Tigers named tournament champions
Towson was named the Montana Tournament Champions this weekend after they went 2-1, beating Texas Tech and Furman and losing to Montana.
The Tigers (8-3) started the tournament on the right foot, beating Texas Tech (10-1) 3-0 and handing the Athletics their first loss of the season.
“I think that was a nice win for us,” Head Coach Bruce Atkinson said. “That was their first loss and they’re a big team. They’re bigger than we are and I think that the speed of our offense was able to give them some difficulty and hopefully we’ll be able to have that same result this season many times over.”
In the second match of the tournament, Towson had a two set lead over Montana (2-7), but in the third set, the Grizzlies took the match over in the last five points and won the last three sets back from the Tigers to earn themselves their second win of the season.
Atkinson said that though Montana’s record isn’t great, they are not a team to take lightly.
After Towson allowed the Grizzlies to take the third set, there was no stopping them and they capitalized on Towson’s lack of momentum.
He also said that the Grizzlies’ more powerful outside hitters gave them an advantage.
“I think the thing that really hurt us in the Montana match was not just the number of [service] errors, but the number of first serve errors as opposed to missing a second or a third or a fourth serve after we’ve already ran a few points,” Atkinson said.
Towson’s final game of the tournament against Furman (9-3) ended in a 3-1 win and was one of the best blocking games the team played all weekend.
The Tigers recorded 11 team blocks and 20 block assists.
They had 29 team blocks over the weekend. The block was something that Atkinson stressed as a concern.
“We’ve put a lot of emphasis in it and we’ve tried to change things up a little bit and it’s taken longer than we had anticipated, but slowly but surely, it’s getting to where we feel that it’s one of our strengths,” he said.
Towson recorded one of its best all around hitting weekends of the season.
Senior middle blocker Alysha McCreary had 37 kills and 14 errors for a .397 hitting percentage, and was named to the all-tournament team.
Senior middle blocker Karolina Sawaniewicz had 34 kills and hit .254 on the weekend.
Junior outside hitter Dayane Van Ass hit at .229 with 35 kills.
Junior outside hitter Katy Buck recorded her first double-double of the season with 14 kills and 11 digs against Montana and finished the tournament with 41 kills and hit .210.
Junior middle blocker I’ishah Keliikoa was named the tournament MVP after she hit .436, recording 28 kills and only four errors.
Atkinson said that being named MVP showed that other coaches were paying close attention to her.
“She may not have been the leading attacker on any given night, but she always hits high numbers and has a high hitting percentage,” Atkinson said. “She’s improving in many different areas and we feel that she’s going to be a chief part of any success that we are able to have this year.”
Senior setter Aubrey Kirven dabbled in defensive strategy throughout the tournament, pitching in to help out the back row.
The setter recorded her first double-double of the season with 14 digs and 60 assists against Montana. She dug a total of 31 balls all weekend.
Atkinson said the team as a whole has been working on its defensive skills and that Kirven’s dig totals for the most part will depend on the opponent.
“A lot of times teams will go after their opponents’ setter because if she digs it, she can’t set it,” Atkinson said. “Aubrey’s done a nice job in controlling those attacked balls and we feel that with Paige coming in and making that set, that we can still stay in system when Aubrey does make the dig.”
With only one tournament to go before conference play starts, Atkinson said the team’s only concern is staying focused during the third set.
“Whether we end up winning or losing it, for whatever reason, we don’t come out with the same intensity that we generally do in the second or the first set,” he said. “That’s something that we consider to be a mental problem and we’re going to have to figure it out before conference play.”