Sugar Bears earn three conference victories, play with different setter

After struggling in its conference opener, the UCA volleyball team (13-4, 3-1) only took 10 sets combined to win its next three conference matches in the Prince Center Sept. 25, 27 and 29.

The Sugar Bears swept Southeastern Louisiana University (1-14, 0-4) and Houston Baptist University (8-10, 1-3), and defeated the University of Texas A&M at Corpus Christi (3-14, 2-2) 3 sets to 1.

The Sugar Bears had the backing of many fans for each game in the Prince Center, and coach Jeni Chatman said the team was excited to finish with a win at home.

“Winning never gets old,” Chatman said. “Obviously any time you can win it’s bonus for you, and certainly any time we can get a win at home it’s even more fun.”

In the weekend game against Houston Baptist, senior Kellen Dunn got things rolling with a kill, giving UCA a 2-1 lead.

Senior Savanah Allen added two early kills for the Sugar Bears to go up 5-4, later going on a 6-0 run in the set to increase its lead 13-6.

The Huskies couldn’t cut the margin any closer than 4, and UCA scored the final 4 points of the set to win 25-17.

UCA rolled with the momentum in the second set with two kills from seniors Haley Tippett and Samantha Anderson to go up 5-1.

Three straight errors gave UCA an 11-4 lead later in the set, ultimately using a 5-point run and two 4-point runs to win the second set 25-11.

UCA looked to run away in the third set, with a 16-8 lead, but the Huskies fought back with a 4-0 run. Despite their efforts, they couldn’t overcome UCA’s aggressiveness and their own errors, and UCA finished the sweep 25-20.

Junior setter Elizabeth Armstrong didn’t play against HBU, TAMUCC or SLU, so sophomore Bailey Waddington stepped in for the Sugar Bears. She had 34 assists showing the versatility of the roster.

“It’s great knowing that everybody on the team can back each other up,” Waddington said. “If someone’s not having a great night, someone can come in and do their job too.”

After ending TAMUCC’s  long-tenured conference winning streak last season, UCA looked to continue its success against the Islanders Sept. 27. The Islanders took the early advantage over the Sugar Bears, however, with a 7-5 lead only extended by a 4-point run to give TAMUCC an 11-5 lead.

UCA electrified the crowd with an 8-point run, highlighted with two service aces from sophomore Emily Doss to give the team a 13-11 lead.

The Islanders overtook the Sugar Bears late in the set with a 3-point run, and won the first set 25-22.

UCA scored the first 4 points of the second set, but couldn’t increase the lead.

The Islanders answered each UCA run, finding offensive success of their own.

The Islanders scored 2 points late to cut UCA’s lead to 24-23 and force a timeout from the Sugar Bears, but Anderson earned a kill to give UCA the set 25-23.

TAMUCC scored 8 of the first 9 points in the third set, and maintained a solid lead midway through the set 16-11.

UCA fought back with two kills from Dunn and five errors from the Islanders amidst UCA’s 7-0 run to give UCA a 20-17 lead.

Both teams put together 4-point runs, and UCA finished the set with a kill from Anderson to win its second set 25-22.

The two conference opponents matched evenly through 15 points in the final set, but UCA went on a 9-point run to take a 24-15 lead.

Allen earned a kill to finish the set 25-16, scoring 6 of UCA’s last 10 points.

“Going into the fourth set, we wanted to start off strong and finish strong too,” Allen said. “I was just trying to be up and do my job and be available as much as I can for the team, and that helped being enthusiastic and getting my team going.”

In UCA’s first home conference game against Southeastern Louisiana, UCA took advantage of a struggling Lady Lions’ squad.

“I think we came out with a really solid game plan, and I think our players took what we did in practice and really applied that,” Chatman said.

The Lady Lions only held the lead for four plays throughout the entire match, which were all in the second set, and UCA won the three sets 25-14, 25-15 and 25-18.

Waddington had 30 assists for the game, her first to replace Armstrong in conference play this season. She had 115 assists between UCA’s first three conference wins.

The Sugar Bears were led by its seniors, as Dunn had 26 kills, Anderson and Allen had 29 kills and Tippett had 31 kills over the first three conference wins. Sophomore Emily Doss collected 52 digs in the three games.

Photo by Cody Macomber

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