WAXAHACHIE — With "new" addition Jessica Sodich and a litany of weapons at its disposal, Southwestern Assemblies of God University started its volleyball season — and Friday's Sooner Athletic-Red River Conference Crossover Tournament at the Sheaffer Center — with a bang.
The (4-0) Lady Lions outscored Texas' Jarvis Christian and Wiley Colleges and New Mexico's University of the Southwest nine sets to one in four matches. Their five-set win against the University of St. Thomas also earned them a tournament championship.
Against the Wiley's Wildcats, SAGU was powered defensively by Kali Shaw (11), former Waxahachie Lady Indian Celi Bruce (12) and once Ovilla Lady Eagle Sodich (17). The trio had 40 of the team's 57 total digs. Setter Sophia Ivy added eight.
Sodich earned a 15-kill and 17-dig double-double and Ivy fell two short of the total after logging a game-high 36 assists on SAGU's hardwood.
Offensively, outside hitter Summer Skillern was second on the team in kills with 14. Shaw's nine kills placed her second and middle blocker Paulyae Dawkins' seven earned fourth highest.
A pair of blocks by Dawkins sparked, then fueled the Lady Lions in the first set and a Skillern kill put an exclamation point on a 7-1 run. A quartet of above-the-net slams by freshman — and former Waxahachie outside hitter — Nikki Almaguer, Skillern, and Sodich sealed the first set 25-15.
SAGU took the second set 25-11 but stumbled in the second 25-19. It would be one of the three sets it would lose in the tournament.
After claiming the fourth and final set 25-21, the Lady Lions defeated Southwest 25-15, 25-7 and 25-23. With help from 12 kills from Sodich and another 11 from Shaw, 12 digs each by Bruce and Ivy and 34 assists from Ivy, they powered to a three-set sweep.
It was Ivy's first double-double of the season.
SAGU swept Jarvis Christian, too, allowing 10 points or less in two of the three sets. They beat the Lady Bulldogs 25-7, 25-8 and 25-12. Bruce led all players with a season-high 22 digs and the Lady Lions had four players — Skillern (8), Dawkins (6), Sodich (6) and Madeleine Hartline (5) — with five or more kills.
Five-foot-10 outside hitter Bojana Vukadinovic had five serving aces, followed by Ivy (4), Hartline (3), Shaw (3) and Sodich (2).
Despite starting the match posting a 64 percent team hitting percentage and 19 total kills in a 25-15 set No. 1 in the final match of the tournament, SAGU would have to battle for its undefeated streak. It rallied from behind after losing back-to-back sets in the third and fourth to close the tournament with a 15-12 fifth set victory.
Sodich had 23 kills in the final five sets and Bruce had 15 of the Lady Lions 59 digs. Dawkins had 13 kills and Almaguer added five digs and two kills while Ivy handed out a season-high 48 assists.
The Lady Lions travel to Bartlesville, Oklahoma on Friday to face Friends University, Sterling College Oklahoma Wesleyan University and the College of the Ozarks in the three-day OWU Tournament. They will return home to play a rematch against St. Thomas at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 28.