Gold Nuggets rally late to win conference tournament championship for 12th consecutive season

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XULA volleyball

NEW ORLEANS — Second-seeded Xavier University of Louisiana scored seven of the last eight points Saturday to stun top-seeded Our Lady of the Lake and rally for a 22-25, 25-17, 16-25, 25-19, 16-14 women’s volleyball victory in the championship match of the Red River Athletic Conference Tournament at XULA’s Convocation Center.

The Gold Nuggets (21-8) snapped the school-record 16-match win streak of the Saints (21-5) and, for the 12th consecutive season, won a conference tournament. It’s also the 12th straight season that XULA earned an automatic bid to NAIA nationals; tournament pairings will be announced at 10 a.m. CST Monday, and first-round matches will be played next Saturday.

Tournament MVP Angela Egonu had 20 kills, a career high, and 10 digs for XULA. Teammate Kennedy Wade had 18 kills and 15 digs, and Stella Dineva had 13 kills and four blocks. Linda Mungai had 29 digs, Kendall Mack had eight blocks, and Adaeze Crenshaw had seven blocks.

Camila Rodriguez had 15 kills and 22 digs for OLLU, and Tijana Kruta had 11 kills and eight blocks.

XULA committed 52 errors, 11 more than OLLU, but outhit the Saints .189 to .141 and had advantages of 63-46 in kills and 79-60 in digs.

It was the second straight match that Egonu produced a career high in kills. She had 15 Friday against Southwest (N.M.) in a three-set semifinal victory.

XULA is 2-0 in RRAC Tournament finals. A year ago the Gold Nuggets won the title in five sets at OLLU. XULA won 10 straight tournament titles in the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference from 2010-20. Overall the Gold Nuggets have won their last 30 matches in conference tournaments.

OLLU led 13-9 in the fifth after an Egonu attack error. Then the Gold Nuggets flipped the script.

• Mack blocked Kruta’s attack to cut the OLLU lead to 13-10.
• It was 13-11 after Mia Dorsey’s attack error.
• Blocks by Mack and freshman Alyssa Studvent of Mia Francis made it 13-12.
• Setter Lauren Reynard’s kill made it 14-12 and gave the Saints their first of two match points.
• XULA saved a match point to make it 14-13 when OLLU couldn’t catch up to an underhanded backrow free ball from Egonu.
• A Ramirez attack error tied the set at 14.
• Then Wade produced consecutive kills — freshman Charity Metcalf assisted on both — to complete the comeback and give XULA another championship.

Two kills apiece by Egonu, Wade and Crenshaw keyed an 11-2 run that clinched the second set, and a 12-4 run to close the fourth — Crenshaw blocks scored the 23rd and 24th points — evened the match.

Before Saturday, XULA was 0-4 against OLLU in New Orleans, including a pair of three-set October losses that propelled the Saints to the RRAC regular-season championship and stop the Gold Nuggets’ streak of regular-season league titles at 11.

Joining Egonu on the seven-player all-tournament team were Mack, Mungai, OLLU’s Kruta and Ramirez, Southwest’s Valeria Trevino and Louisiana Christian’s Destinee Farris.

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