Valdosta Daily Times

Local Sports

September 15, 2013

VSU volleyball recovers from first day to finish Aiken Invitational 2-2.

VALDOSTA — The Blazers winning streak was snapped Friday at the USC Aiken Invitational as they fell in two consecutive matches to Lander and Palm Beach Atlantic.

The Blazers opened up action with a 25-23 win in the first set, but fell in the final three sets 25-16, 25-20, and 25-19 to lose the match 3-1.

Facing Lander in the first match of the day, Valdosta State was unable to capitalize on the strong play of Jessica Codato, who distributed 24 assists in the match while also striking for eight kills in 14 attempts for a .500 hitting percentage.

Offensively for Lander, a majority of the damage came from Hannah

Dederick, who connected for 16 kills and hit .538 with only two errors in 26 attempts.

Lander setter Jessica Register led in the assist column in the match with 38.

In the second match of the afternoon, Valdosta State squared off against Palm Beach Atlantic and were unable to break through as the Sailfish defeated VSU 3-0 with a narrow 26-24 victory in the first set, followed by 25-21 and 25-18 wins to close out the match.

Junior Blazer Jenna Kirkwood pounded out nine kills for Valdosta State, and the VSU

defense combined for 11 blocks in the match, but Faith Rohn and Stephany Brown combined for 25 kills in the match to lead Palm Beach Atlantic to their fifth season win, and a 5-1 record overall.

With the loss, the Blazers moved to 4-2 on the season.

After falling twice on the opening day of the USC Aiken Invitational, the Valdosta State Blazer volleyball team bounced back today with a doubleheader sweep over

Limestone and USC Aiken on Saturday with

3-0 and 3-2 wins, respectively.

The Blazers improve their record to 7-2 overall on the season, and will begin preparations to open up conference play against Alabama-Huntsville at The Complex on Friday.

Against Limestone in the first match, Valdosta State surged early on offense with six straight points early in the first set to take a 7-1 lead. The Blazers never let up, finishing off the opening frame 25-9.

After a 1-1 score to start out the second set, Limestone took and held the lead until the Blazers tied the set back up at 11-11.

 A four point run by the Saints gave them a 15-11 advantage before the Blazers strung together four of their own to knot things back up at 15-15.

Three points later, VSU took a 17-16 lead and held the advantage until Limestone delivered three straight, which resulted in the sixth tie of the set at 21-21.

Codato helped close out the frame for Valdosta State after picking apart the Saints service defense with two aces to push the Blazers to a 25-22 victory.

Valdosta State led throughout the duration of the final set to finish off the Saints 25-19 and pick up the win.

Kelsey Hedman, who has seen limited playing time early on this season due to a minor injury, made her presence known in the match with a .529 hitting percentage.

The sophomore slugged out ten kills in 17 attempts, while also pitching in on defense with a blocking assist on one of the Blazers' two blocks in the match.

Balancing things out on the attack for Valdosta State was Kirkwood with a team leading 11 kills, along with Lelalelei Nomura, who connected for 9 kills, and Codato and Ashley Lala with five kills each.

The Blazers combined for a .312 hitting percentage as a team, while also teaming up for 45 digs and 40 assists in the contest.

The second match proved to be a thrilling back and forth affair against the hosting Pacers, with USC Aiken taking the first set 25-22.

The Blazers responded with a convincing 25-17 victory in the second set, before falling 25-17 in the third. Facing a 2-1 set deficit, the Blazers turned the tables yet again and took the fourth frame 25-17.

In the deciding set, Valdosta State trailed most of the way until a late surge to tie the contest up 12-12.

A service error gave the Pacers a 13-12 edge, but Berry drilled a set from Codato past the USC Aiken defense to bring the score back to 13-13. Following a Pacer kill by Leah Rodgers, the Blazers faced match point and a 14-13 deficit.

An attack error by Taylor Stratton kept the Blazers alive, and Krista Bradford delivered a clutch service ace to put VSU in front 15-14. Kirkwood and Berry teamed up for a block to finish off USC Aiken and claim the 3-2 victory.

The Blazers offense showed balance against the Pacers, with three different players connecting for 12 or more kills.

Leading the charge for Valdosta State was Nomura with 16 kills. The sophomore also contributed five blocks for Valdosta State, and the red and black came together for 20 total blocks in the match.

Codato topped the dig column with 23, while also swinging for 12 kills and dishing out 38 assists.

Valdosta State will take a 7-2 record into Gulf South Conference play next weekend at The Complex, with a jam packed weekend featuring two conference rivals.

 Action kicks off on Friday night at 7:00 p.m. against Alabama-Huntsville, followed by Saturday's match vs. North Alabama at 2:30 p.m. Tickets will be available for purchase at the gate.

Fans can also catch live stats and a webcast for both matches at www.vstateblazers.com.

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