Volleyball’s end of the season gauntlet begins Thursday night in Conway, Arkansas, when the Wildcats visit the 19-3 Sugar Bears.
ACU has plenty of momentum after last weekend, where it defeated the 2016 regular season conference champ Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and long-time rival Incarnate Word on its way to an impressive 2-0 home stand. But the Wildcats will need to figure out a way to maintain it, with five of their remaining seven games coming against teams ranked ahead of them in the conference standings. Those five teams boast a combined conference record of 39-11 this season.
Head coach Angela Mooney said the team has to keep doing what it did in preparation for last weekend’s games in the days ahead.
“The last two games we’ve positioned ourselves where we need to be, and it’s about coming in this week and doing the exact same things,” Mooney said. “I think our middles are really growing and we’re seeing a lot of production and so just continuing to build on that.”
With seven games left in the season, the Wildcats are no doubt entering crunch time, but Mooney also said there is still a lot movement that could take place in the conference standings before Nov. 16.
“It’s about one match at a time, going up that ladder, putting ourselves in a good position not to be just in the conference tournament, but where we want to be in those standings when we get to Nov. 16,” Mooney said.
And the match to focus on right now is Central Arkansas, who is ranked third in the conference with an 8-2 record in Southland play. The match up pits two of the top-three blocking teams in the conference against each other, as ACU average 2.52 blocks per set and UCA records 2.21 per set. However, the Wildcats will also have their hands full with the best passing team and player in the Southland Conference. Elizabeth Armstrong is averaging 10.74 assists per set and paces the Sugar Bears offensive attack.
Central Arkansas also leads the league in team service aces, which is a component of the game that ACU will look to improve on from this weekend when they had 12 service errors in two games.
After Thursday’s match against UCA, the Wildcats will continue their three-game road trip in Louisiana against Northwestern State. The Lady Demons are ranked fifth in the conference with a 7-3 record. While NSU ranks middle of the pack in the conference in most statistics on paper, the Lady Demons are fourth in opponent hitting percentage, allowing teams to hit just .180 over the course of this season. ACU did hit .452 in its final set against UIW, but also posted a .053 and .097 in games one and three.
Two more wins this weekend would likely help the Wildcats to as high as sixth in the conference standings. However, ACU has played the least conference matches of anyone en route to a 4-5 Southland record.