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Kennesaw State too much for young Tigers

Michaela Franklin knew when she scheduled Kennesaw State that it was going to be a tough match for her young team. She was right.

With six starters and 12 lettermen back from a team that went 18-11, and won the Atlantic Sun Conference a year ago, the Owls were a perfect test for Franklin to see where her team is at after four games.

What she found out … the Tigers still have some work to do as Kennesaw State swept them in three sets (25-21, 25-16 and 25-11) Tuesday night at Jervey Gymnasium in Clemson.

“That’s a team that is going to be battling to go to the NCAA tournament and that’s why we scheduled them,” Franklin said.

Clemson (3-1) started off the first set slow due to solid play by Owls’ libero Katarina Morton who was player of the year in the Atlantic Sun last season. The Tigers worked the set to bring it close and reached a tie at 21 with the luck of a net violation on Kennesaw. However, it went downhill from there there as the Tigers failed to gain another point in the set.

“They have the defensive player of the year (Morton) and they had the preseason All-ASun hitter” said Franklin. “She was All ASun last year. Their setter (Kristi Piedimonte) led their conference in assists.”

Kennesaw State (2-0) continued to gain momentum in the second set as they dominated the Tigers, winning the set 25-16. The Tigers were never able to catch their stride, making a lot of communication errors. While their total attempts were only separated by six in the set, Clemson had seven errors which influenced the set.

The Tigers’ struggles continued into the third set.

Though Clemson was able to come out strong and play competitively at the start. To the Tigers dismay Kennesaw State challenged a point earned by Clemson which was later reversed in Kennesaw’s favor. Overall, it happened twice in the match and both times Clemson lost a point it thought it had earned.

They marked the first time replay challenges were issued in a match in Jervey Gym.

Unfortunately for Clemson, it made the score 11-8 in favor of Kennesaw instead of 10-9 at the time. After that Clemson looked deflated as it quickly fell behind 18-10.

After the challenge Clemson scored just three points the rest of the way, leading to a 25-11 loss that ended the match at 3-0. The Tigers were outscored 14-3 after the challenge.

“It was our first match having those challenges and it was a good opportunity for our team to learn how to respond and how to handle those moments,” Franklin said. “I think it’s a nice time for us to take advantage of the extra time and use it as a timeout which we had seemed to do.

“I just thought it was a good way for us to prepare for the rest of the season because we are going to have a lot more matches with challenges.”

The Tigers will begin a long road stint on Friday, one in which they will be playing in the Yale Invitational this weekend and later in the Auburn Invitational on Sept. 9.

“Hitting the road is going to pose a whole different challenge for us obviously” Franklin said. “Now you’re travelling and we’re turning around and leaving on Thursday. I mean we’re in a grind right now.

“Even though we played at home that’s a quick turnaround to play Friday, Saturday and Tuesday. Then to travel Thursday so we definitely know as a coaching staff the challenge that’s ahead of us, and I think just continuing to stay focused on our vision and what we want to become as a program, which is staying with that championship behavior. How we’ll start preparing is watching film on the teams we are playing this weekend and getting the videos to the girls. The girls really do enjoy preparing by watching video of our opponents. That’s the biggest way we’ll start to prepare for playing our opponents this weekend.”

The Tigers will next play Rhode Island in the Yale Invitational on Friday at 4:30 p.m.

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