The Owls’ volleyball team competed in the Georgia Challenge this weekend against in-state rivals Georgia Tech, University of Georgia and Georgia State University.
Despite dropping two of three matches, Kennesaw State University coach Keith Schunzel believes that his team made progress this weekend, ending the tournament by defeating GSU (3-6) in four sets.
“Today against Georgia State, we took another step forward after a very emotional, hard-fought fight last night and controlled sets two, three and four to get the victory,” Schunzel said.
After losing the first set to GSU by a score of 29-27, the Owls won the next three sets 25-20, 25-18 and 25-17.
Sydni Shelton stood out for the Owls offensively, recording 26 kills and posting a .469 hitting percentage. Kristi Piedimonte came up big in the assist column with 48 while contributing five digs as well. Katrina Morton anchored the Owls defensively as she lead with 21 digs.
As a team, KSU posted a .329 hitting percentage, the team’s best hitting percentage posted this season by a wide margin.
Though the team ended on a win against GSU, the Owls opened the tournament against UGA (8-1), losing in three sets. Despite posting more kills than UGA (44-41), KSU still struggled, recording 25 errors during the contest that helped the Bulldogs win the match in straight sets: 25-20, 25-21 and 27-25.
Following the loss to UGA, Kennesaw played Georgia Tech (7-2) in the second match of the tournament, returning to the court with much better focus and intensity that helped them push the Yellow Jackets to a five-set thriller where the Yellow Jackets take the match.
After losing the first set 25-21, the Owls faced a large deficit in set two in which they trailed 21-14. Just as it appeared KSU would wave the white flag, the Owls made a fierce 7-1 rally led by Sydni Shelton who had four kills in the run. The Owls won the set 27-25 and followed the second set with another late rally in the third set to win 26-24 and take a 2-1 match lead.
Georgia Tech regained its composure in the fourth set and cruised to a 25-10 win. For the third time this season, KSU took an opponent to the fifth and final set — and for the third time, the Owls were unable to come out with a victory.
Schunzel saw something different in this match, however, that made him very pleased with his team’s performance, saying that his team played at “a much, much higher level mentally and physically.”
“While there is always frustration when you don’t win, we approached the game the right way tonight,” Schunzel said. “I am truly not at all as frustrated as somebody would think with what our record is.”
Key performers from the match against Georgia Tech included Anaiah Boyer, who had 12 kills and 13 digs, Kelly Marcinek, who led with 12 kills, and Katrina Morton, who recorded 27 digs.
The Owls will have most of this week off, but the team will be headed to Jacksonville, Alabama on Friday to play in the Jacksonville State Tournament. The competition will feature Evansville University (2-7), Nicholls State University (7-6), Louisiana at Monroe University (4-9), and Jacksonville State University (7-6), the host school.
The Owls will begin against Evansville at 10 a.m. on Sept. 16.