TYLER, Texas -- 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.
“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.
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.
Blinn has competed in intercollegiate athletics since 1903 and captured 29 NJCAA national championships since 1987. For more information on Blinn volleyball, visit www.buccaneersports.com.
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