AIKEN --- When Augusta State volleyball coach Sharon Bonaventure asked her standout player to switch positions she received no complaints.
Senior middle blocker Jessica Howard moved to the right side earlier this week. It was a move the all-conference player was happy to make.
"I wasn't performing in the middle," Howard said. "I wasn't blocking well in the middle. And she said she was going to move me. ... Thank goodness."
During Thursday night's "Dig for the Cure," Howard posted a season-high 26 kills en route to Augusta State's 3-1 win (26-24, 31-33, 25-20, 25-22) over USC Aiken at the convocation center. The Lady Jaguars recorded their first win in Aiken since 1999.
Howard, fourth in the Peach Belt Conference with a .282 hitting percentage, returned to dominant form, posting a .476 hitting percentage.
The Augusta State senior credited her performance to her coach's decision. Bonaventure switched Howard, who had 16 kills in the past three matches combined, to the right side before Tuesday night's win against Paine.
"I think that kind of threw (USC Aiken) off a little bit because she always plays middle," Bonaventure said. "When we ran her from the right side that opened up her swings a little bit better."
Augusta State, which finished last season at 14-21, is 10-8 overall (2-3 Peach Belt) under its first-year coach.
Against the Lady Pacers, the Lady Jaguars took the first game and went up 24-20 in the second, needing one additional point for a two-game lead. USC Aiken battled back with Jessica Loper's block of Howard and Megan Disney adding two consecutive kills. When Howard's kill attempt flew long, the Lady Pacers had new life at 24-all.
USC Aiken later went up a point on Mandy Irizarry's serving error. Then, Susan MacClary closed out the game with a cross-court kill.
"The errors get in our head and we play so tight," Augusta State sophomore outside hitter Lagi Roberts said. "Fundamentals go out the window."
USC Aiken (10-8, 2-4) failed to rally in the final two games and dropped its fourth consecutive match. The Lady Pacers recorded 31 errors in their second home defeat of the season.
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or email@example.com.