Nov. 18, 2011
CONWAY, Ark. - Lamar University's volleyball season came to an end Friday night in the Farris Center as host Central Arkansas knocked off the Lady Cardinals 3-1 (15-25, 26-24, 25-22, 25-11) in the first round of the Southland Conference Tournament.
The Lady Cardinals, who were the No. 5 seed in the eight-team tournament, finish the season with an 11-21 record. UCA improved to 17-14 with the win, and will take on top-seeded Texas State Saturday evening at 7:30 in the semifinals.
Lamar opened the match with an impressive 25-15 win in the first set. The Lady Cards led just 13-12 early before a Scout Brooks service error gave Lamar a 14-12 lead with the ball. Junior middle blocker Wendy Krell had three of her 15 kills in the first set as LU ran away for the victory.
Lamar hit an impressive .333 in the set while limiting the Sugar Bears to just a .067 hitting percentage. Junior outside hitter Cynthia McCollum had two of Lamar's four service aces in the set, also leading to the easy victory.
It looked as though Lamar would go ahead 2-0 when Sierra Whittaker pounded down one of her six kills to put the Lady Cards ahead 19-15. UCA battled back and eventually tied the set at 23-23 on a Megan McStravick attack error.
Jessica Nagy and Lindsey Barron picked up back-to-back kills with set two tied at 24 all to give UCA a 26-24 win. Lamar still had a solid 12 kills on a .281 attack percentage, but UCA hammered home 18 kills and hit .282.
"We smashed them in game one and really had them on their heels," said LU head coach Justin Gibert. "Suddenly, in the second set, our serving really let us down. We had three straight servers hit it in the net, and finished with seven service errors in the set.
"Our mistakes, specifically our service errors, kept them in the match long enough for them to mount a rally. It allowed the crowd to get back into the match. Bottom line is, we win game two, we win the whole match."
Set three was close the whole way, with Krell's last kill of the set pulling Lamar to within one point at 23-22. Unfortunately for Lamar, Christina Hobbs followed with an attack error to give UCA a 24-22 lead, and the set ended at 25-22 on a McCollum attack error.
While Lamar played solid offense for the first three sets, the fourth set was the complete opposite. Lamar finished with just six kills and a negative .107 attack percentage. UCA also had its only two service aces of the match in the fourth set as it won 25-11.
"After losing the second and third sets in disappointing fashion, all the intensity and effort was gone in the fourth set," said Gibert. "We just aren't mature enough as a team to push back at that point, and I think we felt like we were going to lose."
The Sugar Bears finished with 52 kills and a .224 team attack percentage, while Lamar managed just 40 kills and a .175 attack percentage. Lamar had a 6-2 advantage in service aces, and a 6-4 advantage in total blocks.
Krell was the only Lady Card to reach double-figures in kills. She hit a strong .303 for the match, and added four block assists. McStravick finished with nine kills and a .333 attack percentage.
Junior setter Alex Morford handed out 36 assists, also picking up 13 digs and three total blocks. Freshman libero Megan Schwartz led all players with 18 digs.
Whittaker, who led Lamar in kills on the season and was named Second-Team All-Southland Conference, struggled with just six kills and a .043 attack percentage.
Brooks led UCA with 15 kills, with Nagy and Alicia Dittrich adding 14 and 10, respectively. Cristin Curl led the Sugar Bears with 15 digs.