From SFA Athletics
CONWAY, ARK (Press Release)– In many conference and national tournaments, upsets are bound to happen and unfortunately the Stephen F. Austin volleyball team fell victim to one as the number-three seeded Ladyjacks fell 3-1 to sixth seeded Houston Baptist in the quarterfinals of the 2015 Southland Conference Tournament on Friday evening.
Almost three-quarters of SFA’s kill total came from Tori Bates, Haley Coleman and Makenzee Hanna who knocked down 10, 14, and 13 winners respectively. On the other side of the ball, Blair Gillard paced HBU’s offense with a match-best 17 terminations while Bailey Banks and Jessica Wooten swung down on 14 and 12 respectively.
In what served as the Ladyjacks’ 2015 season finale, the Huskies came up with some pivotal set-clinching points in first and third sets that were close throughout. HBU’s finished with an advantage in both hitting percentage (.245 to .187) and total blocks (13-10) over SFA.
“Of all the matchups we could have had in the tournament, this was the one I was hoping to avoid,” said SFA’s head coach Debbie Humphreys. “They have great middle blockers and great pins, but struggle with ball control at times. To take advantage of that, you have to serve tough and execute your game plan on offense and when we were willing to do that, things worked out well for us.”
Junior setter Shannon Connell posted one of two double-doubles in the match by passing out 38 assists and adding 11 digs.
Having taken care of the Huskies in four sets in their lone regular season matchup, the Ladyjacks plotted to start quick and replicate that result. The quick start, though, belonged to the Huskies as they began things with a 6-2 surge.
It didn’t take long for SFA to regain its footing on offense, though. Once Lexus Cain and Coleman entered the match the Ladyjacks set off on a 6-3 run and knotted the frame at nine points each.
The final stages of the set featured an SFA comeback in which the Ladyjacks fought off two set points, tying things at 24-all after a Hanna termination. From there, HBU notched a service ace and an SFA attack error gave the Huskies a 1-0 lead.
Whatever breaker the Ladyjacks needed to activate on offense was turned on in the second frame. More than doubling their hitting percentage from the first set (.143), SFA attacked at a rate of .350 and gained their first real separation of the bout by employing a 7-1 surge that featured a pair of combo rejections by Allen and Hanna to up the Ladyjacks’ edge to 15-9.
That six-point cushion served as a comfortable barrier for SFA, who twice allowed the Huskies to pull within four points. Blair Gillard knocked down a winner to make matters 23-19 SFA, but out of the Ladyjacks’ timeout Hanna and Bates put an end to the frame with consecutive kills. No SFA player had more kills in the final frame than Bates (four).
Neither team was able to grab a lead of greater than two points in the third frame, but much like what transpired in the initial set it was the Huskies who conjured up the most important points. After Bates and Hanna smacked down kills on another pair of match-clinching service attempts by the Huskies, HBU used another service ace as part of a 2-0 close to the set to take a 2-1 lead.
In an attempt to extend the match – as well as its season – the Ladyjacks’ offense slowed down considerably in the fourth. Hitting a match-low .074 in the set, SFA fell victim to an 8-5 surge by HBU to start things off.
On the strength of a .321 hitting percentage in the match-clinching stanza, HBU saw its lead balloon to as many as seven points to secure the win.
In what turned out to be her final match as a collegian, OJ Olson ran down a match-best 26 digs and served up two of SFA’s five aces. The final dig total for the three-time All-Southland Conference selection stands at 2,140 – the third-highest total in the history of the program.
Bates, Jordan McArdle and Jacque Allen were the other three Ladyjacks who saw their careers come to a close. In addition to her 10 kills, Bates posted a dig, one solo block and a block assist. In four sets played, Allen finished with four kills, a dig and three block assists.
SFA’s season wraps up with a 20-14 record and a third-place finish in the regular season Southland Conference standings. It was the third time in the last four campaigns that saw the Ladyjacks amass 20 or more triumphs.