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Volleyball starts off strong in Thunderdome Classic, knocks off Denver in Santa Barbara California

The University of North Florida Women’s Volleyball program opened their season positively in the Thunderdome Classic Tournament this weekend, with the team breezing past Denver University on Friday evening by a score of 3-1.

The Thunderdome Classic takes place in Santa Barbara California and includes the two teams mentioned above as well as University of California at Santa Barbara and New Mexico State University.

The Ospreys started off strong in the first, with effective teamwork offensively allowing North Florida to take the opening set 25-15, as 17 of the kills garnered in the period came off of assists.

Denver came back in the second set, however. The Pioneers dominated with five straight unanswered kills, leading to a 25-15 loss for the period. 

Head coach Kristen Wright made a variety of adjustments heading into the third, as seven substitutions were made in the period. These substitutions worked well for the Ospreys, as the team answered with four straight unanswered kills twice over the course of the set, thus resulting in North Florida winning the set 25-18.

To wrap things up, the Ospreys were able to capitalize on a multitude of attack errors made by Denver, allowing North Florida to take the fourth and final set 25-18 and thus, win the contest by a score of 3-1.

In a response to the events of the game, head coach Kristen Wright garnered praise for her team and how well they implemented the offensive gameplan.

“Kailey McKnight went off, Kelly (Negron) had a great first night as an Osprey with her first double-double. Our setters did a great job distributing and making adjustments” .Wright said.

Kailey McKnight “went off” indeed. The outside hitter led the game with 16 kills along with nine digs in what was surely a night to remember.

As Wright stated, UC Irvine transfer Kelly Negron had a great first game with North Florida. The veteran setter garnered a double-double with 20 assists and 10 kills as she played a crucial role defensively in Friday’s win. Negron’s performance also marked the first double-double in a North Florida debut since 2016 with Gabby O’Connell.

This contest seals the third time that the University of North Florida and Denver University have faced off against one another, but the two teams have not competed against each other in the Division I era until now.

The Ospreys will continue to play in the Thunderdome Classic this weekend, as North Florida have just finished a matchup against New Mexico State University this past Saturday evening. They will then wrap up their time in California on Sunday as the program is set to face the University of California Santa Barbara on Sunday at 5 p.m.

Information on where to watch as well as more on all things sports can be found on the University of North Florida Athletics website.


For more information or news tips, or if you see an error in this story or have any compliments or concerns, contact [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Jacob Justice
Jacob Justice, Sports Editor
Jacob Justice is a third-year multimedia journalism major at the University of North Florida. First joining as a sports reporter, Jacob is now Spinnaker's sports editor. Jacob has a passion for sportswriting and hopes to write as a journalist for a sports media company in the future. In his free time, he tends to enjoy playing guitar and bass as well as spending quality time with friends.

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