From SFA Athletics
For the first time in over a decade, the SFA volleyball team is headed to the NCAA Tournament and it took a dominant route to get there.
On her birthday, sophomore middle blocker Anyia Williams put forth one of the most dominant performances of her collegiate career, finishing with a team-high nine kills and a match-high eight blocks to help lead the SFA volleyball team past Central Arkansas, 3-0, in the Southland Conference Tournament championship match inside Prather Coliseum.
With the win, SFA receives the Southland's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and will make its first appearance in the national tournament since 2006.
SET ONE | SFA 25, Central Arkansas 21• Central Arkansas had control of things, leading for the first half of the opening frame before SFA made some well-timed adjustments and took the lead. • Haley Tippett had three kills to help the Sugar Bears jump out to a 15-13 lead before SFA turned in one. Hanna, Ann Hollas and Peyton Redmond each submitted kills during a 4-0 Ladyjack surge that pushed SFA ahead 17-15. From there, SFA did not trail for the rest of the set. • Central Arkansas battled back to tie things at 19, 20 and 21, but Hanna started a 4-0 run by the Ladyjacks to end the set with a powerful kill down the line. Sabrina Monaco followed up with a service ace before a pair of blocks by the Ladyjacks ended the set. • SFA racked up five rejections in the first frame and held Central Arkansas to an attacking clip of .161.
SET TWO | SFA 25, Central Arkansas 9• Laying waste to the Sugar Bears in the middle frame, SFA hit an absurd .609 in the set and limited the second-seeded squad to an attacking clip of only .059. • Haley Coleman and Sabrina Monaco each served up an ace during the Ladyjacks' 13-4 run to begin the set and from there the rout was on. • Daron smashed down four of SFA's 14 terminations in the set while Ann Hollas added another pair of winners from the service line during a 6-0 run that stretched SFA's lead to 22-6. • Kellen Dunn hammered in a trio of terminations for Central Arkansas to make matters 23-9, but it was too little and far too late for those kills to be of any consequence for SFA.• Daron and Anyia Williams put up consecutive kills to end the frame and help SFA open up a 2-0 lead.
SET THREE | SFA 25, Central Arkansas 23• Looking to extend the match to at least four sets, Dunn put home two more kills for the Sugar Bears who netted two of the first three points of the final frame. • After that, however, SFA answered with a 9-2 run featuring three kills from Anyia Williams and two more from Hanna that upped the top-seed's edge to 10-4. • Instead of backing down, the Sugar Bears regrouped and went on a 9-3 run to knot things up at 13 each. Dunn added two more terminations in that run while Haley Tippett put down three.• The teams swapped points before UCA took control with a 4-1 run that was aided by two unforced SFA attack errors. With that run, the Sugar Bears took a 20-18 lead but as they had done all year the Ladyjacks had the last laugh.• Coleman pounded down a kill before adding an ace for the first two points of SFA's match-clinching 7-2 run. Hanna broke a 22-22 deadlock with a kill and an attack error by Samantha Anderson followed by Anyia Williams' final kill of the afternoon ended things and set off a celebration at mid-court. • SFA hit .229 in the set and held Central Arkansas to a clip of .211.KEY PERFORMERS/STATISTICS OF NOTE• Once again, it was service pressure that helped win the day for the Ladyjacks. SFA served up eight aces and did not allow Central Arkansas to accumulate a single ace in the three-set victory. Hollas had a match-high three winners from the service line while Coleman and Monaco added two apiece. • Anyia Williams was a force on both sides, racking up a team-high nine kills and amassing a match-best eight blocks. • Hanna added eight terminations on the strength of a .615 attack percentage while Redmond also finished with eight to go along with three block assists and six digs. • McKenzie Brewer finished with 18 assists and one service ace, giving her nine aces through three Southland Conference Tournament matches. • Hollas dished out a match-high 21 assists in the win while Monaco led the way in the back row with 10 digs. • Dunn and Samantha Anderson each accumulated a match-high 11 kills for Central Arkansas who hit .146.• SFA extended the nation's longest winning streak to 29 matches and matched the program record for wins in a season with their Southland Conference Tournament title match victory. • Anyia Williams, Hanna and Daron were each named to the Southland Conference All-Tournament Team for their efforts. Daron was chosen as the Southland Conference Tournament Most Valuable Player.
QUOTABLE SFA head coach Debbie Humphreys on returning to the NCAA Tournament | “It means a lot. It’s a special, special day and it has been a special season. It has just been a season of firsts in a lot of areas. We have had some long winning streaks in the history of our program and we have won a lot of matches but it was a lot of firsts for this group. September 1, really? That was the last time we lost a match and after thinking about that we thought we just have to finish this thing off. I’m just so proud of how we came out and played today. We played some fantastic volleyball at every position.”…on the dominance in the second set | “I was expecting a five-setter with real close results in them and we just came out, started strong, jumped on them right away and gained that confidence. We never looked back after that.”…on the service game and the front-row defense | "The areas we really thought we had to do well in were serve/receive and blocking. We knew if we were passing the ball well they would struggle with our offense. It came down to blocking because you have to get over the net and slow them down because they are just such a powerful offensive team. …on how the team has grown | "My gosh. Our bench has been amazing because we wouldn’t be in the position we are now without them. They pulled us through so many matches but just the level of consistency has probably what has gotten better and better. Our offensive confidence has grown, too.…on the next step before the selection show | “Right now we are going to enjoy this. It has been a long, hard-fought battle and I want them to have some time to really bask in this. We’re going to enjoy this until Friday. After that, we’ll get back in the gym and start preparing for what’s next in the NCAA Tournament.”