Most folks I talked to during the week thought something would happen along the way to keep this from happening: #1 Seed UCA will take on #2 seed UTSA in the title game of the SLC Tournament. Give UTSA credit. Nobody seems to want to. Losing their last two regular season conference games in San Marcos and Arlington made doubters out of many people - myself included. But, they've taken care of McNeese and Lamar and now have earned the right to try and do something twice that no other SLC team was able to do even once this year: Beat Central Arkansas.
Lamar is young. They probably think they underachieved, but I think they overachieved a little bit. Lamar finished at .500 in the conference this year and won one and lost one in the tournament. They were an average team in 2010 that will get better in 2011-2012. To me, they are merely adequate on the outside and on the back row, but if improvement can come in one or both of those spots, then a top half seed next year is at least in the realm of possibility.
UTA loses their setter, Reagan Daniel, as well as Bianca Sauls. I also believe their 2nd middle, Christy Driscoll is forgoing her last year of eligibility for an academic opportunity. The replacement of Daniel seems like the biggest issue - one I am sure they have a plan for, so I don't expect to much of a drop off from them. This is the second year in a row they put together a better record than I expected. They are a club I need to pay a bit more attention to. Aguilera, Frantz, Schaffer and Shearin will all be seniors and a lot of the underclassmen on their team haven't gained a lot of court time, so next year could be their best opportunity to crawl into the SLC elite. Replacing Daniel seems to be crucial to their chances.
Can UTSA beat Central Arkansas again? Sure they can, but I doubt they will. I watched both matches today on SLC NOW and will be tuned into to SLC TV tomorrow to see how it all plays out. UCA still looks like the stronger squad to me.
The first time around UTSA held UCA to .151 hitting and Hays made 13 errors - more than twice as many as any UTSA attacker. Briana Mason had a good game hitting .550 and Schwertlich got 8 kills against no errors from the setter position. So, what about tomorrow? I think given the neutral court together with Hays showing people why I picked her as POTY will get it done. I'll take UCA 3-1.
I have to admit - I want either UTSA to win to justify Groff's efforts this year or for Hays to shine to justify my belief she is every bit as "central" as is Chloe Smith. That being said, Smith has been awesome year in and year out and patiently waited her turn to get to the postseason. She deserves to add a tournament championship to her resume and finally get a chance to play in an NCAA game now that she is a senior.