CONWAY, Ark. - No. 1 Central Arkansas gutted out a five-set victory of No. 5 Stephen F. Austin to advance to the championship match against No. 6 Oral Roberts.
The Sugar Bears won 24-26, 25-16, 18-25, 25-20, 16-14 in the second semifinal match of the Southland Conference Volleyball Tournament Saturday afternoon at the Farris Center in Conway, Ark.
Central Arkansas won a school-record 29th match and staved off a match-point by the Ladyjacks with the score at 14-13. SFA finished the season with an impressive 22-12 record as SFA reached the semifinals for the fourth time in the last seven seasons.
The first set was a back-and-forth battle as both teams found themselves tied at 13. However, SFA turned in a 7-3 run capped off by a kill from Paige Holland. UCA reciprocated with a 5-0 run take a one point lead, 22-21, after Jessica Nagy turned in a pair of kills. Tied at 23, SFA sophomore Katzy Randall hit two timely kills to give the Ladyjacks the first set, 26-24.
Following a kill from SFA's Taylor Hammonds, the second set was knotted up at six. However, the Sugar Bears cranked out a 9-4 run to have a five point cushion, 15-10, as Jessica Hays and Heather Schnars placed two kills to help the Sugar Bears take a lead it'd never relinquish. The Ladyjacks wouldn't get any closer than four, 18-14, when two more kills from Hammonds polished off a 7-2 run as the Sugar Bears took the second set, 25-16.
The roles were reversed when the third was tied at nine, SFA strung together a 5-0 run to take a 14-9 lead. However, UCA wouldn't go down without a fight and would shave the deficit to one, 16-15, following one of Hay's 17 kills. Stephen F. Austin would finish the set on a 9-2 run to take a two-set to one lead and win the set 25-18.
The Sugar Bears came out of the gates hot in the fourth set as it jumped out to an early 11-4 lead after Alicia Dittrich chipped in with three kills. However, the Ladyjacks would claw back to tie it up at 17 following a kill by Jill Ivy. After an ace by Randall, the match was tied at 20, but UCA's Corri Hunt placed her only service ace at the perfect time as a part of a 5-0 run when Central Arkansas took the fourth set, 25-20.
The fifth set entertaining as it comes as the teams tied 11 times and the lead swapped hands four times. Neither team led by more than two the whole set. The Sugar Bears' Hays and Nagy combined for six kills in the decisive set as Central Arkansas went on a 3-0 spurt to fight off match-point, 14-13, to win the final set 16-14.
SFA's Holland collected a double-double as she amassed 42 assists and 10 digs. Tori Bates, Madison Hanlan and OJ Olson chipped in with double-digit digs as Ivy notched 16 kills. The Ladyjacks hit .371 in the third set and blocked 16 shots on the afternoon.
Central Arkansas' Hays nabbed a double-double with a match-high 17 kills and 19 digs. Collins, setter of the year, stuffed the stat book with 60 assists, 17 digs and two kills. Dittrich gathered 14 kills, seven block assists and two digs while Shelbee Berringer chimed in with 13 digs. UCA held SFA to a .000 hitting percentage in the second set and hit better than .220 in three of the five sets.
Central Arkansas will face Oral Roberts in the Southland Conference Volleyball Championship match. The teams split during the regular season matchups with each home team winning in five sets. The championship match is set to begin at 2 p.m. The match will streamed on ESPN3 and the Southland Conference Television Network with Brooke Bentley and Lincoln Rose on the call.