Behind a career-high 20 kills from outside hitter Audrey Nalls, TCU volleyball prevailed after a tough 3-1 victory over Villanova to win the 2019 Cowtown Classic.
“She handled that really well for us,” head coach Jill Kramer said of Nalls’ workload. “In big moments, she plays big, and that’s what you want from someone who’s out there all the time.”
Along with her game-high tally of kills, Nalls also finished with 13 digs and an ace. The first-year was awarded the MVP of the tournament following the match after totaling 38 kills, 22 digs, and six blocks.
Nalls follows in the footsteps of her teammate, élan McCall, who won co-MVP of the Cowtown Classic as a first-year in 2018.
After sweeping their first two matches, TCU faced the most adversity that they had all season against Villanova.
The first set went back-and-forth, with a tie game at 19-19. The teams were playing excellently on defensive, as the teams combined for an overall hitting percentage of just over .200. TCU was able to pull out a 25-23 win, but it was clear that the match would not be a breeze like it had been the last two days.
The Horned Frogs were suffocated by the Wildcats’ strong front line, hitting just .176. As a result, they dropped their first set of the year 25-21 to even the match at 1-1.
“I just told them they needed to trust themselves and trust one another,” Kramer said of what she told her team after losing the second set. “We have a bunch of really great volleyball players, and they needed to blow up like they had the rest of the weekend.”
Neither this loss nor the large crowd dismayed TCU for very long, as they rode big performances from Nalls, middle blocker Katie Clark and defensive specialist Dani Dennison to win the next two sets and take a 3-1 victory over the Wildcats.
Clark finished with 13 kills, five of which came in the fourth set. She finished the weekend with 27 kills and a .317 hitting clip and was awarded All-Tournament honors.
“I think it’s kind of like taking a motherly role,” Clark said of her role on the team. “I like to make sure everybody’s on the same page and [that] we’re all working together.”
Dennison had a team-high 15 digs, her 39th double-digit dig match of her career. During the fourth set, she had a streak of five-straight serves. The streak included two-straight service aces and helped to put Villanova away for good.
“I do think this team had an attitude that they wanted to take home the trophy from this tournament,” Kramer said. “They wanted to protect the Rickel for sure.”
Setters Irem Uçar and McKenzie Nichols combined for 40 assists in the win.
The Horned Frogs have not lost a home non-conference game since 2017.
TCU will return to action next weekend for their second of three scheduled nonconference tournaments this season. The Frogs will host Colorado State, Florida Atlantic and Florida State as part of the Fight in the Fort tournament September 6-8.
“You just take it one match at a time. It doesn’t matter who you’re against,” Kramer said. “We get three weekends in a row at home, so that’s [a] huge home stand for us.”