The UCA volleyball team (10-4, 0-1 SLC) suffered their first conference loss Sept. 21 against the red-hot Stephen F. Austin State University Ladyjacks (14-2, 1-0 SLC) 3-0.
This marked SFA’s 11th consecutive win and second straight against the Sugar Bears, dating to last season.
The game was dominated by defense as the Sugar Bears held SFA to a hitting percentage of only .248, but were only able to hit .178 percent themselves.
The matchup of the Southland Conferences’ top teams from one year ago was highly competitive in the opening set that featured 15 ties and six lead changes. UCA took an early 4-1 lead, the largest advantage either team would see.
Late in the set, UCA held a 22-21 lead, but the Ladyjacks controlled the set from that point on. A 4-1 run was capped off when SFA junior Ana Hollas gave SFA the match point.
In the second set, the Ladyjacks were able to increase their kill total for a set by five from the opening set, while UCA saw a slight decrease of kills in the set.
UCA junior setter Elizabeth Armstrong was all over the stat sheet, collecting eight assists, six digs and two blocks. Still, this wasn’t enough as the Sugar Bears were unable to grab the lead during the set.
SFA was able to hold onto their early 3-0 lead despite UCA tying the score early at 5 and again at 21 behind
a 7-2 run.
The final set began with a bang for SFA as they jumped out to a 6-1 lead. The Sugar Bears clawed back, using a 10-4 run to take a 25-24 lead. From there, things went cold for UCA as the Ladyjacks took the final 3 points and completed the sweep.
“We fell short, but we put up a great fight,” sophomore middle blocker Amari Mitchell said. “We’re going to take this loss and learn from it by understanding what we need to do better on our side of the court so next time it’s a completely different outcome.”
Senior Samantha Anderson led the Sugar Bears in kills for the match with 12 while Armstrong dished out a match-high 35 assists. Defensively, sophomore Emily Doss led the charge with 21 digs. Armstrong, Mitchell and
senior middle blocker Savanah Allen added three blocks.
This game marked the first sweep of the Sugar Bears since last season, which was also against SFA, the eventual regular season conference champs.
The Southland Conference Preseason Poll predicted the Ladyjacks to repeat as champions with UCA predicted to finish second.
The Sugar Bears will have an opportunity to avenge this loss an dprove the polls wrong later in the season, but
UCA’s next action will come Sept. 27 in the Prince Center against the University of Texas A&M at Corpus Christi, and Sept. 29, hosting Houston Baptist University.
Photo from ucasports.com