Gardner Maroons Gold Squad With Near Triple-Double
By Dan Ryan
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Surrounded by a team of freshmen and dueling a freshman for high-kill honors, Krysta Gardner delivered a senior moment Sunday at Bethune-Cookman's Maroon and Gold Match inside Historic Moore Gymnasium.
One service ace shy of a triple-double (21 kills, 11 digs, nine service aces), Gardner rallied her Maroon squad to a 3-2 win (25-18,20-25,23-25,25-17,17-15) with an effort that's expected of a preseason First Team All-Conference selection.
Gardner finished with five kills in a final set that, even though it was little more than a practice, had the intensity of a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) tournament match. And, of course, every attack attempt went her way down the stretch, including the match-point she delivered with authority.
Her attack percentage improved over the final three sets, and those nine services aces would be a career high if this were a regular season contest.
"She should have had that triple-double," B-CU second year head coach Isaac Raphael said of Gardner. "We encourage her to keep swinging."
This was the kind of match Gardner wanted to have heading into Friday's season opener against Charlotte at the East Carolina Tournament.
"We're going to be going up against top-level competition and we need to be focused like we were today," Gardner said. "This gives us some momentum."
Raphael gave assistant coach Kisya Killingsworth-Putney, also in her second year with the program, Gardner and four freshmen while keeping the majority of the returners for his Gold team. It resulted in a showcase for the newcomers.
Complementing Gardner were outside hitter Delicia Pierre (11 kills) and setter Monica Lowe - finishing with a double-double effort of 39 assists and 16 digs, who could develop into a B-CU volleyball version of Stockton-Malone through the next four years. The two other freshmen, Jordan Murray (10 blocks) and Jasmine Evans (eight kills, nine digs) had been relatively quiet during preseason, but today sparked the Maroon squad with a heavy presence at the net - something B-CU sorely lacked in Raphael's first season at the helm in Daytona Beach.
"We call Destiny 'tiny' but she brings a big swing," Raphael said of Hudson. "She has a lot of hustle. Today was a great experience for the freshmen. They have a lot to learn, but all of them got a lot of playing time today. They could relax and find their game."