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Gulf Coast rebounds with 2 straight wins at national tourney

Gulf Coast bounced back from an opening round loss to McHenry County on Thursday with two wins Friday to stay alive at the NJCAA Division II National Championship in Charleston, W.V.

The Lady Commodores (23-7) are no longer in contention for the national title but can earn ninth place at the tournament by beating Kirkwood on Saturday morning at 8 a.m. Central Time.

Gulf Coast eased by Oakland in the first match of the day, winning in three sets: 25-23, 25-12, 25-16.

Cassidi Gant led the Lady Commodores with 12 kills, followed by Emma Richards with 10, Rachael Passarello with seven, and Riley Edwards with six.

Ava Shmueli had a team-high 32 assists, while Pasarello led with three aces and eight digs. Edwards and Richards had two blocks apiece.

“It took us a little bit to get the engines going, but we started to turn it around,” Gulf Coast coach Scott Allen said of the first match. “It was a little rough in the first and probably closer than it should’ve been. The second set we played really well and had a little slow start in the third, but then we finished strong.”

Things weren’t quite as easy in the afternoon matchup with Northeast, as Gulf Coast won the first set 25-20 before Northeast took the next two 25-21 and 25-19.

The Lady Commodores won the fourth 25-20 to force a fifth and deciding set and jumped out to a 12-8 lead before Northeast rallied with four straight points to tie it up 12-12.

Allen called timeout to help his team regroup and the Lady Commodores responded by winning the next three points to close out the match.

“We didn’t want to make it (so dramatic), but it worked out like that,” Allen said of the second match. “We did well in the first set, but (Northeast) started playing better in the second and third sets and put us in some difficult situations.

“We made some adjustments, changed personnel a little bit, made some schematic changes on defense and that started to help us out.”

Richards had a team-high 16 kills, followed by Edwards and Pasarello with 15 each. Shmueli had 47 assists and 16 digs, while Pasarello added 14 digs.

Allen said he was proud of the way his players fought on Friday, particularly in the fifth set against Northeast.

“It was a hard-fought match,” Allen said. “We’re battling a long day, a long road trip, and they gutted it out. I was really happy with them.”

 

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