By Brian Roe, Sports Writer
The No. 28-ranked Wildcat volleyball team entered the Lady Buff Classic in Canyon hungry for victory, but the team left the tournament sick to their stomachs after posting a 2-2 record at the two-day tournament.
ACU dropped matches to Western New Mexico and Adams State, but the Wildcats rebounded by beating New Mexico Highlands and upsetting the No. 15-ranked Metro State, both in three-straight games.
The Wildcats struggled with Western New Mexico in an opening match that lasted more than two hours. Junior outside hitter Michelle Bernhardt led ACU with 23 kills and 17 digs. Junior setter Lindsey Martin also played well, posting a game-high 64 assists.
Senior middle blocker Sophia Kindred, junior right side hitter Ashlee Motola and junior middle blocker Amanda Slate all contributed by racking up double digits in kills. Freshmen outside hitters Callie Delabano and Abbie Lowry each had eight kills in their ACU debuts.
Head coach Brek Horn said her team competed well in the opening match, but poor decisions were made at the wrong times.
“It was a typical first match as far as up and down with inconsistent play,” Horn said. “In the end, we made some crucial errors that cost us the match.”
The Wildcats defeated New Mexico Highlands on Friday to gain their first win of the season.
The lucky number 13 helped the ACU beat the Cowgirls. Senior libero Kellen Morrow chipped in 13 digs, while Lowry, Bernhardt and Slate each recorded 13 kills in the match. Martin again led the team with 41 assists.
The third match provided a rude awakening for the Wildcats as Adams State stomped ACU in a three-game defeat. The match lasted only 70 minutes, and Adams State hit .298 compared with the dismal .169 for the Wildcats.
“Saturday morning was the worst match of the weekend,” Horn said. “We lacked focus, we played a poor mental game and we lacked intensity. Early frustrations isolated the team, and we just shut down.”
ACU beat the No. 15 team in the nation Saturday night, sweeping Metro State in three straight games in a match that lasted a shade over an hour.
Bernhardt hit .424 and led the team with a game-high 17 kills. Lowry chipped in with 10 kills, and Martin setup 33 assists in the win.
“We talked a lot about intensity after the morning loss to Adams State,” Horn said. “We had a mission, and we carried it out. Everyone was focused, and the play was just flowing. That’s the level we need for the rest of the season.”
Bernhardt was honored for her performance by being named to the all-tournament team. She finished the four-game tournament with 67 kills, 45 digs and a .276 hitting percentage.