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Xavier’s women’s volleyball team is the three-time defending Gulf Coast Athletic Conference champion. After a rough 0-2 start to this season, the Gold Nuggets got back on track with three wins in a row. As the team heads into a five-match home stand, the coach and players want to add something else to their winning ways: more fans in the stands.

“Fans make the girls nervous,” Gold Nuggets’ Coach Hannah Lawing explains. “When they’re nervous, they don’t play as relaxed and tend to make fewer mistakes.”

The players feed off energy from the crowd, whether it’s cheering, encouragement, or even harmless heckling of the other team, the coach and players say.

Ralitsa Hadzhistoyanova, a sophomore from Bulgaria, says that having a crowd encourages the team to play better. “The best thing is that we play a team sport. We are a family that helps each other,” she adds.

“It’s always nice to have a crowd, but volleyball is ultimately a team sport, so you always have your team. We definitely appreciate a crowd, though,” senior Taylor Reuther says about hoping more fans will fill the Convocation Center.

This year’s team has two seniors, five juniors, one sophomore, and four freshmen, and Lawling said this 12-person family features a roster of unique women with different talents. The team includes: roster Chinedu Echebelem, from Dallas, Texas; Taylor Reuther from Metairie, La.; Darian Harris from Gretna, La.; Claudia Haywood from Memphis, Tenn.; Jodi Hill from Prairieville, La.; FranziskaPirkl from Munich, Germany; CeCe Williams from Houma, La.; Ralitsa Hadzhistoyanova from Razlog, Bulgaria; Jada Broussard from Breaux Bridge, La.; Kayla Jones from Kansas City, Kan.; Kaelan Temple from Houston; and JelenaVujcic from Belgrade, Serbia. The assistant coach is Hilary Lobenstein.

After losing their first two games at home, the Nuggets rebounded with a 3-2 win against Wiley College, which snapped Wiley’s 54-game winning streak against HBCUs. The Nuggets were able to get the upset thanks to career-high performances by Hill, Haywood, Williams, Harris, and Jones. After that, the Nuggets went on to win another match against Edward Waters College at the Convocation Center.

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