After sweeping Sam Houston State in straight sets for a huge upset victory on the road, volleyball had a chance to clinch its first-ever Div. 1 postseason berth, but came up just short. The Wildcats fell in a four-set battle to top-ranked Stephen F. Austin.
The Lumberjacks jumped out to a fast start, taking games one and two fairly easy. The Wildcats held a 14-11 lead in the first set, but yielded eight-straight points to SFA and could not overcome the deficit as a Peyton Redmond kill would secure a 1-0 lead for the Lumberjacks.
The visitors carried that momentum into the next set, building an 18-11 lead before taking the second game 25-18 after a Wildcat service error. ACU committed 29 errors in the game, and ten of those came from the service line. SFA on the other hand generated nine service aces to propel itself in the match.
ACU did knock the Lumberjacks out of their rhythm in the third set, in fact the Wildcats were dominant and held a 15-4 lead before taking game three, 25-20.
However, SFA regrouped quickly to take the fourth and final set 27-25 after a Redmond kill and an attack error by junior Lauren Walker. Walker finished with tied with freshman Lorin McNeil with 10 kills each. Junior Jacey Smith posted a game-high 11 kills.
Despite the loss, ACU remains in a good position to clinch it’s first Southland Conference Tournament berth, after going 1-1 against two of the top-three teams in the conference. The Wildcats at 6-7 in Southland play, can punch their ticket this Saturday with a win over 2-12 Lamar and a loss by Incarnate Word.
Ultimately, the Wildcats need to win one of their next three games against Lamar, UIW or Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and have UIW lose one of its next three to secure a trip to Corpus Christi in two weeks.
If ACU wins its last three games it could potentially jump as high as fourth with Houston Baptist, Northwestern State, McNeese State and TAMUCC all tied at 8-5.
Game time Saturday afternoon against Lamar is set for 1 p.m. The Wildcats will then hit the road for their final two games of the season.