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Eagles spike JU, SSU
091512 GSU VOLLEYBALL 01
Katalin Minnerly, left, Kayla Henderson, right, and Meghan Morillo, center, celebrate after finishing off Savannah State. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

2012 SpringHill Suites Eagle Invitational
Thursday-Saturday
Hanner Fieldhouse
Thursday's Score
    Georgia Southern 3, South Alabama 1
Friday's Scores
    Wisconsin 3, Savannah State, 0
    Jacksonville 3, Savannah State 0
    South Alabama 3, Jacksonville 0
    Wisconsin 3, Georgia Southern 2
Saturday's Scores
    Wisconsin 3, Jacksonville 0
    South Alabama 3, Savannah State 0
    Georgia Southern 3, Savannah State 0
    Wisconsin 3, South Alabama 1
    Georgia Southern 3, Jacksonville 1

    After splitting the first two games of its own tournament, Georgia Southern closed strong on Saturday, notching wins over Savannah State and Jacksonville to record a 3-1 record in the SpringHill Suites Invitational.
    The Eagles (9-5) clinched a second place finish behind Wisconsin (12-1) while libero Alexandra Beecher and outside hitter Moriah Bellissimo garnered all-tournament honors.
    Georgia Southern closed out the tournament in style on Saturday at Hanner Fieldhouse, dismissing Savannah State in straight sets before battling to t 3-1 win over Jacksonville.
    “We had a heartbreaking loss against Wisconsin (Friday night),” said Bellissimo. “We felt like we could have won this. We wanted to come back out and close out the tournament strong.”
    Bellissimo took out her aggression on the Dolphins (2-11) as she notched 19 kills and 15 digs in the final game of the tournament.
    Georgia Southern took the first set of the match against Jacksonville, 25-18, before the Dolphins struck back in a 25-22 second set. In a match that was hotly contested throughout, GSU outlasted Jacksonville 25-20 and 25-21 over the final two sets to clinch the victory.
    “Jacksonville is a talented team and gave us a very good test,” said GSU coach Chad Callihan. “We had to fight for all of our wins in this tournament, but I know that this competition will help us down the road.”
    The Eagles raced out to a 7-0 lead in the first set against Jacksonville, then paced the Dolphins before closing it out.
    “We showed the ability to go on some runs that I haven’t seen from us before,” said Callahan. “Hopefully, that’s something we can continue to do.”
    GSU held an early lead in the second set, but Jacksonville rebounded and took control. Sammie Strausbaugh (12 kills) and Gabriela Roman (11 kills) led the way as the Dolphins evened things up.
    The teams were neck and neck through the third set before Bellissimo hammered home a kill to give GSU a 12-10 lead that it never relinquished.
    The senior outside hitter continued to dominate the match in the decisive set as another kill gave the Eagles a 12-11 lead and two more helped to close out the match.
    “I think that we were excited to be able to play well in front of out home crowd,” said Bellissimo. “When the crowd gets into the game, I know that we feed off of it. I think that Hanner is a tough place for other teams to play and it definitely helped us tonight.”
    In its first match of the day, Georgia Southern made short work of Savannah State, dismissing the Tigers in three sets. Kym Coley led the way for GSU as the only Eagle to record double-digit kills in the match. The defense shut down Savannah State as the Tigers were held to just 36 total points in the match.
    “We came out and played really well today,” said Bellissimo, “We’re about to get into conference play, so I think that it was good for us to be able to get some wins against some good teams.”
    Wisconsin completed its clean sweep through the tournament with wins over Jacksonville and South Alabama by scores of 3-0 and 3-1, respectively.
    The only other match of the day saw South Alabama defeat Savannah State by a 3-0 margin.
    Wisconsin led the all-tournament selections as Deme Morales, Alexis Mitchell and Mary Ording were all named to the squad. Jacksonville’s Roman and South Alabama’s Torlandria Jones rounded out the all-tournament team.
    Georgia Southern now turns its attention to Southern Conference action.
    The Eagles begin conference play next Friday as they travel to Spartanburg, S.C. to take on the Wofford Terriers.

    Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.