Costa Mesa, CA---For the third time in four seasons, the Vanguard Lions Volleyball program will participate in the NAIA National Championships at the final site, after the Lions swept visiting La Sierra University 3-0 (25-14, 25-14, 25-17) in the opening round of the national tournament on Saturday night. Seniors Jamie Heenan and KaUwila Lavea, named All-GSAC athletes earlier this week, played like two clutch performers, combining for 24 kills as the 14th-ranked Lions overwhelmed the Golden Eagles.
VUSC drilled seven service aces in the first set, helping the home squad set the tone for the match. The Lions scored the first five points, and LSU never got within five after that point. Heenan had three kills in the set, while senior setter Alex Leja dished out five assists to go along with three aces.
The Pride bounced out to an 8-3 advantage in the second set, helping Vanguard sustain the momentum from the first frame. After La Sierra cut the lead to 12-10 on a Maselina Samaia kill, the home team rattled off nine of the next ten points to take a 21-11 lead late in the frame. Lavea broke out in the set, downing six kills to propel VU to another double digit victory.
La Sierra, runners-up in the A.I.I tournament, came to play in the third set, giving the Lions all the hosts could handle. The Golden Eagles took their first lead of the match on a Samantha Arriaran kill, taking an 8-7 lead early in the frame. Vanguard responded with a Heenan kill to knot up the score, and the battle was on. Moments later, the hosts led 16-13, but the scrappy Golden Eagles would not go away, keeping within striking distance. Yet leading 18-15, Vanguard scored seven of the next nine points to wrap up the set and the match.
Arriaran finished with 21 assists, while Semaia added seven kills for La Sierra. The Golden Eagles, who made the program's first appearance in the NAIA National Tournament, saw their season conclude with a 23-4 record.
Heenan led VUSC with 13 kills and three aces, while Lavea finished with 11 kills. Leja pitched in 20 assists, while freshman setter Carly Maxwell added 14 assists.
Vanguard, now 22-12 this season, advances to the final site of the 2011 NAIA National Championships in Sioux City, Iowa. The Lions, who earned an at-large bid and home court advantage for the Opening Round by tying for fourth in the GSAC, will await their fate and their schedule, to be announced later by the NAIA. Check back to www.vanguardlions.com and the official website of the 2011 NAIA Volleyball National Championships for more information. Gold Pride!