Friday, November 16, 2012

Southland Conference Tournament: Day 1

Click Here For all Southland Conference Tournament Interviews

Welcome to's coverage of the first round of the 2012 Southland Conference Tournament.  Check back here for regular updates - many per match - all during the day from Conway, AR.  Be sure and click the link above to listen to all interviews done during the weekend.

Friday 8:40 PM
I'll make my way over to get something to eat and back to the hotel..  Interviews will get posted late tonite so check them out later or in the morning as you prepare for SHSU/ORU at 11:30 and SFA/UCA at 1:30.  Good night!

Friday 8:37 PM
UCA up 22-12 and SLU uses their last timeout.  Hays over 20 kills at this point.  UCA such an offensive powerhouse.  SFA will need their defense primed and ready tomorrow at 1:30 if they are going to beat them.  But, UCA certainly didn't play in a dominant, convincing way...especially on defense.  SFA will need to have attacking going from all pins and in the middle.  UCA still the favorite both tomorrow and the rest of the way.  But, I don't see the dominance yet.  Not that it can't show itself at some point, but that pivotal 3rd set was just so crucial.. a few points here and there and we could have had an upset or at least another 5 set match.  Give UCA credit.. they did what they had to do to win and we'll have to play a very solid match to keep up with their offense tomorrow.

Friday, 8:30 PM
Looks like SLU is out of gas.  That 3rd set took a lot out of them and they've fallen behind 15-7 at the midpoint of Set 4.  Passing starting to wane for the Lady Lions as Schnars and others for UCA are serving tough.  Jessica Hays upp to 19 kills for UCA midway thru the 4th.  SLU will need a monumental comeback at this point, I just don't think they've got anything left after a rough end to the 3rd set.

Friday, 8:18 PM
Wow.  SELA had UCA on the ropes 21-19 and then Courtney Donald missed a wide open shot and that seemed to turn the tide and propel UCA to the comeback... There for a moment I thought SELA was going to go up 2-1.  They definately had their shot.  The back row players for the Lady Lions passed particularly well in that set and UCA again looked shaky.  To their credit, UCA fought back, in part behind freshman Heather Schnars, who was inserted for a spark and she got several key kills.  I can't resist adding this nugget since Berringer was OK.. but, at one point in the set Donald went up on the right and just smashed one right off Berringer's face.  She got removed with a slightly bloody nose.. and returned later in the set.. but man, that was the kill of  the day.. I don't think Berringer ever saw it.. but I know she felt it.  Sugar Bears up 2-1 and now it will take a lot for the Lions to recover.

Friday, 7:42 PM
We go to the half tied at 1-1.  Can SELA win the all important swing set #3?  We'll see.

Friday, 7:39 PM
I'm going to say this very kindly since it already came up once today, but I just think its true.. UCA really isn't that good of a blocking team.  SLU getting some easy looks on the right and Hays and others just aren't there on defense.  Offensively, UCA is a juggernaut, but if  team could throw a balanced left and right attack against them, I think they are vulnerable.  I just don't see that they consistenly can block well.  2nd set is tight, but SELA still hold the lead late.

Friday, 7:32 PM
Again, in the 2nd set, SELA jumped out to an early lead scoring the first four points of the set including some strong serving by Morgan Todd.  Then the Lady Lions stretched things out all the way to 11-5.. and its times like those that make me think UCA is vulnerable... they just couldn't go on a roll.  But then UCA clawed back and on an emotional swing where SELA's Grayson thought she had UCA's Nagy blocked, UCA digs it up and ties it at 12... At this point in the first set is where UCA pulled away.. let's see if SELA can maintain as we are pretty much even at 16's.

Friday, 7:12 PM
Well, that SLU "hangin' in" thing didn't last too long.. UCA serving tough and Taylor Hammonds playing well on the front row for UCA.  The Sugar Bears have so many weapons and most of them getting into the act here late in Set 1.. UCA up by seven and on their way to a Set 1 win.   This team is just so good on offense.  Very much an offense driven team.. so hard to slow them down.

Friday 7:07 PM
SLU is hanging around in set 1.. actually holding the lead until about 10's.  UCA with several service errors to kill stretches of point for them.  Marissa Collins already doing her thing, spreading the ball around well getting Hays kills on both the left and right and integrating the middles Dittrich and Hammonds well.. Collins just makes all the players around her so much better.  UCA has a lot of talent, but it gets maximized b/c of Collins.  Just an artist.

Friday 6:47 PM
OK, back in blogging mode as host UCA is about to get started against Southeastern Louisiana.  Let's see how 1st team ALL-SLC MB Courtney Donald does this time around against the Sugar Bears.  She's killed 17 balls each of the first two times these teams have met.  Got an interview with SFA head coach Debbie Humpreys after a very emotional comeback win.  All interviews will be posted later tonight, so make sure and check back late tonite or in the morning as you prepare for Round 2.

Friday 3:34 PM
I just got a report from one of the referees that TAMUCC's Brianna Brink may have suffered an injury in the 2nd set which would explain her removal from the game.  I couldn't confirm that before the Islanders left the gym, but wouldn't want the last update to imply it was coaches decision only.. so there may have been an injury factor to her being replaced by Phelps... just wanted to clarify.

Friday 3:00 PM
Well, that wasn't what I expected.  I had ORU over TAMUCC, but not in three sets.  The Islanders get victimized by MB Sheina Fernandes whoo has 10 kills on no errors.  Joanna Gruber killed 8 balls with only error as well.  The early good play by Brink ended and she was replaced by Ashley Phelps, who actually did a good job while in there getting five kills on 11 attacks in her two sets.  ORU played with a ton of emotion and I look for their match tomorrow against SHSU to be a fight.  TAMUCC couldn't really ever get anything going and ORU hit .273 and won the battles at the net.  SFA taking the court.. switching to "Live Chat" mode soon.  Will be back with live blogging for the final match tonight featuring UCA and SELA.

Friday 2:23 PM
TAMUCC is going to need to make some adjustments at the half after ORU pretty much thumps them in Set 2 25-16.  Not surprised at all by ORU getting out to a fast start in this tournament.  I've been saying for weeks that this is a very strong #6 seed team.  Let's see if TAMUCC can make adjustments and come out and force a fourth set out of the half.  Interview with Wells-Gibson and Black will get posted tonight.  Also hoping to talk with some folks from UCA, soon.

Friday, 1:55 PM
Unforced errors - Brink and Baresh going long on a few attacks coupled with Laura Taylor's aggressiveness at the setter position have ORU back out front against TAMUCC.. watch out.. if the Golden Eagles get hot...

Friday, 1:43 PM
So far, the Isanders are getting plenty from OH Brianna Brink.  I wrote earlier this week that I thought she was the X-factor.  If Corpus gets offense from the left - much like SFA needing kills from that side...then they will be tough.  Corpus up five mid way thru the 1st set.

Friday, 1:15 PM
Just got in a good chat with SFA head coach Debbie Humphreys and have interviews scheduled with SHSU's Kim Black and Devaney Wells-Gibson.  Check back later in the day for those audio files.  A very interesting match looms between ORU and TAMUCC.  Been looking foward to this one.  Can the Islanders get enough out of Baresh and Brink to confuse Fernandes and Pancratz?  Will ORU get enough offensively from the pins?  And.. a good battle between two great defenders in Micah Nolan for Corpus and Libero of the Year Bruna Silva.

Friday, 12:20 PM
Sure enough, Sam Houston stays in control and sweeps NICH 3-0.  Kaylee Hawkins with a particularly good match for the Bearkats.  Sam Houston not stressed that much.  Should have plenty left in the tank on Saturday at they take on the winner of the next match between ORU and TAMUCC.

Also, let me get this in right here.. I was just informed that ORU MB Jessica Pancratz was not on the All-Conference ballot which obviously explains why she didn't receive an honor.  I am a little surprised at the decision to leave her off, but the ORU coaching staff had some tough decisions as to who to put on and I can respect their decision not to stuff the ballot full of their players as the 6th seed.  Still.. the facts in my article from a few days ago remain.  I still believe she deserved an honor.  And I now more than ever believe the constraints that are placed on the voters by the conference structure are rediculous.  The sample of players that people should be able to vote for should be the ENTIRE league.  Instead, these contraints lead to goofy things every year.

Friday, 11:50 AM
Sam hitting .298 at the half being lead by Kaylee Hawkins who has 9 kills on 19 attacks with no errors.  Sam Houston with seven aces and holding NICH to .051 hitting. Wells Gibson also has 9 kills and Black with four blocks.  The left sides for NICH - Stock and Brandt  hitting negative as RS Sarah Terry leads the Colonels with four kills.

Friday, 11:47
I think the dagger is sinking in for NICH.  Sam Houston on cruise control with Kim Black mixing in some nifty shots... going with both power shots off the block and then reading the back row nicely and finding holes just pushing shots to the corners.  NICH about to be down 0-2 at the half and they look like the wind got knocked out of them.   SHSU wins 25-12 in a route to go into the half.

Friday, 11:40 AM
Sam Houston pretty much in control of set 2 as NICH calls TO at 14-8.  Sam got out to a fast start again in set 2 with kills by Hawkins and good serving by Tayler Gray.  NICH MB Jessica Addicks unfortunately went down with an apparent knee injury at 7-3.  Never like to see that.  She hasn't returned in the set.  SHSU went into a little funk, but recovered after again Jamie Haas was brought in to serve and aced NICH again.  Serve recieve and being able to stay in system a big issue for the Colonels so far in this match.

Friday, 11:27 AM
The story of set 1 between SHSU and NICH was definately serve and serve receive.  Lots of aces and lots of shanked receptions.  Both teams with quite a few good tough serves, but both teams with a slew of errors as well.  NICH hung tough until 21-all with Wells Gibson and Brandt trading left side attacks down the stretch.  A big block by Black and Hawkins near the end of the set seemed to give the Bearkats the push they needed to take Set 1.  NICH was close to stealing that one, though.. and they might had if not for so many reception issues.

Friday, 11:15 AM
Early on in Set 1 between SHSU/NICH, the Colonels really struggled in serve receive and passing and Sam jumped out to an early lead.  Since then, Nicholls has had a lot of soft shots and tips go down by going over the block and landing just in front of back row defenders.  Nicholls hanging tough and tied at 11 mid-way thru Set 1.

Friday, 10:56 AM
Just had a short chat with UCA head coach David McFatrich - one of the really good guys in the league - and very supportive of work done here at the blog.  He's not a big fan of my leaving his MB's off my all-conference picks, though.  Readers will recall that I have used a 2/3 weighing to defense for looking at middle blockers.  He didn't like my math on that one.  I think even if I had weighed offensive and defensive contributions the same that my conclusions would have been basically the same.  People are always wowed by big hitting percentages.  I guess I've changed my tune on that stat during the years.  MB's hitting percentages are always higher than OH and RS and Dittich's is really darn high.  I get it.  It's just not all there is to being a middle blocker in my opinion and when you don't block at a Top 15 rate in the conference, then that's going to weigh more in my mind.  That's the fun of this job.  I get to have pleasant disagreements with people way smarter than me and there is still a chance they'll read here!  Haha.

Friday, 10:36 AM

About 20 minutes away from the first serve between #7 Nicholls State and #2 Sam Houston State.  Already ran in to SLC Player of the Year Devaney Wells-Gibson's mom at breakfast this morning and our own Paige Holland's grandparents while socializing at the hotel before driving over.  Conway hotels are all filled up with tournament go-ers.  This year, the accommodations are a bit awkward in that Southeastern Louisiana, Oral Roberts and Northwestern State are all staying at the same hotel.  Also, SFA, Nicholls and TAMUCC are all staying in the same place as well.  Sam Houston separated themselves and are staying closer to the campus as opposed to the "hotel circle" that exists about five miles north of the UCA campus.  Several SFA players telling me that breakfast was strange with two other teams eating their Fruit Loops right across the table!