something we will build on," Flora noted.

Great blocking up front by Cave, Roberts, nearly senior Amanda Dowdy and sophomore middle blocker Dravon Rangel, held the sometimes potent attack of the men's team. Errant play finally led to Tech's stumble in the second frame as a pair of attack attempts went long or wide in succession.

"We had a chance to talk about focus and eliminating the errors so that we could extend points until we found an opportunity to put away the ball," Flora said. "Also, we just have to put more pressure on our opponents with our serving game and we were able to emphasize that in timeouts in the third and fourth sets."

Each of Tech's three setters had an opportunity to direct the offense, as Meyers, Brandy Huskey and Nicole Hragyil were able to dish to their teammates who responded well to their different styles. Cave, Dowdy, Rangel, Roberts, Sheridan Burgess, and redshirt freshman Jenna Wagner had memorable kills on the night. Dowdy, Hragyil, Hannah Salyer and different-shirted Tory Vaughan (the libero) anchored the back row for Tech throughout the night and both Hragyil and Vaughan tormented the men's team from the service line in each set.

Superior conditioning and hours in the practice gym were likely the major reasons that the Red Raiders took control of the match in the third and fourth sets as it seems unlikely that the men's club team has been waking up for an hour of conditioning with Katie Munger (Tech's strength coach) each morning at 6 a.m. to go along with routine practice time in the gym over the past several weeks.

"Um, yeah, that's true," said senior setter, Matt Chester, who is a former Tech student manager.

The Red Raiders are back in action tomorrow as hosts of a round-robin spring tournament which begins at 9:30 a.m., at the arena. Admission is free and fans are encouraged to bring canned food donations for the South Plains Food Bank.

-- Aubree Piper and Candice Neill kept score at the event and were nearly flawless.

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