THE FIRST SERVE
• On the heels of a 1-2 Southland Conference road trip in which the Stephen F. Austin volleyball team spent almost three weeks competing in venues other than Shelton Gym, the Ladyjacks (12-8, 5-2 Southland) return to their home facility looking to maintain their grip on the second-place slot in the league standings by hosting Central Arkansas (10-11, 4-5 Southland) at 6:30 p.m. Thursday evening.
• The showdown between the Ladyjacks and Sugar Bears will serve as SFA’s Dig for the Cure match. SFA will be sporting pink uniforms to spread awareness of breast cancer and free pink t-shirts and pizza will be provided for spectators.
• Of the Ladyjacks’ 12 Southland Conference opponents, Central Arkansas is the only one that possesses a winning record against the Ladyjacks. Since the two teams started their all-time series in 2006, SFA has gone only 4-12 against the Sugar Bears. In three of the four seasons when the Ladyjacks have defeated UCA, however, SFA has won the Southland Conference regular season title.
• Only seven kills separate senior middle blocker Justice Walker from the ranks of the 1,000-kill club. Heading into her final collegiate campaign, the Fort Worth, Texas, product has amassed 844 terminations and by getting those seven kills Walker would be SFA’s first player to register 1,000 kills in a career since Jill Ivy did so in 2014.
• Each and every point of the Stephen F. Austin/Central Arkansas tilt will be video streamed live and nationwide on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app. Providing play-by-play and analysis of the match will be none other than fervent SFA volleyball backer Greg Miller.
SCOUTING CENTRAL ARKANSAS | ROSTER |SCHEDULE | STATISTICS
• Record vs. Central Arkansas | 4-12
• In Nacogdoches, Texas | 2-5
• In Conway, Ark. | 2-6
• At neutral sites | 0-1
• Humphreys vs. Central Arkansas | 4-12
• Winners of a consecutive 3-0 Southland Conference decisions against Southeastern Louisiana and New Orleans in Conway, Ark., the Sugar Bears step into Shelton Gym on Thursday evening to begin a stretch in which four of their next five matches will take place on the road. With a win, Central Arkansas would bring their overall record back to the .500 mark, match its season-long winning streak and collect its first conference victory against a team from Texas this season.
• Stetson defector Haley Tippett has submitted her candidacy for 2016 Southland Conference Newcomer of the Year by stepping to the forefront of the Sugar Bears’ offense. A sophomore and the reigning Southland Conference Offensive Player of the Week, Tippett is averaging 3.27 points, 2.76 kills and 0.32 service aces per set - all figures that are tops among the UCA ranks. The only UCA player that has succeeded in bettering Tippett’s 3.00 digs per set average is Amanda Dimon (3.24 digs/set).
• Rounding out the Sugar Bears’ potent offensive triumverate are sophomore Samantha Anderson and junior two-way threat Megan Nash who put down kills at a rate of 2.59 per set and 2.19 per set recpectively. Nash, a 2015 All-Southland Conference First Team performer, stands at the forefront of UCA’s front-row defense by posting a team-best 1.06 blocks per frame - an average that ranks sixth in the Southland Conference.
• In addition to its multi-faceted offense, Central Arkansas makes use of a strong service game as well as an accurate attack plan. The Sugar Bears rank second in the Southland and 81st in the nation with 1.41 service aces per set. UCA’s opponents are only tallying 1.57 blocks per set - the lowest average among all league squads.
• Jeni Jones Chatman holds the distinction of being the only Southland Conference head coach who has never lost a match against SFA or Debbie Humphreys. Her UCA squad swept SFA 3-0 in Conway last season.
THE LAST TIME OUT
• One week ago, junior outside hitter Abby McIntyre submitted her second-straight match with a season-high 17 kills, but Abilene Christian used a 7-2 run in the fifth set to take control and send the Ladyjacks to a 3-2 defeat in Moody Coliseum.
• In the second five-set match of the season for the Ladyjacks, Danae Daron put down a career-best 11 kills on the strength of a .474 attack percentage and Justice Walker added 10 more. SFA saw its record in five-set battles evened at 1-1 and when three or more Ladyjacks produce 10 or more kills, SFA is 0-2 in 2016.
• The 10-kill outing from Walker marked the fifth time in the last seven matches in which the senior from Fort Worth, Texas, has pounded down 10 or more terminations. Five of her six outings of 10 or more kills have come against Southland Conference opponents and four of them have occurred in Shelton Gym.
• By producing a career-high 49 assists, freshman Ann Hollas rose to second in the conference among all setters with an average of 11.00 assists per set in Southland Conference matches. Hollas also notched 12 digs to put the finishing touches on her team-leading fourth double-double of the season.
• Five Ladyjacks finished the match with double-digit digs, but once again no player accumulated more than Lexus Cain who notched 25 of them. It was Cain’s 10th match with 20 or more digs this season and that helped her raise her career total to 899 digs and maintain her Southland Conference-leading digs per set average of 5.38.
• For the 10th time in 20 matches this season, SFA’s block total sat at 10 or more. The Ladyjacks racked up 12.0 team blocks in their match at ACU.
• Depth is something the Ladyjacks have in spades this season and it’s one of the tools they have used to their advantage through their first two months of play.
• Five different players have led the team in kills during a match with junior Abby McIntyresitting in the lead with 10 team-high showings.
• Because of their depth, SFA hasn’t needed huge performaces from any one player. The most kills racked by an individual in a single match this season were the 17 that McIntyre put down in road matches at Incarnate Word (10/8) and at Abilene Christian (10/13).
• Fine-tuning their play through a 13-match non-conference schedule was one of the things the Ladyjacks needed to do in order to be at their best once Southland Conference play got going, and now that league play has started SFA has been playing its best volleyball of the season.
• In the 12 conferece-only statistical categories, SFA sits atop the list ind digs (18.56 per set) and blocks (2.66 per set) while ranking second in opponent blocks per set (1.54).
PRESS THE ATTACK
• Winning volleyball matches usually means generating kills and in order to do that, a team must attack. Stephen F. Austin has done just that in 2016, leading the Southland Conference and ranking eight among all NCAA Division I volleyball teams by taking an average of 38.08 swings per set.
• A battle between two of the top three teams in the Southland Conference will take place in Shelton Gym on Saturday afternoon when the Ladyjacks play host to hated Natchitoches, La., adversary Northwestern State at 1:00 p.m. The 54th all-time meeting between the Demons and Ladyjacks will be carried nationwide on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app.