The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Morgan Shiver, Contributor • June 20, 2024
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Volleyball has winning weekend

After stumbling to a 4-3 start in the first two weeks of the season and quickly approaching conference play, the SMU volleyball team needed a boost last weekend at the Magnolia Invitational in Oxford, Miss.

That’s just what the Mustangs got.

SMU (6-4) went 2-1 in the heavyweight tournament, ousting Atlantic Coast Conference power Georgia Tech in five sets and downing Eastern Illinois in three sets. The host Mississippi Rebels, of the Southeastern Conference, finally toppled the Mustangs in four sets on the tournament’s final day.

The third-place finish was an encouraging result, considering the Mustangs faced two 2007 NCAA Tournament teams (Georgia Tech and Ole Miss).

SMU hopes to carry its momentum into the Conference USA schedule, which begins at 7 p.m. tonight when the Mustangs face the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes at Moody Coliseum. Tulsa is the defending conference champion and off to a 10-1 start this season.

Junior middle blocker Kendra Kahanek slugged her way to a berth on the All-Tournament team last weekend. She, senior Natalie Peters and freshman Jessica Oliver anchored the SMU defense, earning them the nickname “The Great Wall of SMU Volleyball” in press releases issued by the SMU Athletic Department.

The trio finished with 71 kills and 20 blocks on the weekend and have combined for 196 kills and 92 blocks this season. Kahanek leads the team in hitting percentage (.292) and blocks (40). Peters, the oldest of the bunch, is a senior co-captain and an emotional leader of the team.

Kahanek and Peters were the catalysts in the Mustangs’ win over Georgia Tech, as they combined to hit .558. It was sweet redemption for Peters, who had a frustrating Radisson Tournament, hitting only .175 in the tournament’s first two matches.

SMU has also prevented opponents from scoring points with sensational play on its back line. Going into last weekend, the Mustangs were seventh in the country in digs, led by libero Sidney Stewart, who has tallied 146. Outside hitters Dana Powell and Kathryn Wilkerson have combined for 235 digs this season.

While the Mustangs’ defense has carried the team this season, the tenacious offense of outside hitters Powell and Wilkerson has also been steady throughout. The freshman-sophomore duo amassed 59 kills last weekend, giving the pair a total of 222 this season. Kahanek, Peters and Oliver have combined for 196 kills.

The Mustangs need to be at the top of their game tonight if they hope to derail the Golden Hurricane’s blistering momentum. Tulsa, led by a steady offense, has won every tournament in which it has played.

The Golden Hurricane dropped only two sets in four games at its host tournament. Junior outside hitter Jennifer Eichler leads the team with 151 kills and is the only Tulsa player with more than 100 kills this season. Senior defensive specialists Malorey Grove and Kelsey Wood have totaled 262 digs.

Last year, Tulsa’s Fabiola Nepomuceno amassed 25 kills, leading her team to a five-set victory at Moody Coliseum. The Mustangs, who have lost 18 of their last 22 sets against the Golden Hurricane, also lost a 3-1 decision in Tulsa.

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