Houston - The 'Jacks struggled to maintain consistency in a lot of dimensions as they dropped both matches on Thursday (15-25, 25-19, 14-25, 21-25 and 16-25, 14-25, 14-25) at the Athletics/Alumni Center on the campus at the University of Houston. In the early match, SFA dropped the first set before rallying back in their most complete set of the day to tie the match at one set a piece at the half. SFA was led by freshman outside hitter Leah Powell who wound up finding the floor 11 times for the match.
But after creating a best-of-three, the 'Jacks couldn't repeat what earned them Set 2 and wound up fighting for any level of consistency down the stretch of the match. "The service pressure was the difference in Set 2", Head Coach Debbie Humphreys said. "UH is a very athletic team and we needed to get them out of system in order to create opportunities for our offense. I felt like we did that in the second set", Humphreys added. "Overall, we struggled in pretty much every area", she finished while also lamenting the overall lack of energy and consistency.
The first match of the day featured the debut of Sophomore transfer Kennedy Wright. Wright scooped up 12 balls to go along with five kills and two blocks in what was an impressive first match in purple despite the loss. SFA allowed Houston to hit .613 in the third set while countering with only a .125 mark from the floor. For the match, the Cougars hit .327, far and away higher than what SFA had allowed on average to this point during the 2020-2021 campaign.
In addition to Powell's 11 and Wright's five, the 'Jacks picked up seven winners from freshman Ielan Bradley in the four set loss. Taya Mitchell collected four blocks and Maddie Miller chipped in 10 digs. Maddy Bourque collected the bulk of the assists among the setters tallying 22 on the afternoon. Houston had five players post double figure kills including Abbie Jackson's twenty. Jackson picked up a double-double by also posting 15 digs. The loss dropped SFA to 10-3 on the season.
The second match saw SFA give up long runs to to the Cougars in each of the three sets. Throughout, SFA was inconsistent on the first ball and consequently was not able to efficiently execute much of a sustained offensive threat. After dropping the first set 25-16, SFA was within one in Set 2 at 11-12, before UH went on a 10-2 run to seal the second set as well.
During the late match, SFA mixed things up in terms of personnel looking for the right combinations to get some consistent production. At one point in the second set, Bradley shifted over to hitting from the right as Humphreys called on freshman Ashley Procious to step into the middle. Later in the third set, Sophomore Payson Kelley made her 2021 debut by entering on the right. To no avail, SFA couldn't overcome the left-side attack onslaught of Jackson and fellow outside Kortlyn Henderson. The pair connected for 16 kills to pace the Houston offense.
Payton Cerny led the SFA offense in Match 2 by hitting .353 while finding the court on seven swings. Freshman Coco Gillett also had seven kills and Bradley contributed five. SFA struggled to block for points as they officially registered only one team block for the match. Bourque had 15 assists and Miller had 11 digs to lead in those categories, respectively.
The service pressure that Humphreys commented on during Set 2 in Match 1 was non-existent in the night match. Houston posted a whopping 78% side out percentage seriously limiting the 'Jacks ability go on any form of large run at the service line. The second loss dropped SFA to 10-4 on the season.
SFA travels to New Orleans to dance with Tulane in another doubleheader on Saturday. Match times are 10 AM and 4 PM and both will be broadcast live here on SFA VolleyBlog Radio.