Volleyball Preview: Bucs travel to Phoenix, Ariz. and Grand Canyon University for the GCU Invitational

Volleyball Preview: Bucs travel to Phoenix, Ariz. and Grand Canyon University for the GCU Invitational

CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern makes their longest road trip of the season this weekend as the Buccaneers travel to Grand Canyon University for the GCU Invitational on September 11-12.

The Bucs will take on the host Antelopes in their tournament opener on Friday evening at 7 p.m. CSU will close out the tournament on Saturday against Niagara (1 p.m.) and Southern Utah (10 p.m.). Live Stats for the match will be provided at GCUlopes.com, while updates will be provided on Twitter: @CSUGameDay.

CSU Match Notes - GCU Invitational

Scouting the Opposition
Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon has struggled early in the season as the Antelopes have fallen in all six of their matches in the 2015 season. GCU dropped all three matches at the Nebraska Invite, while also falling in all three matches in the PSU/UP Tournament. The five team tournament hosted by GSU includes Gonzaga, CSU, Niagara, Southern Utah and Grand Canyon. Charleston Southern is the lone Big South opponent GCU will face this season.

Natalie Tardy leads the GCU offense on the season with 2.65 kills per set, while Jordyn Sanchez (2.32) is also averaging multiple kills per set. Hannah Hicks is the team leader with a .165 hitting percentage. Michelle Steagall sets up the GCU offense with 7.11 assists per set. Defensively, Steagall is also the team leader with 3.16 digs per set, while Emily Christensen is the team leader at the net with 0.88 blocks per set.

Niagara enters the weekend with a 2-4 overall record in 2015 recording wins over Tennessee Tech and Forham University on the year. The Purple Eagles opened the season at the Wright State Invitational and the Rose Hill Classic. The GCU Invitational is the final tournament Niagara will play before opening up MAAC play on September 19th against Fairfield at home.

Melissa McGwin is Niagara's offensive leader with 2.41 kills per set, while Nicole Matheis is also averaging multiple kills with 2.18 per set. McGwin leads Niagara with a .315 hitting percentage on the season. Alexis Gray sets up the Purple Eagles offense with 6.77 assists per set. Defensively, Rylee Hunt is the team leader wtih 4.86 digs per set, while Alex Stone is the team leader at the net with 0.91 blocks per set.

Southern Utah
Southern Utah enters the weekend with the best record of all the teams the Bucs will face as the Thunderbirds have posted a 6-1 record over their first two tournament weekends. SUU swept through all four opponents including topping host Mississippi State in the tournament finale at the MSU Tournament. Last weekend in the Utah State Tournament, the Thunderbirds fell to San Francisco for their lone loss of the season.

Madi Forsythe leads SUU on the season in averaging 3.90 kills per set, while Chennin Benson is averaging 3.25 per set offensively. Ann Clappier is the team leader with a .318 hitting percentage. MxKenzie Nicol sets up the Thunderbirds' offense with 7.78 assists per set, while Saraia Pelaez is the team leader defensively with 4.30 digs per set. At the net, three players are averaging more than a block per set led by Clappier's 1.53 average.

Recapping Tuesday Night
Charleston Southern fell to crosstown rival College of Charleston on Tuesday night inside TD Arena, dropping a four set decision to the Cougars, 18-25, 8-25, 25-15, 18-25. Katrina Houston led the Buccaneers (3-5) with 11 kills in the match, including five coming during an 11-1 CSU run to end the third set in the Bucs lone set win on the night. Houston added 10 digs to complete her first double-double of the season in the loss.

Buccaneers in the Big South
Charleston Southern was selected 10th overall in the Big South preseason poll by the Conference Head Coaches. The Bucs return all six starters from the 2014 season, as well as libero Ashley Higginbothem as they continue their third season under head coach Christy Mooberry. Defending champion Coastal Carolina was picked first overall in the poll. Liberty, Radford, Winthrop and High Point round out the top five in the poll. The Bucs will host Campbell (Oct. 2), High Point (Oct. 3), UNC Asheville (Oct. 23), Gardner-Webb (Oct. 24), Presbyterian (Oct. 30), Winthrop (Oct. 31) and Coastal Carolina (Nov. 6) at the Buc Dome this season.