It’s a new season for the North Alabama volleyball team as the Lions begin play today in the Gulf South Conference Tournament.
The Lions (11-17) hope to start a new journey today when the face Valdosta State in the opening match at 2:30 p.m., in Pensacola, Fla. UNA is the No. 5 seed in the tournament, while Valdosta State (17-13) is the No. 5 seed.
A program used to being one of the favorites heading into the weekend conference tournament is now looking to start off a new season after stumbling to a 11-17 record. UNA got off to a slow start this season before winning seven of eight matches in the middle of the season. The Lions, however, have lost six of their last seven matches entering tournament play.
UNA has played in three consecutive NCAA Regionals, but must win the GSC Tournament this weekend if they are to extend their postseason streak.
“Obviously it’s a different type of year for us, knowing we have to win out to advance”, coach Stephanie Radecki said. “Our number one goal at the beginning of the season is to win the conference tournament first. The girls are very focused and they know anything can happen in the tournament.”
The Lions face a tough opponent in Valdosta State. UNA split the series with the Valdosta State in the regular season but according to Radecki the Lions must limit their errors in order to be successful this weekend and against the Blazers.
“We have been working on that in practice,” Radecki said. “We have the talent but we just have to make things happen and make more scrappy plays. The tournament will be based on the team who can create the most plays.”
The bright spot for the Lions this season has been the play of senior Priscilla Massengale, who was recently named to the All-GSC team. Massengale leads the Lions in kills at 3.46 per game, which ranks second in the GSC.
Massengale and the Lions will go against a Blazer defense that finished second in the GSC with 195 blocks.
“Any time we play Valdosta, it’s a grind,” Radecki said. “They are a strong feisty team and it will be a good matchup for us.
“The atmosphere is going to be really energetic and is great for the student athlete. Everyone has a 0-0 record and we start Friday, so we are going to do our best to advance.”
The winner of today’s match will play No. 1 seed West Florida on Saturday at noon.