Sugar Bears fall in straight sets in NCAA Tourney debut
Photo Courtesy: UCA Athletics (Bradley Widding)
CONWAY, Ark. (UCA) -- The Central Arkansas volleyball team took their third match of the season from the Stephen F. Austin Ladyjacks, winning a five set thriller in the semifinals of the Southland Conference Tournament.
The Sugar Bears (29-4) and Ladyjacks (22-12) traded sets early, with Stephen F. Austin winning the first and third sets by scores of 26-24, and 25-18, and Central Arkansas taking the second and fourth sets 25-16 and 25-20. The Sugar Bears came out ahead in the decisive fifth set 16-14. The win, which gives the Sugar Bears 29 this season, is a new single-season high for Central Arkansas, and means that the team advances to tomorrow's finals against Oral Roberts.
Central Arkansas hit .177 on the day, led by Alicia Dittrich, who hit an astonishing .561 while recording 14 kills and seven blocks. Jessica Hays (17 kills and 19 digs) and Marissa Collins (60 assists and 17 digs) turned in double-doubles for the Sugar Bears, who showed off their depth during the match. Hays, Dittrich, Jessica Nagy (13), and Heather Schnars (12) had double-digit kills, while Hays, Collins, and Shlebee Berringer (13) had double-digit digs.
Hays and Collins both commented on the play of Dittrich and Nagy following the match, with Collins saying, "Alicia and Jessica are key players for us, we knew they were going to come out strong and we wouldn't expect anything less," and Hays saying, "As the game went on they kept playing better and better, which is really the way our whole team went.It really just goes to show how much heart our whole team has."
Stephen F. Austin hit .148 for the match, led by Jill Ivy, who hit .333 on her way to a team high 16 kills. Sabrina Burns turned in ten blocks, and Paige Holland dished out 42 assists.
The Sugar Bears benefited from a crowd that was involved from the very beginning of the match, prompting Central Arkansas coach David McFatrich to say, "I think the crowd was a difference maker today. They were noisy and behind us from the time we walked onto the court. We have great fans here at UCA, both at home and on the road. So it's great to get to host a tournament and get them to come out."
McFatrich also praised the effort of his team, saying, "There's an old adage about how hard it is to beat the same team three times in one season. That was proven today. For us to get this win, knowing how difficult it was going to be is huge for us. I'm really proud of my players."
The Sugar Bears take the court tomorrow afternoon at 2:00. They will battle Oral Roberts with a berth in the NCAA Tournament on the line.