The Wildcat volleyball team couldn’t take advantage of a first set win against No. 2 seed Angelo State University in the Lone Star Conference Post-Season Tournament semifinals on Friday, Nov. 11.
ACU fought off the Rambelles 32-30 in the first set, but lost the next three 25-18, 25-21, 25-17. With the win, ASU advanced to its second straight conference tournament championship match.
The ‘Cats are now 21-13 on the season and 14-6 in the LSC. This defeat marks the second time in two years ACU has lost to ASU in the semifinals of the conference tournament.
The Wildcats found success early in the match and were ahead for much of the first set. The team led 9-4 off a kill by Neely Borger, then jumped out to a six point lead (17-11) on an amazing dig by Kelsie Edwards. Edwards showed great hustle in getting to a ball that nearly touched the court.
The Rambelles would fight their way back on a 5-2 run which featured two kills by ASU’s Chelsea Gibson. She finished the match with 11 kills. Celeste Bonter tied the game at 24-24 for Angelo with a kill of her own. This was followed by an attack error on ACU’s LSC Freshman of the Year Sara Oxford, giving the Rambelles their first advantage (25-24) since leading 1-0.
Oxford did however redeem herself on the next play after recording her fourth kill of the set. The two squads traded off scoring on the next nine points until Aubree Vick and Rachel Riley definitively put an end to the long game with back-to-back kills.
“The first game we came out on top and pushed hard,” said head coach Kellen Mock. “I think we shocked Angelo a little bit with how hard we played right off the bat, but as the game wore on ASU adjusted.”
The second game was much more sloppy for the Wildcats. ACU had a .000 hitting percentage compared to .298 in the first game. 11 errors added to this low percentage (23 errors in the final three sets). The ‘Cats fell behind by a decent margin from the onset and despite a late comeback attempt, (narrowed the score to 15-18) couldn’t make a full recovery.
The girls tried to turn things around in the third, but ASU never allowed the Wildcats to build a substantial lead. Three straight attack errors buried any last minute hope ACU had of winning the set.
Mistakes continued to rain down on the ‘Cats during the fourth game. The team had eight mistakes in this set alone. ASU’s Bonter clinched the match with a kill. She was assisted by Alex Woolsey.
The Rambelles’ block proved too much for ACU to determine a counter strategy. The Wildcats hit .149 and Angelo came up with 13 blocks.
“Angelo did a great job of blocking in the match,” said Mock. “Sara and Neely were shut down which has been our bread and butter.”
When asked about the biggest difference in the first game and the last three Mock stated, “The girls serve receive suffered a bit in the last three games. Our best hitters were getting double teamed, it made the match tough.”
Borger summed up the results versus Angelo with one word.
“Disappointing. We didn’t play to our full potential. I know we can beat them. We just kind of shut down. The first game might have sucked the energy out of us since we never clicked after it finished.”
Jennie Hutt led ACU with 18 kills, 16 digs, and four blocks. Riley had 12 kills and three blocks, while Oxford finished with nine kills and two blocks. Haley Rhoads had 49 assists.
The ‘Cats found out Sunday night they would be traveling to the NCAA Division II South Central Region tournament. The squad will be playing the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, MO on Thursday, Nov. 17 at 7:30 p.m as the at-large bid.
“I was really excited to hear we made it,” said Borger. “It’s a huge honor. No one thought we could do it at the beginning of the season because of the talent we lost.”
Central Missouri (27-4) is the host and the No. 1 seed. The Jennies are making an NCAA-record 30th straight appearance in the NCAA national tournament.
The other eight teams in the tournament are No. 2 seed Washburn University, LSC champion West Texas A&M University at No. 3, No. 4 Angelo State University, St. Edwards University at No. 5, Arkansas-Fort Smith University at No. 6, and No. 7 Arkansas Tech University.
“Our goal is to have fun,” Borger said. “The tournament will be a challenge, however I’ll enjoy playing against high quality teams.”