NACOGDOCHES, Texas – The Ladyjack volleyball team was forced to battle all night against a gritty North Texas team, but got three key blocks in the deciding fifth set and scratched out a narrow 3-2 (17-25, 25-19, 39-37, 25-20, 15-8) on Wednesday night at William R. Johnson Coliseum.
Kelsey Owens and Melissa Miksch had double-doubles for the Ladyjacks (5-7) as SFA avenged a five-set loss in Denton one year ago. The win keeps the Mean Green (6-6) winless in Nacogdoches since the team left the Southland Conference in 1995. It was also the fourth five-set win in five tries for SFA after just taking one five-setter in all of 2009.
"Last year when we got to a fifth set it just felt like we had lost already," head coach Debbie Humphreys said. "But this team has a lot of guts, even though it is still pretty young. There is a lot of youth, but mentally they are pretty tough."
As a team the Ladyjacks finished with a season-best .299 attack percentage, led by Owens' career-best 24 kills. MC Bottles was next in line with 18 on just 34 swings (.412) and seven blocks, three of which gave SFA breathing room in the fifth set.
Sabrina Burns also finished with 13 kills and Miksch had 11 and 15 digs, while Madison Hanlan paced SFA with 16 digs. Setter Allison Gideon put together her best passing statistics of the season too, dishing out a career-best 60 assists. It was the first 60-assist night for a Ladyjack since Whitney Schott had 62 against Sam Houston State in 2008.
The teams split the first two sets with each team hitting over .320, before a dramatic third set came up. The teams clawed their way through 20 ties and five lead changes before SFA finally claimed a 39-37 win in the longest single set the Ladyjacks have been a part of since the clinching point totals were switched from 30 to 25 points in 2008.
"That was a very long, intense set," Humphreys said. "I didn't even know what the score was, but just that it was back-and-forth and everyone was scoring at will. But we were able to stay hungry and score at some key times to pull that one out."
Owens finished with nine kills in the third alone, but it was Bottles that joined in with Owens for eight of the Ladyjacks' last 10 kills after the set went to extra points. The Mean Green had its last set-point try at 36-35, but Miksch and Owens answered with kills, and after one of Brittani Youman's 18 kills tied it up at 37 apiece, Owens and Bottles delivered again with consecutive scores for a 2-1 SFA lead.
But the Mean Green was not done, hitting .326 behind five more kills from Youman and forcing the deciding set. However, the Ladyjacks used three blocks and a kill to snap a 7-7 tie midway through the fifth set to take hold of the frame, and scored the final five points of the match to clinch the win.
SFA next heads to Houston for the Rice Invitational where they will open up with Samford on Friday morning followed by an evening tilt with Arkansas State and a Saturday finale with the host Rice Owls.