Red River newbies win XULA’s 11th consecutive conference tournament championship

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SAN ANTONIO, Texas — The beat goes on for Xavier University of Louisiana volleyball.

The Gold Nuggets completed their first season in the Red River Athletic Conference with a 25-22, 23-25, 25-12, 22-25, 15-4 victory Saturday against Our Lady of the Lake in the RRAC Tournament final. For the 11th straight year, XULA won a conference tournament championship — the previous 10 were in the Gulf Coast Athletic — and clinched an NAIA nationals automatic berth.

The NAIA will announce Monday the 48 qualifiers and pairings for first-round matches, which will be played Saturday (Nov. 20).

Fifth-year standout Vivica Price-Spraggins was XULA’s difference-maker during a suspenseless fifth set, providing five kills and two blocks in a 13-0 run that gave XULA an insurmountable lead. Kendall Mack’s kill ended the two-hour, five-minute match.

“Xavier was a wall at the net (during the fifth set),” said OLLU head coach Scott Mattera, whose team won this tournament last season. “They were making every play, and we got just a little bit timid.”

XULA sophomores Linda Mungai, Emi Riglioni and Kennedy Wade were named all-tournament, and Wade was selected most valuable player. Riglioni was all-tournament at the conference level for the second consecutive season.

“We played well, and we worked hard to win this,” Price-Spraggins said. “We stuck together, we fought, our energy was high throughout, and we showed a lot of passion. We were not used to competition like this in our old league, so this match was good for us. We worked well and handled the pressure.”

XULA and OLLU shared the RRAC regular-season championship, but XULA was the tournament’s top seed by virtue of a four-set victory against the Saints three weeks earlier. It was a rare home loss for OLLU, which entered with a 64-9 record in its Mabee Gymnasium over the last seven seasons.

The victory was XULA’s ninth in a row, and the Gold Nuggets set a school record for fewest points allowed in a fifth set. The previous mark was six against Bryan in 2015 and Maryville (Mo.) in 2004.

After the tournament Pat Kendrick was named RRAC Coach of the Year. It was the only major end-of-season award for XULA, which was shut out on all six player awards announced Thursday. This is Kendrick’s eighth coach-of-the-year award — region, state or conference — in five seasons with XULA.

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