Gorillas off to winning start

Tyler Smith – Collegio Sports Reporter

The PSU volleyball team started its season hot last weekend, earning four big wins at the Pittsburg State Classic.
The women beat Illinois-Springfield, Northwestern State University (Okla.), Bemidji State (Minn.) and William Jewell. They also managed to win all but one set during the four-match tournament.
Sophomore Paula Okrutna had an outstanding performance in both matches on the first day, earning 10 kills with only one error on 21 attempts against Illinois-Springfield. Freshman Crystal Whitten added nine kills while junior Christa McCaw finished with a team-high 11 digs. Okrutna also tied with Chloe Foster for the team lead in blocks with four.
Okrutna says she was pleased with the team’s performance
“I’m really happy that we won the first game,” Okrutna said. “We represent really good volleyball. During the preseason we worked really hard, so we could show it today. I’m really proud of my team.”
The second game featured more Gorilla domination, as they beat Northwestern State in straight sets, allowing only one kill in the first set. The strong performance helped head coach Ibraheem Suberu play 14 of his athletes, six of them first-year players.
“Well, we always talk to our young ladies about the processes, you know, to take care of the fundamental skills,” Suberu said. “The things that we practice, if we do those things consistently during the matches then we always know the outcome will be a good one.”
On Saturday, the team trounced Bemidji State in three sets by the score of 25-17, 25-17 and 25-22. PSU beat the Beavers in kills, 53-38, and out-blocked them 7-2. Whitten and Brooke Fay topped the team in kills. Whitten had 14 and Fay had 12.
Whitten committed only two errors and had a .500 hitting percentage. She says the team is optimistic about the season.
“Yeah, it feels awesome,” Whitten said. “I love my team and I love being a Gorilla. We are going to be on the map, so watch for us.
PSU lost its first set in the final match of the tournament, as William Jewell took the first set, 30-28, in a nail-biter. Although they played much tougher than the previous teams, the Gorillas didn’t falter, winning the next three sets to close out the match.
Suberu said the last match was a struggle, but his team learned a lot in the process.
“Well, we were challenged today,” Suberu said. “We were challenged by a team that was intelligent and physical and had really strong ball control.”
Suberu also said that everybody played as a team, helping them secure the victories.
“All of our freshmen did a better job to finish what we started,” Suberu said. “But credit to our veterans who came through for us in all areas, so this was a great test and we passed it.”
Suberu was candid about what the team needs to focus on.
“What happens next is how we respond in the next match,” Suberu said. “But everyone did great, it was a great way to finish the tournament.”
Next up for the Gorillas is a doubleheader against East Central Oklahoma University and Saint Leo University in Bolivar, Mo.

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