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Exclusive: Simmons’ effort sparks Tigers

Exclusive: Simmons’ effort sparks Tigers

CLEMSON, SC — Though it won 20 matches last season, the Clemson volleyball team fell short of reaching its goal of making the NCAA Tournament. One of the reasons for missing the Big Dance was the Tigers inability to close out matches when it had opportunities to.

As with a lot of things in life, lessons can be learned through disappointment. Clemson displayed a little of that Friday night in the season opener against Coastal Carolina. The Tigers needed an hour and 17 minutes to dispose of the Chanticleers in straight sets 25-18, 25-15 and 25-12.

“We talked about that between sets two and three. We talked about this was our first match of the year and that we were in a really nice position at 2-0,” Clemson Head Coach Jolene Hoover said. “Let’s see if we have another gear. Let’s come out in game three with higher intensity in this game than we did in game one.

“Let’s start working on some of those things.”

Clemson (1-0) did just that in Game 3. Thanks to the hustle of Mo Simmons and the play of sophomore Kristin Faust, the Tigers blew Coastal Carolina away in the third set, scoring 23 of the last 30 points.

“We did not want to play on emotions, but they were really, really excited to play tonight,” Hoover said. “That was great and I did not want to squash that, but we can’t play the whole match that way. We had to play even and we had to make sure we were not a rollercoaster throughout the match.

“We talked about that, and we did a great job sustaining (our emotions). Even with our hitting percentage through three games, we stayed very consistent. We opened up hitting .367 and I figured we might come down from there, but we went up in game two and stayed the same in game 3. It was real good to see.”

It was also good to see one of her team leaders diving into the bench to save a loose ball though Clemson had complete control of the match. Late in the third set with the Tigers cruising, Simmons dove into her bench to keep a ball in play, which set Faust up with a kill seconds later.

“She just brings so much energy and excitement and the team feeds off it,” Hoover said. “She has been a fantastic leader for us so far.

“She could have chosen to be like, ‘We are ahead. There is no need to go for that.’ But she is always on. She goes full blown speed. So she goes for it.”

Simmons finished the evening with 13 kills on 20 attacks to lead the Tigers. The .650 hitting percentage was the second best effort of her career. The junior from Buford, GA hit .652 against Boston College last year.

Faust led Clemson in points with 14.5, including a career-high four aces. She also had 10 kills in the match.

The win was Hoover’s 399th career victory at Clemson. The Tigers will try to give her win No. 400 on Saturday when they host S.C. State in the fourth game of the Big Orange Bash, which is scheduled to begin at noon.

“That just means I have been here a long time,” Hoover said.