The 16th ranked Spring Hill College volleyball team opened the 2011 NAIA National Championship Tournament with a 3-0 (25-13, 25-11, 25-21) victory over the Xavier University (La.) Gold Nuggets on Saturday afternoon at the Arthur R. Outlaw Recreation Center.
SHC grabbed an early 14-7 lead in the first set and never looked back on the way to the 25-13 win while in the second set the badgers took a 10-1 lead and coasted to the 25-11 victory.
In the third set, Xavier refused to go away quietly and battled the Badgers point for point as neither squad could hold more than a two point advantage. With the set tied at 21 Spring Hill responded with a 5-1 outburst that salted away the match with a 25-21 outcome.
The Badgers were paced by senior right side hitter Yiting Cao of Shanghai, China, with 16 kills, an attack percentage of .452, 12 digs, 11 receptions and two aces.
Sophomore libero Meredith Donald of Mobile's McGill-Toolen Catholic High School recorded 16 digs and 12 receptions while sophomore setter Taryn Nash of Independence, Mo., handed around 31 assists with two service aces.
For the Gold Nuggets, Taylor Reuther tallied 14 kills with 12 digs and 20 receptions. Setter Patrice Hightower gave out 27 assists.
As a team, SHC won the attack war with a .354 percentage to just .097 for the visiting Nuggets and the Badgers rang up 10 total blocks to just one for Xavier.
Xavier, the 2011 Gulf Coast Athletic Conference (GCAC) champions ended the year with a 23-7 record.
The Badgers (39-1) now move into round-robin pool play rounds of the NAIA Volleyball National Championship presented by CNOS Foundation on November 29-December 1, 2011, at the Forum in Sioux City, Iowa. The top two seeds from each of the pools will then advance to the single elimination rounds on December 2-3 with the Championship Match on Saturday, December 3, at 8 p.m.