Sugar Bears cut down Ladyjacks 3-1

The Sugar Bears volleyball team defeated the Stephen F. Austin Ladyjacks 3-1 on Sept. 25 in Conway keeping the Sugar Bears home win-streak alive at 21 and their Southland Conference streak to 25 matches.
The match marked the Sugar Bears’ third conference match for the season and improved their record to 11-6 overall and 3-0 in conference play. The Sugar Bears came out swinging in the first set, but were plagued by a round of bad serves, as were the Ladyjacks.
The Sugar Bears struck first earning the first point of the match off of a kill from junior outside hitter Jessica Hays. The Sugar Bears handed over the Ladyjacks their first point off of a service error, tying the set 1-1.
The Sugar Bears went back and forth for the entirety of the first set, tying scores nine times throughout the set and four lead changes. Many of those were the direct result of service errors from both sides of the court. Throughout the game, the Sugar Bears recorded 12 service errors and the Ladyjacks had 10.
Coach Steven McRoberts said the team was fortunate that the Ladyjacks struggled with serving at the same time they were and the Sugar Bears are going to have to start serving more consistently.
“We work on [serving]everyday,” he said. “It is just the simple skill of serving and it seems like sometimes we do very well at it and sometimes we seem to get into kind of a funk. Luckily they were struggling at the same time we were so neither team was able to grab the momentum early in the match off of missed serves. It is just something we are going to have to get better at by learning how to serve aggressively and not missing.”
Freshman outside hitter Karlie Giesler said serving is the best way to control the game, and the Sugar Bears had trouble with that during the first set but were able to correct it later on.
“If everyone is missing their serves it means no one is really focused,” she said.
It was not until halfway through the first set that the Sugar Bears broke a tie with a kill from senior right side hitter Chloe Smith that they took off and never let the Ladyjacks catch up. The end of the set was marked with kills from Hays, freshman middle blocker Jessica Nagy and Smith. Hays earned the final point, scoring on a service ace ending the set with a Sugar Bears victory, 25-19.
The second set did not go as well for the Sugar Bears as they struggled to keep up with the Ladyjacks onslaught. The Ladyjacks struck fast at the start of the second set putting the first two points on the board with kills from junior middle blocker MC Bottles and redshirt freshman setter Allison Gideon. The Sugar Bears got their first point off of a service error by Ladyjack’s junior outside hitter Melissa Miksch making the score 2-1 with the Ladyjacks leading. The Sugar Bears fought back to tie the Ladyjacks several times throughout the set, but were never able to change the lead to their favor.
The Sugar Bears were in trouble late in the second set with the Ladyjacks looking to score the set point with the score at 24-19, but the Sugar Bears came from behind and scored five points in a row to tie the set at 24-24. The Ladyjacks were able to keep the Sugar Bears from scoring to take the advantage and won the set 26-24.
The Sugar Bears came back from the break between the second and third sets and were ready to play. They put up the first point with a kill by Nagy, but the Ladyjacks answered right back with a block by Bottles to tie it up 1-1.
The Sugar Bears and Ladyjacks kept the set close early on, but the Sugar Bears began to pull away after Giesler got a kill to break the tie when the score was at 2-2. With Giesler’s kill, the Sugar Bears went on a five-point streak to advance their lead 7-2. Their streak was cut short as the Sugar Bears were called for a double hit, giving the Ladyjacks a free point to make the score 7-3.
Late in the third set, the Sugar Bears still held their lead 22-13, and would extend their lead to 23-13 off of a kill from sophomore middle blocker Taylor Hammonds. The Ladyjacks still fought this late in the set, but it was not enough to catch up to the Sugar Bears who ended the set with a kill from Nagy to make the final score of the set 25-17.
The fourth and final set of the game was a close battle between the two teams for the entirety of the set. The Sugar Bears put up the first point with a block from Smith, but the Ladyjacks answered back with a kill from Bottles to tie the score 1-1.
The Ladyjacks tied the score again 4-4 with a kill from senior outside hitter Arielle Daron and she would score another point off a block to give the Ladyjacks a 5-4 lead early in the fourth set. Smith would tie the score up again at 5-5 off of a kill, but the Ladyjacks took the lead with back-to-back kills by senior outside hitter Kelsey Owens and sophomore middle blocker Sabrina Burns to make the score 7-5.
The Sugar Bears did not regain the lead until Nagy tied the score 11-11 and the Ladyjacks handed over a free point to the Sugar Bears because of a lifting call, making the score 12-11 Sugar Bears.
The Sugar Bears did not lose their lead again for the remainder of the fourth set and did not allow the Ladyjacks to tie the game again. The set ended with a service error against the Ladyjacks making the final score 25-20.
McRoberts said he told the team throughout the match to pay attention to the Ladyjack’s hitters, who were consistently getting kills by doing dump shots in the holes between the Sugar Bears front and back rows.
“We just told them that once they get to their defensive positions to stay on their toes and not on their heels so they can move forward,” he said. “There were a handful of those shots that were pretty high in the air that even with us moving backwards or being on our heels that we still almost got to those. That was something we told out back row to be ready for and those should be something that are easy for us to pick up on, and as the match progressed I thought we did a better job of reading the hitters and picking up a lot of what we call junk that they were throwing over.”
Giesler said the back row just had to be more aware that the Ladyjacks were probably going to try and tip the ball over the net into the holes behind the Sugar Bears’ blockers and front row.

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