Jenks native Sara Pope put on a show in her Golden Eagle debut, blasting 19 kills without committing an error to lead Oral Roberts University past Texas Southern, 3-0, on the opening day of the 2013 season. ORU took down the Lady Tigers by scores of 25-19, 25-16 and 25-17.
Pope, the 2012 America East Player of the Year while at the University of Albany, hit .704 in her first match with the Golden Eagles. She added nine digs, a team-high.
ORU (1-0) hit .391 as a team, their best offensive effort since posting a .411 hitting percentage in a 3-0 win over Centenary on October 2, 2010.
Pope wasn't the only ORU newcomer to shine in her debut match, as freshman McKenna Qualls posted eight kills. Kylie Johnson matched Pope with a team-best nine digs, while Laura Taylor chipped in 25 set assists.
Texas Southern (0-1) was led by Mona Reed and Veronica Azubuike, who notched eight kills each. Azubuike and Lauren Smith each added seven digs for the Lady Tigers, who hit just .141 as a club.
ORU took control of the opening set with an early 6-0 run. Pope smashed two kills during the rally, which gave ORU a 7-1 lead, and she pushed the advantage to 20-14 with another blast later in the set. Though TSU tried to rally, Sheera Sirola's team was able to hold on for a 25-19 victory.
The Golden Eagles scored the first seven points of the second set, with Pope scorching kills to begin and end the rally. Later Pope was on serve as ORU launched a 6-0 run, stretching the lead to 15-6, and a Qualls kill ended the frame with ORU taking a 25-16 win.
Pope wasn't done imposing her will on the Lady Tigers, reeling off three straight kills to open the third set. Qualls kept the momentum going midway through the set, collecting back-to-back kills to push the lead to 14-8. The freshman from Edmond ended the match minutes later, slotting in a service ace to give ORU a 25-17 victory.
The Golden Eagles hit .475 collectively in set three, recording 20 kills and just a single attack error.
ORU's blocking effort, which formed the backbone of conference runner-up finishes in 2011 and 2012, was on display again in Houston. Sophomore Jovana Poljasevic was credited with three solo blocks, and Luara Rosa also added a solo effort.
2012 Southland Conference Libero of the Year Bruna Silva was credited with six digs in the match, five of which came in the final set. Silva had tallied double-digit digs in 71 of her previous 72 matches heading into the date with Texas Southern.
The Golden Eagles will wrap up their season-opening trip to Houston tomorrow with two more matches vs. Southwestern Athletic Conference opponents. Sirola's crew will face defending SWAC West Division champion Prairie View A&M at 9 a.m. CT before playing Southern at 1 p.m. CT.