Heart, grit, and true determination. That’s what the ACU volleyball team showcased in their five set, pulse pounding thriller on Tuesday night against Lone Star Conference foe Texas A&M University-Kingsville.
The 25th-ranked Wildcats came roaring back after losing the first two sets, 25-23, 25-19. ACU would go on to win the final three sets, 25-15, 25-12, 15-13, to complete their conference-opening win.
“Kingsville pushed us”, said head coach Kellen Mock. “They came out ready to go and played really well. Our girls were a little shell shocked by a big crowd the first two games. In most years we have more time between our first conference match but this year we didn’t. In games three, four, and five we maintained a lot of mental focus. We were a lot more consistent as a unit. I was excited to see the mental switch between games two and three and I was pleased with the girls’ overall calmness in game five.”
In the fifth set, costly errors by Kingsville gave the Wildcats an opportunity to steal the show. The ‘Cats and Javelina’s score went back and forth, as neither team led by more than one point until Kingsville took an 11-9 lead and then jumped out to a 12-10 advantage, thanks to a kill by Bethany Friesenhahn. A service error by Ali Insell made the score 12-11 and outside hitter Jennie Hutt tied the match at 12-12 when she smacked a kill on the Lady Javelinas.
A second error by Kingsville (attack error) gave ACU a 13-12 lead but only for a second as Stephenaie Jones had a kill for the Javelinas to tie it again, 13-13. Hutt would put the finishing touch on the comeback by smashing back-to-back kills to snag the 15-13 win in the fifth set.
“As a young team, for us to turn things around that dramatically is important”, Mock said. ” It’s hard to do even for a team with a lot of experience under its belt. When you come out flat and the other team is fired up it can be difficult to change the tide. I’m excited as a coach to see the players buy into what your asking them to do and it pay off.”
Hutt was also ecstatic about the comeback. “A win like this shows how mentally tough we are despite being a young team. It definitely builds up our confidence and gives us some momentum going into the Angelo State Classic Tournament.”
Hutt had one of the best games of her career. She led the team with 20 kills (.405 attack percentage) in addition to 19 digs and four blocks. Freshman Sara Oxford put up 14 kills and six blocks, while setter Caley Johnson recorded 51 assists and 16 digs. Kingsville had a team hitting percentage of .121 in comparison to .218 for the Wildcats.
Mock was proud of Hutt’s intensity and ability to come through when she was needed the most. “Jennie’s the kind of player that is willing to take on the pressure. She can put the players on her back and carry them.”
The win jumps ACU to 4-1 overall and 1-0 in the LSC. The Lady Javelinas fall to 0-1 and 0-1. The ‘Cats hit the court again today at the Angelo State Classic in San Angelo.
Their first match is at 12 p.m. and they face St. Edward’s University who is 1-3 on the year. ACU has faced St. Edward’s twice in their career beating them both times.
The other three matches will be pitted against Texas A&M International University, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, and University of Texas of the Permian Basin all of whom, the Wildcats have a spotless combined record of 10-0. They are 2-0 vs. TAMI, 7-0 vs. Permian Basin, and 1-0 vs. Edinboro, who hasn’t been played since 2000.
“St. Edward’s is returning most of their team”, said Mock. “They were a good squad last season so they’ll probably be even better this year. I’m excited to play the Hilltoppers because it will be a good test to see where we’re at. The rest of the teams in the tournament are solid performers. Anyone of them is capable of having a great day.”