Lovejoy advances; star Ebony Nwanebu sits out

By Walter Villa

SAN MARCOS, Texas – If Lovejoy (Lucas) is to become just the fourth Texas team to win at least four straight state titles, it will have to do so without one of the nation’s best players.

Ebony Nwanebu, a 6-foot-4 junior and a Southern Cal recruit, did not play Friday, when Lovejoy defeated Sinton 25-23, 25-9, 25-15 in a Class 3A state semifinal. Nwanebu was on the bench, supporting her team and wearing her warm-ups.

Lovejoy coach Ryan Mitchell said Nwanebu was not hurt and was not out due to disciplinary reasons. He told the team Nwanebu would not be playing on Wednesday, giving them only one day to prepare.

“Ebony is a coach’s decision this weekend,” Mitchell said after his team improved to 47-4. “She is eligible to play. She will not be playing.”

Nwanebu was the MVP of the 2010 Class 3A state finals. But even without her, Lovejoy still has 6-2 senior Andie Malloy, a setter and right side hitter. Malloy, an Iowa State recruit and a part of the USA’s Youth National team, came through Friday with a match-high 12 kills. She also added 10 assists and a .303 kill percentage.

Sinton (30-11), which did not know about Nwanebu’s status until the match started, led the first set 17-11 before unraveling. For the match, Sinton had 11 return errors compared to only two for Lovejoy.

Lovejoy will play Wylie (Abilene) in Saturday’s state championship game.