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Volleyball - Tue, Dec. 20, 2016 - posted by Seth Preuss
The 2016 team struggled to integrate new players but will return almost everyone in 2017
The 2016 team struggled to integrate new players but will return almost everyone in 2017

FULLERTON, CA – Hope International has wrapped up another season of women's volleyball after the conclusion of the 2016 NAIA National Championship – the final standings and national awards have been announced by the NAIA National Office.

The Royals started the season strong with wins against Providence Christian, LIFE Pacific, and No. 18 Southern Oregon. The Royals lost to Oregon Tech and No. 4 Viterbo to wrap up the month of August with a 3-2 record.

HIU hosted its first Labor Day Tournament and opened with a win against UC Merced – the Royals followed the opening win with a three-game losing streak to Carroll, (RV) Lewis-Clark State (ID), and No. 15 Biola. HIU snapped the three-game skid and went on a five-game winning streak afterwards with victories against San Diego Christian, William Jessup, Menlo, La Sierra, and Arizona Christian to improve to 9-5 overall. A loss to The Master's in five sets wrapped up the month of September and gave HIU a 4-2 record in the GSAC.

The Royals opened up the month of October with a loss to No. 3 Westmont but bounced back with another win against LIFE Pacific. The Royals went on another five-game skid that stretched to the last week of October with losses to Vanguard, San Diego Christian, (RV) Montana Tech, No. 16 Biola, and Menlo. HIU was able to snap the streak with a win at William Jessup to end October a game below .500 with an 11-12 record.

The tilt at William Jessup would prove to be the Royals' last win as HIJ finished the season on a 0-4 run through November against Arizona Christian, No. 1 Westmont, (RV) The Master's, and Vanguard. HIU finished the year with an 11-16 overall record.

Coach Jessica Walker made no excuses for the team's performance but did attribute some of the struggles to an abundance of new faces: "Bringing in nine new players was a huge difference maker for us, getting settled in and getting to know one another as we played through this season…When you have new people in major roles like setter and freshmen outsides like Kierra and getting them acclimated to the [collegiate] level of play…having two new middles in Hallie and Breanna Kirklen (JR/Valley Center, CA) [along with everyone else] is tough, acclimating new players is tough," Walker said after the season's end.

Katie Landazuri (JR/Temecula, CA) ended the season as the lead attacker for the Royals with 377 kills and an average of 3.56 kills/set – her season total and her number of attempts were both nearly double that of the closest teammate. Kierra Pearson (FR/Huntington Beach, CA) was a distant second on the team with 196 kills and an average of 2.33/set.

Landazuri captured All-GSAC and All-Region accolades for the first time in her career this season and Coach Walker was proud of her standout junior outside hitter, saying , "I am so happy that [Katie] has one more year and for her to get the recognition this year [as an All-GSAC and AVCA All-Region player] is so amazing – she's overcome a lot of injury in the past…her level of play this year has been so different. She's a fifth-year senior for us next year and she knows what to do in different situations – I'm so happy we get her back."

Jessica Zeig tallied 656 assists in her first season at HIU and was second in digs – Shea Beeman (JR/Hurst, TX) supplied a team-high 427 digs from her spot as the libero and also tied with freshman Anna Stevenson (FR/Scottsdale, AZ) to lead the Royals with 34 aces. Hallie Sullivan (SO/Vacaville, CA) ended her first year at HIU with a team-best 74 total blocks, including 13 solo stuffs.

The Royals say goodbye to three seniors that have helped Coach Walker shape the character and culture of the roster over the seasons at HIU. Coach Walker said of the outgoing group, "Samantha has been here since I got here, five years, and Johannah Wade (SR/Orange, CA) and Alexa Basauri (SR/Beaverton, OR) have been here four years, and they're just part of the culture of this team, so unselfish and such amazing teammates." Coach Walker continued on to say "Johannah has been a captain for two years and [all three girls'] unselfishness, their willingness to put the team first and do whatever is necessary… losing them, maybe not in the stats, but in practices and just having them around, it's going to be tough not having them on the team next year."

With only three players graduating from a 19-player roster, Coach Walker plans to push forward with developing the returners and said this with regard to next year's outlook: "I'm really excited about next year with a lot of girls coming back, a player who sat a year with injury – I'm really excited about them and the seniors who have come to me… and are really taking the lead and being accountable for next season."

With the departure of Biola from the GSAC after the 2016-17 academic year, the GSAC could potentially add a conference tournament to determine the bid to the NAIA National Championships. Coach Walker said this of the possible introduction, "having a tournament [as a conference] would be great and I think if we had had that this year our season might have looked a little different." The potential Tournament would provide additional incentive for steady play throughout the season and would offer an extra option to receive a bid to the NAIA National Championship.

The Royals return all the pieces Coach Walker worked so hard to integrate this season – with a full year to jell and another offseason to acclimate to one another and the culture at HIU, look for next year's roster to be competitive and in the hunt for a berth in the potential GSAC Tournament during the 2017 season.

 
W - Volleyball
Overall GSAC Streak
10-4 (.714) 3-1 (.750) Won 4
 
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