SFA volleyball picks up critical win over Islanders

NACOGDOCHES, TX (News Release) - The Ladyjack volleyball team took a huge step toward a berth in the Southland Conference Tournament on Thursday, rejecting 13 shots and completing a season sweep of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, 3-1 (25-23, 23-25, 25-19, 25-18) at Shelton Gym.

Sabrina Burns, who had 10 blocks in a five-set win over TAMUCC (13-17, 5-8 SLC) earlier in the year, was huge once again with nine block assists to go along with her team-high nine kills on 23 swings (.304). Jill Ivy also made up for eight attack errors with seven kills and six blocks as SFA (13-15, 6-7 SLC) picked up a win that gives the Ladyjacks a tiebreaking edge on three of the teams in immediate contention for the SLC Tournament with just three league matches remaining in the year.

SFA was able to overcome a .148 hitting night by holding the Islanders to just a .128 attack percentage for the evening, led on the back row by Madison Hanlan's match-high 23 digs. With her night she moved into sole possession of third place on the all-time SFA digs list and now needs just 69 more to move into second all-time only behind former all-America libero Stephanie Figgers.

Katzy Randall finished with eight kills and 15 digs, while Melissa Miksch added three of SFA's eight service aces and 10 of its 63 digs on the night. Paige Holland had another solid night across the board with 38 assists, six digs, five kills, and a pair of blocks and aces.

SFA was able to notch an important win in the first set, finally edging the Islanders late after a back-and-forth affair had things knotted up at 22 apiece late in the frame. It was senior MC Bottles coming through late to give SFA the 25-23 win, scoring a kill and a set-clinching service ace in the final three points to put the Ladyjacks out in front, despite hitting just .146 for the set.

The Ladyjacks nearly pulled another one out of their hat in the second set, falling behind 11-3 early on before coming all the way back to eventually pull ahead 22-21 on consecutive kills from Burns; however, the Islanders were able to summon up just enough offense, and along with some help from the Ladyjacks, managed to hold SFA to -.083 hitting for the set and stole a 25-23 win to even the match going into the half.

Then in the third set SFA began to take hold of the match, keeping breathing room between itself and TAMUCC for the majority of the set to put itself in position for the win in the fourth stanza. SFA put together a 5-1 run in the middle of the set to open up an 18-13 lead, and were able to hold off a mini-run by the Islanders to score seven of the final eight points of the third set with Bottles and Randall closing out when they rejected a Shannon Hullum swing.

In the fourth set, SFA used four blocks to help get the job done, opening up a 9-4 lead early on and never let up. Ivy and Burns added scores midway through the set to push SFA to an 18-10 lead, which was plenty of cushion for the Ladyjack attack. The Ladyjacks followed up their .344 attack percentage in the third set with a solid .212 mark, while holding the Islanders to just .146 swinging to get the win. Fittingly, SFA used its defense to close out the match, setting up a match-point try on a block from Ivy and Burns before forcing an error on a swing from Sarah Sanchez to close out the night.

SFA will next take its second shot at league-leading UTSA on Saturday at 1:00 p.m. The Roadrunners had been perfect in league play, not dropping a single set through its first 12 matches before Sam Houston State upset them in Huntsville on Thursday.

The Ladyjacks will also honor its pair of seniors on Saturday before the match – MC Bottles and Melissa Miksch.

By: Ben Rikard