With a two-set lead and the momentum, volleyball looked poised and ready to pull off the upset against Stephen F. Austin. However, an unprecedented comeback by the Lumberjacks shattered the Wildcats hopes of moving to 2-1 in Southland Conference play and preserved their own six-game winning streak on Saturday.
After winning the first two sets 25-19 and 25-22, the Wildcats held a 21-19 lead in game three, but after a Lumberjack timeout, the script flipped. SFA came roaring back to score the next four points taking the lead at 23-21. ACU would get a kill from freshman Lauren Walker to cut the lead to one, but SFA converted the next two points to take set three from the Wildcats.
“In the first two sets we came out swinging aggressively and played consistent,” senior Madison Hoover said. “In the last two sets we pulled back and were playing not to lose instead of playing to win and SFA out played us.”
Game four played out extremely similar to game two, as the score went back and forth with 13 ties and six lead changes. Walker again cut an SFA lead to one at 23-22, but the Lumberjacks rallied late to even the match at two apiece.
SFA carried the momentum into the fifth and final set, as ACU couldn’t find their rhythm from games one and two. Although ACU struck first, the Lumberjacks dominated the set, taking advantage of nine Wildcat errors on their way to a 15-11 win.
The Wildcats finished the day with 39 errors, as coach Ijeoma Moronu said SFA controlled the last three sets.
“In games four and five our attitude changed,” Moronu said. “We controlled the match the entire time until those last two sets. SFA’s experience in those situations definitely showed and our inexperience in close five-set matches against good teams showed. I’m confident that our young team will find be able to adapt to those situations better with time.”
ACU was led offensively by senior Jennie Loerch with 15 kills, followed by freshman Jacey Smith with 14. Sarah Siemens eclipsed 50 assists for the first time this season with 53 and added 10 digs for another double-double. Defensively, Hoover led the way with 39 digs, while Walker added four blocks.
“SFA won conference last year so it was great that we were able to come out playing so hard, but the team’s confidence is way higher than it was in pre-season,” Hoover said. “It was a big disappointment to let such a great opportunity get away from us.”
With the loss, ACU falls to 1-15 overall and 1-2 in Southland Conference play. The Wildcats are back in Moody Coliseum Tuesday when they take on Incarnate Word for Dig Pink Night.