The ‘Black Hole’ debuted just in time to give the Grand Canyon University volleyball team a lift into the new season.
Yesterday’s game against Embry-Riddle signaled the end of pre-season for the Antelopes, and the new student section, dubbed “The Black Hole”, provided a loud, raucous send-off into Pacific West Conference play.
The ‘Lopes got the lift they needed with a 3-0 victory over the visiting Prescott school with scores of 25-22, 25-9, and 25-16. They worked their way out of a hole in the first set, scoring 10 of the final 13 points, and then turned the tide in the second set when they held Embry Riddle to just nine points by hitting .500 percent and getting 11 kills on 20 attempts.
It was a handful of local high school products that made significant contributions to the win.
Emily Draper from Phoenix Christian HS provided the spark with her setting in the comeback surge in the first set, and Arcadia High‘s Megan Toth pounded the final nail in place with her third kill of the set.
In the second set, Kristen Preach from Xavier Prep served aces for the final three points and Kaitlynn Ausmus from Deer Valley HS contributed five of the team’s 10 kills.
The ‘Lopes, who got off to a slow start this season and are now 4-7, have been building momentum all week, as they get ready to make a run at a PacWest title. On Tuesday, they beat Southwestern Bible College in a come-from-behind 3-1 win at home. They’re undefeated at home this season.
GCU has reason to be optimistic about the season because it has 10 players back from a 2009 campaign in which they recorded a 21-8 mark and a fourth-place conference finish.
Preach is coming off a season when she was voted the PacWest Freshman of the Year, and libero Laurann Durbin from Sunnyslope HS had two school-record-setting seasons. The junior recorded 530 digs in her freshman year and another 584 last season.
However, they’re also a young team. Thirteen of the 19 spots on the roster are filled by either freshmen or sophomores. Toth is the lone senior on the team.
The Lopes open conference play Tuesday against Notre Dame de Namur in the first of four league games and will be on the road through Sept. 25.
They’ve got momentum going into the new season. But the youngsters need to grow up fast if they want a shot at the conference crown.
(Photo: GCU Athletics)