NACOGDOCHES, Texas – The Ladyjack volleyball team leapt out to a quick 2-0 lead over ULM on Tuesday, but had to hang on for a 3-2 (25-23, 25-11, 24-26, 17-25, 15-5) win over the Warhawks in SFA's home opener at Johnson Coliseum.
MC Bottles went for 20 kills to lead all players, on 38 swings with just two misfires (.474), and the Ladyjacks (2-2) needed every one of them as the Warhawks (0-3) threatened to pick up their first-ever win over SFA in 33 tries. Sabrina Burns and Kelsey Owens also landed in double figures with 10 kills apiece, with Owens adding 14 digs for her third straight double-double.
"We looked a step slow tonight," head coach Debbie Humphreys said. "It just didn't seem to matter what we did, we just could not get our offense to click tonight. But the good thing is that even though it seemed like we had nothing going, we still were able to rally in that fifth set and pull out the win. It shows the mental toughness of this group, which is something that I really like."
Freshman Lauren McDaniel got her first career start and responded with eight kills and a team-best 28 digs, pacing a quartet of Ladyjacks with at least 14 digs. As a team the Ladyjacks had 21 more kills and six more blocks than the Warhawks, but turned out to be their own worst enemy on the night with a combined 50 errors of some sort.
Allison Gideon also finished with 47 assists, six kills and four blocks from her setting position, while Bottles and freshman Lindsay Hill added five blocks apiece.
The Ladyjacks had to begin a series of rallies in the first set when they used a six-point run to tie things at 18 apiece before eventually pulling out the narrow two-point win by forcing a pair of ULM miscues. In the second set the Ladyjacks followed the serve of Bottles to an early 10-point lead, and eventually outhit the Warhawks .276 to -.071 to take the 2-0 lead into the break.
But ULM rallied, and jumped out to a four-point lead before Owens delivered a kill that sparked a four-point run for SFA that tied things at 20-20; however, ULM found Blanca Ocana a pair of times and got a Ladyjack service error to take the set – the first set ULM had won from SFA since 2001.
From there ULM just kept going, dominating the fourth frame and holding the Ladyjacks to just .036 hitting to force a deciding set. But that was all that SFA would have as the Ladyjacks got early kills from both Burns and McDaniel to open up a quick 4-1 lead. Bottles, Burns and Gideon added points later in the set to push the lead to 10-3, and Gideon served out the final three points with a pair of kills from Burns finally finishing off the Warhawks.
SFA will go back on the road beginning Friday when it travels to Wichita State to take part in the Shocker Classic. The Ladyjacks will take on Portland and Wichita State on Friday, and face Portland once again on Saturday.