The Southwestern Assemblies of God University volleyball team headed back home on a high note after a 3-1 weekend to open the season.
And two local products — Celi Bruce (Waxahachie) and Kennedy Wiley (Red Oak) — left their mark on the start.
Wiley opened her college career with 23 kills and three blocks, while Bruce began her senior season with 101 digs, eight assists and two aces. She also converted on 97 of her 110 serves received (88 percent).
Day one opened up against No. 21 Bellevue University and returning All-American hitter Shayla Scanlan, who was looking to build off of a 30-win season.
SAGU took the opening set, 25-21, but the Bruins snatched the second set, 25-23. The Lions then won the next two sets for their first win of the season.
Senior hitters Kali Shaw and Suzanny Figueiredo finished the match with 40 combined kills — Shaw with 22 and Figuiredo terminating 18. Another key senior, Celi Bruce, had an impressive 33 digs, while setter Sophia Ivy had 39 assists.
In the second match of the day, Evangel took advantage of the early start to their season, with this being their fifth game of the season, taking sets one and two, 23-25 and 22-25.
SAGU then won sets three and four, and battled hard in set five, ultimately falling, 24-26. During the fifth set, Bruce moved up in the record books and is now fourth for most digs ever by a Lion after a 17-dig performance against Evangel.
SAGU head volleyball coach Hank Moore said, "Our kids played extremely well.”
Their first test of day two was against the Culver Stockton Wildcats, who are led by first-year head coach Daniel Cabrera and upperclassmen leadership that includes five of the Wildcats starters being juniors or seniors.
That leadership led the Wildcats to a first set win, 21-25. Luckily, the Lions kept their composure and eventually took the victory in the fifth set, 15-10, for their second win of the season.
Kali Shaw led the way with another double-double with 20 kills and 13 digs. Sophia Ivy had a career morning with 49 assists. Some newer faces to the program including freshman Kennedy Wiley and Jancee Akers, who both added 10 kills.
Moore added, “Celi Bruce really carried us emotionally on the floor." The senior from Waxahachie ended the match with 28 digs.
The Lions picked up right where they left off with their final match of the tournament with a three-set sweep of the College of the Ozarks, 25-23, 25-23, and 25-17.
The victory improved SAGU to 3-1 on the season.
Kali Shaw recorded her third double-double of the tournament with 13 kills and 14 digs. Suzanny Figueiredo had an outstanding game with her first double-double of the season, 12 kills and 24 digs. Once again, Celi Bruce and Sophia Ivy did their parts with Ivy providing 37 assists and Bruce finishing with 23 digs.
After the match, Moore stated, “We are off to a 3-1 start and have played well. This week we were able to play three freshmen in our rotation and all three are off to an excellent start off their college playing career.”
The Lions return to action for their first home games of the season Friday against Langston University and Our Lady of the Lake University. The first match will tip-off at 6 p.m. against Langston with the match against Our Lady of the Lake to follow shortly after.
Portions of this article are courtesy Blake Cochran/SAGU Athletics.