The ACU volleyball team ended a three game losing streak and went 1-1 in its two game home-stand this past week.
The Wildcats’ first game was against #17 West Texas A&M University on Thursday night, Sept, 22. Despite playing in front of the home crowd, the ‘Cats couldn’t pull off the upset. West Texas A&M won in three straight sets, 26-24, 25-20, and 25-16.
The second game at Moody Coliseum, ACU faced Eastern New Mexico University on Saturday, Sept, 24. This time the Wildcats did the sweeping, beating Eastern New Mexico 27-25, 25-18, 25-21. This was ACU’s third sweep of the season and first since its game versus Pace University. The ‘Cats are now 8-7 overall (4-3 Lone Star Conference).
Head Coach Kellen Mock felt the team stepped its game up compared to previous matches.
“The West Texas and Eastern New Mexico games were the best we’ve played in some time. Mentally the girls played at a much higher level. We showed consistency throughout both these games. I can definitely see improvements from game to game.”
In the matchup on Thursday, errors again cost the Wildcats precious points, similar to many of the team’s matches this season. ACU had a total of 21 attacking errors and three additional mishaps from the service line. The team only had a hitting percentage of .164 while, the Buffaloes hit .225.
Mock saw some missed opportunities against WTAMU.
“There were plenty of opportunities we should have capitalized on that we didn’t. West Texas won all the messy points it seemed like. The errors we had were the result of being more aggressive which is better than what I’ve seen some teams do from time to time.”
Senior Jennie Hutt also believes the Cats have improved dramatically.
“We really stepped up in the West Texas game. We couldn’t quite finish it but the last two games we came together as a team, which contributed to sweeping Eastern New Mexico on Saturday. Our mental focus is not exactly where we want it on the other hand, the tournament this weekend could be a turning point.”
Junior Kalynne Allen and freshman Sara Oxford led the Wildcats with 10 kills apiece. Middle blocker Neely Borger had five total blocks (three solo).
ACU came out of the gate strong versus West Texas A&M leading 12-6 in the first set, however led by Stormi Lancaster, the Lady Buffs racked off six consecutive points and eventually would tie the score at 14-14.
The set would remain close going back and forth until at 24-24, WTAMU got the go-ahead and set points both from Ashley Davis.
In the second, both teams had runs of three or more points. At 21-20 with the Lady Buffs leading, WTAMU scored the final four points giving it a 2-0 set advantage.
WTAMU went on to finish off ACU in the third set after the Wildcats tied it at 10-10. Sarah Martin ended the match with her sixth kill.
On Saturday, Hutt helped the Wildcats get out of a rut. She had a .444 hitting percentage (.257 team) and 18 kills. Two of these kills won the game in the first and second sets. Hutt also had two of the final three points in the third set. The matchup ended on an attacking error by ENMU’s Jessica King.
Mock tried out a new lineup when ACU took the floor to face ENMU.
“We attempted to have a new setup for the team on Saturday. Allen played on the outside where there was more pressure and she rose to the occasion,” she said. “Whitney Stevens stepped in for us in the middle which allowed Sara Oxford to have more touches on the ball.”
Hutt said since other teams hadn’t seen the new lineup, it aided them in getting the victory along with playing at home.
“It was a fresh look for the other teams. They weren’t expecting it and I believe it helped. Also, It always gives the team a break when we’re not having to travel.”
Oxford and Haley Rhoads were a big help on offense. Oxford whacked 10 kills with a .391 hitting percentage. Rhoads recorded nearly all the ‘Cats’ assists finishing with 43.
On defense, ACU out blocked the Zias, 6-2. Kelsie Edwards had a dig total of 21 along with Allen (12), Rhoads (12), and Hutt (10) also hitting double digits in digs.
The team had just one less error than ENMU, 16-17. The difference in the match was a .176 hitting percentage for the Zias.
ENMU could have taken the first set when it had a set point at 24-22, but Borger provided a much needed service ace followed by a kill from Hutt to tie it at 24-24.
ENMU won the next point fortunately, for the ‘Cats, the Zias gave it right back on an attacking error. Oxford and Hutt then put the finishing touches on the first set with back to back kills.
ACU will return to the court on Friday, Sept. 30 and Saturday, Oct. 1 in Topeka, KS to play in the Washburn Regional Crossover. The Wildcats first game starts at 2 p.m.