7th heaven! XULA rocks Dillard, rolls to another GCAC tourney title

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NEW ORLEANS — Xavier University of Louisiana put the finishing touches on a perfect run through Gulf Coast Athletic Conference volleyball with a 25-20, 25-16, 25-13 victory Saturday against city rival Dillard in the championship final of the GCAC Tournament at SUNO’s The Castle.

For the seventh consecutive season, the Gold Nuggets (23-2) won the league tournament and an automatic berth to the NAIA National Championship. Nationals will begin next Saturday. The NAIA will announce Monday the 44-team field and pairings.

In 14 matches this year against GCAC opponents — 12 in the regular season, two in the tournament — XULA did not lose any sets. XULA is the first Louisiana or GCAC college to win every set against conference opponents.

The Gold Nuggets got double-doubles from their two primary hitters, both first-team All-GCAC players. Senior Juliana Tomasoni hit .346 and had 11 kills, 14 digs and two aces; freshman Kayla Black had 10 kills, 13 digs and two blocks.

Also contributing to the victory were Vivica Price-Spraggins with eight kills and a .538 hitting percentage, and Adili Rikondja and Lauryn Taylor with six kills apiece. Rikondja had four blocks, and Price-Spraggins and Hasani Salaam had two blocks apiece. Eva Le Guillou had 24 assists, and Tiffany Phillips had 17. Price-Spraggins, Taylor and Le Guillou are freshmen. Le Guillou is the GCAC Setter of the Year.

XULA’s Anna Dalla Vecchia, the GCAC Freshman of the Year, had a match-high 18 digs, nine in the first set.

Shelby Stewart led Dillard (21-19) with eight kills and three blocks, but the GCAC Player and Attacker of the Year finished her career 0-6 against XULA. Stewart hit .150 against the Gold Nuggets, .257 against everyone else in her four seasons. Saturday she hit .103.

XULA outhit Dillard .266 to .038 and held advantages of 45-23 in kills, 4-0 in aces, 53-39 in digs and 7-4 in blocks. In three matches this season with the Lady Bleu Devils, XULA outhit them .258 to minus-.019 and had a 114-60 advantage in kills.

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