App State volleyball strong throughout invitational

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Noah Gerringer

Game 1 (Friday 7:30 p.m.)

Appalachian State Volleyball (4-3) took on Missouri (6-0) in a long hard-fought battle in the first of three games at the Appalachian Invitational.

Quickly losing the first two sets 25-23 and 25-21, the Mountaineers held on to try to pull themselves back from the deficit.

Falling behind in the first set, App State never really  controlled the game. However, they did manage to tie the game at 15 points to force a Mizzou timeout.

Refusing to go away, they later tied the game again at 22 points. Yet again, Missouri’s control factor became an issue as App State failed to stop them run to 25 and lost the first set.

“Coming out flat in our home gym can’t happen,” head coach Matt Ginipro said.

In particular, Senior outside hitter Jess Keller started the first two sets hitting poorly. That was, until she remembered it was her birthday.

Keller went off in the final three sets, with over 21 kills on her 21st birthday, hitting right at .300 for the night.  She couldn’t quite pinpoint the exact reason for her incredible performance.

“I just think I did a better job elevating, swinging high and finding seams in the block,” Keller said.

Similar to the first two sets, Keller followed her teammate with 35 assists in the third set, 47 in the fourth and a match high of 55 in the final set.

Corrigan is no stranger to motivation. She constantly encouraged and pushed her teammates to play harder, even when they were down 0-2.

The energy certainly affected the game, helping lead the Mountaineers to victory in the third and fourth sets.

The fifth set was one for the books, as the two teams traded leads seven times throughout the pace of the game. Unfortunately for App State, they couldn’t hang on, and the Missouri Tigers took the final set 20-18.

Game 2 (Saturday, 12:30 p.m.)

In the second game of the Appalachian Invitational, the Mountaineers (4-4) faced off against the Liberty Flames (4-3).

Liberty, scoring the first point in every set but one, managed to keep up with App State and force a fifth set. Brown had 54 assists, while Corrigan and Keller had over 20 kills a piece, leading the team to win the final set 15-10.

“At least we came up on the right side,” Coach Ginipro said shortly after the game.

Starting the match off with a point by Liberty and a few mishits by App, Liberty took a quick 15-9 lead.

After a Mountaineer timeout, the team quickly began to gain some momentum and tighten the gap.

Liberty head coach Shane Pinder, however, knew how good Appalachian State can be with momentum behind them, and quickly put an end to it with a timeout of his own.

The rest of the set went the same way, with Liberty calling timeouts whenever the black and gold would inch closer, resulting in the first set going Liberty’s way 25-23.

“It’s annoying,” Ginipro said, followed by a quick laugh. “We found that the team that wins the most three-point runs wins the game, so that’s our goal.”

This came true, as the Mountaineers went on to win the next two sets 25-23 and 25-13.

However, more mishits and common errors denied Appalachian the chance to close it out in four sets and Liberty won 25-21.

With only two timeouts taken by Liberty in the fifth and final set, Paige Brown and the others were able to extinguish the Flames.

Brown said her continued success in the assist column is driven by a desire to help propel the offense as a whole to higher levels.

“I just want us to have the best offense in the conference,” Brown said. “I want us to have the highest hitting percentage and I want us to have the most kills per set.”

Game 3 (Saturday, 7 p.m.)

For App State’s final game of the tournament, they took on the Charlotte 49ers (3-5) in a quick and what some would call relieving three-set match.  After coming off of two five-set matches already, the Mountaineers came out to just play and win.

Ginipro said having to play two games in one day made his game plan pretty simple.

And that is exactly what they did.

Charlotte did the opposite of Liberty, barely calling timeouts, allowing the Mountaineer offense to gain momentum, quickly pulling out to a 6-2 lead and later 14-7.

With Keller’s kills and Brown’s assists, App easily took the first set 25-13.

The second set was won by the trio of Keller, middle blocker Ashton Gregory, and Corrigan. Each with a significant amount of kills, they managed to hold off a fighting Charlotte team and take the set 25-21.

“I’m a perfectionist,” Gregory said about her powerful performance. “When I’m under pressure I think it’s fun, those are the moments I live for.”

With no timeouts called in the third set, Paige Brown was able to be her usual self with 35 assists, and help Keller do the same with 13 kills, the most from anybody in the match.

With Gregory not far behind in kills, Ginipro said her fire and refusal to lose was, “the gift of a transfer.”

Gregory transferred from Furman after being named the SoCon Player of the Year and an All-American Honorable Mention Award recipient in 2014.

As the Mountaineers look forward, Brown says that there is more work to be done.

“The best thing about this preseason is that we’ve seen all of our weaknesses and now we can address them going into conference,” Brown said.

The team looks confident heading into Tuesday’s match against Western Carolina at 6:30 p.m.

Story by: Noah Gerringer, Intern Sports Reporter