It just wasn’t enough for ACU to become the first eighth seed to knock off a top seed in the Southland Conference Tournament.
Saturday afternoon the Wildcats continued to add to their historic tournament run when they took down the fourth seed in Houston Baptist, 26-24, 27-25, 19-25 and 25-23.
ACU took an early 2-0 lead in the match behind the offensive attack of junior outside hitter Jacey Smith and defensive block of senior Corinne Grandcolas and freshman Lauren Walker. Smith finished the game with a season-high 20 kills, besting her previous total of 19 that came in a match against McNeese State.
But HBU stifled the ACU momentum in the third set as Jessica Wooten and Bailey Banks got going. The Huskies gathered and retained a late lead and cut the Wildcats advantage to 2-1 with the largest margin of victory in the match at six.
Feeling the momentum shifting, the Wildcats buckled down for a crucial fourth set. The Huskies built an 18-15 lead, which forced head coach Angela Mooney to call a timeout. But ACU responded in a big way, rattling off a 6-1 scoring run to take a 23-20 lead and causing HBU to burn its second timeout.
The Huskies put together two-straight points, a kill and a block to tie the game at 23, and Mooney called her final timeout of the set. The timeout seemed to do the trick as the Wildcats took the final two points of the set, and the match, to clinch a 25-23 win and a spot in Sunday’s championship.
Junior Kendall Bosse was big in facilitating the Wildcat offense, dishing out 43 assists. Smith also added 10 digs to go with her 20 kills, and freshman Katelyn Mueller joined her in the double-double category with 15 digs and 10 kills.
In its first year of tournament eligibility, ACU has now upset the top seed in Stephen F. Austin and the fourth seed, and top defensive team in the conference, in Houston Baptist. The Wildcats will now look to continue their Cinderella Story Sunday, against the winner of Central Arkansas and tournament host Texas-A&M-Corpus Christi.
With the win ACU has also now topped it’s win total from 2016 with number 13 coming Saturday afternoon over HBU.