The Wildcats (4-11, 1-2) struggled in their second weekend of Western Athletic Conference play with a 3-1 loss to the University of Texas at Arlington (11-4, 3-0) on Thursday and a 3-2 loss to Stephen F. Austin (15-2, 3-1) on Saturday.
New head coach Alisa Blair’s Wildcats started the WAC on Sept. 22 with a 3-2 over Sam Houston. Despite the opening win, ACU’s momentum was not enough to overcome UTA and SFA over the weekend.
ACU started the second week of its WAC slate against the UTA Mavericks. UTA took the first set 25-23 behind a .229 hitting percentage to ACU’s .122. ACU took the second set with a night-high .333 hitting percentage but fell in the third behind a .432 hitting percentage from UTA. The fourth set saw the Wildcats fall once again as the Mavericks took home the WAC win.
“I knew going into this game that UTA was going to play pretty clean and we understood that we had to play as clean as they did,” Blair said. “I thought we did that well in the second set with 17 kills and that’s the style of volleyball we really want to play. They had to make adjustments and UTA did their homework against us.”
Two Wildcats freshman libero Sara Carrizales, freshman from Arlington, and outside hitter Ashli Edmiston, freshman from Wilsonville, Ore., stood out on the night. Carrizales led the Wildcats with a career-high 22 digs. Edmiston led the Wildcats in kills with 15 and added nine digs to her stat sheet as well. Edmiston leads ACU in kills per set with 2.55 and points per set 2.99.
“I’m super thankful for the opportunity to play and be where I am,” Edmiston said. “Also just having great people behind me working hard and delivering these balls for me helps a lot.”
The Wildcats gave a warm welcome to Stephen F. Austin on Saturday with a 25-20 first set win against Blair’s former school. ACU’s offense rolled with a .351 hitting percentage with 18 kills on 37 attacks in the first set. SFA came back to take the second set 25-21 and capitalized off of four attack errors from the Wildcats. ACU roared back in the third set to take the win, 25-22 behind 11 kills on 35 attacks for a .286 hitting percentage. SFA took the fourth set 25-16 behind a .344 hitting percentage to ACU’s .026. In the fifth set, SFA won 15-8 to take the 3-2 win. ACU hit -.038 in the final set.
“I thought we came out strong and game prepped really well against them,” Blair said. “Our girls really believed in our game plan and tried to capitalize on everything we talked about. We knew going into the match that we had to be attackers, not only in the front row but the back row, and our girls did a good job doing that today.”
After the game, Blair also talked about playing against her former team where she was an assistant coach for four years.
“I talked to a lot of my mentors coming into this game and they just said, ‘Don’t overcoach, you know a lot about them,’” Blair said. “I thought we did a really good job of sticking with what we knew we needed to do to capitalize and really focusing on that. It’s fun because you see the kids you helped develop in the past and you can also manipulate the things you know about them. It was fun seeing them across the net but at the same time I’m not there anymore and I’m like, ‘Dang it, we could have had that win.’”
Middle blocker Braden Bossier, junior from Fairfield, and outside hitter Jada Birkel, senior from Austin, both hit over .330 on the day. Bossier had ten kills on 20 attacks and Birkel had 12 kills on 27 attacks.
“They were giving me a lot of line but it was all my setter,” Birkel said. “She was giving the ball a lot and right in the exact place I needed.”
Following the tough weekend, ACU heads to Utah next weekend to face Southern Utah (2-11, 1-3) at 7 p.m. on Thursday and Utah Tech (7-6, 1-3) at 1 p.m. on Saturday.