DEFENDING NATIONAL CHAMP BUCS OPEN SEASON WITH A BANG

Top-ranked Blinn wins all 12 sets in Tyler tournament

SATURDAY

The 2014 Blinn College volleyball team is picking up right where it left off in 2013.

Coach Erin Mellinger

Coach Erin Mellinger

The defending national champion Buccaneers defeated Colby (Kan.) 25-14, 25-9, 25-6 and Panola 25-12, 25-23, 25-14 Saturday to complete a four-match sweep of the Dana Hatch Invitational in Tyler, Texas. The Buccaneers had swept 12th-ranked Missouri State – West Plains and Pensacola (Fla.) State in the first day of the tournament Friday.

“We’ve got some things to work on but overall I’m proud of them,” Blinn (4-0) coach Erin Mellinger said. “Our sophomores are playing really well and we’re going to improve as our freshmen get time and familiarity with each other.”

Tawnee Luafalemana

Tawnee Luafalemana

Tawnee Luafalemana led the Buccaneers with 11 kills against Colby while Rebecca Reeve posted seven kills and a team-leading five blocks. 

“Tawnee was really good,” Mellinger said. “She hasn’t played volleyball that long, but she’s six feet tall and has the vertical leap to touch 10-foot-3. She’s going to get faster and more consistent, but she’s already hitting very good percentages.”

Trinity Alualu

Trinity Alualu

Rachel Sharp and Trinity Alualu each finished with six kills. Defensively, the Buccaneers were led by Alyssa LaMont’s 11 digs. Justus Tuiolosega posted 15 assists and 10 digs, and Jordyn Keamo recorded 13 assists.

Reeve stepped up with a big match against Panola, posting a team-leading 12 kills without committing an error, while Alualu added 11. Luafalemana finished with seven kills and a team-high four blocks, while Sharp tallied six kills and three blocks. Abolanle Onipede finished with six kills.

Keamo dished out a team-high 20 assists while adding eight digs, and LaMont finished with eight digs as well. Tuiolosega finished with 14 assists.

The Buccaneers will host the Applebee’s Classic beginning Friday at the Blinn P.E. Building. The Bucs host Eastern Arizona at 1 p.m. and fifth-ranked Tyler at 7 p.m. Friday, then face Yavapai (Ariz.) at 3 p.m. and Navarro at 7 p.m. Saturday.

FRIDAY

The top-ranked Blinn College volleyball team began its NJCAA championship defense with a pair of victories tonight at the Dana Hatch Invitational in Tyler, Texas.

Blinn defeated 12th-ranked Missouri State – West Plains 25-16, 25-22, 25-17 and Pensacola (Fla.) State 25-13, 25-14, 25-14 in the Buccaneers’ first action of the 2014 season.

Rebecca Reeve

Rebecca Reeve 

“They came out ready to play today,” coach Erin Mellinger said. “They were loud and excited and pretty fired up to be on the floor. I think they worked hard for two weeks and were as prepared as they could be.”

Sophomore Rebecca Reeve paced a balanced Buccaneer attack with 10 kills against Missouri State – West Plains, as Trinity Alualu, Tawnee Luafalemana and Abolanle Onipede each added eight kills.

Alyssa LaMont

Alyssa LaMont

Sophomore libero Alyssa LaMont led the defense with 13 digs while Alualu added 11, and Onipede led the Bucs with three blocks. Freshman setters Jordyn Keamo (20 assists) and Justus Tuiolosega (17 assists) set the tone for the offense.

“Our freshman setters did a really good job,” Mellinger said. “I think they distributed the ball well and they both served really tough. Our freshman middles and setters both did a really good job.”

Against Pensacola, it was Alualu who led the way with 12 kills while adding six digs on defense. Rachel Sharp added eight kills while Jaeda Allen and Reeve each finished with six. Rebecca Proske led the defense with eight digs, while Keamo finished with 13 assists and Tuiolosega added 11.

The Buccaneers opened the season ranked No. 1 in the NJCAA preseason poll after capturing the program’s third national championship last season. All six sophomores on this season’s roster were part of the 2013 championship squad.

The Buccaneers continue tournament play Saturday with an 11 a.m. match against Colby and a 3 p.m. tilt vs. Region XIV Conference rival Panola.

For more information on Blinn volleyball, visit www.buccaneersports.com.

(Story courtesy: Richard Bray, Blinn College Communications)