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Saturday, January 23, 2021

From the Sideline: SFA 3, Louisiana Tech 0 [Game Summary]

 Nacogdoches - A balanced young offensive attack coupled with strong service pressure allowed Stephen F. Austin to make quick work of Louisiana Tech on Saturday afternoon as the 'Jacks won in straights sets 25-15, 25-18 and 25-17.  "I thought we executed at a higher level today than we did yesterday, but there a still some things we've identified that we can fix", 33-year veteran head coach Debbie Humphreys said after the match.  SFA got eight kills a piece from sophomore's Payton Cerny and Ariana Pagan as well as eight kills from freshmen outside hitters Leah Powell and Coco Gillett.

Louisiana Tech never held the lead in the first set as Cerny got off to a fast start racking up half of her afternoon kill tally in the first frame alone.  SFA's middle attack was active early as Taya Mitchell found the floor three times and freshman Ielan Bradley picked up where she left off Friday night by contributing two early kills.  The 'Jacks hit .333 in the opening frame, a mark that would be equalled for the entire three-set match.  The Lady Techsters best opportunity for a set win came in Set 2 as they grabbed an early 10-7 lead, but kills from six separate attackers were squeezed around a pair of attack errors on the Louisiana Tech side.  That flipped the score to 14-12 in favor of the purple during a span of nine straight rallies in which the Lady Techsters failed to register a kill, their only only two points in the sequence coming from Ladyjack service errors.  From that point on in Set 2, SFA never lost the lead closing out the set on a 5-1 run that featured kills from Gillett, Bradley and then the final dagger from Powell banging one off the Tech block to give SFA a 2-0 lead at the half.

An early seven point run led by a long service hold by Senior libero Maddie Miller set the tone for a quick set 3 as SFA raced out to a 9-3 lead.  The set lead ballooned to as many as 13 points after Bradley and Pagan traded terminations late.  Louisiana Tech struggled to consistently pass throughout the set and despite a pair of three and four point runs, respectively, SFA held on to win Set 3 by an eight point spread.

"If we have a night where one attacker is off, we don't want defenses to just be able to key on that one person and shut our offense down", Humphreys said about the balanced attack philosophy.  "I thought the service pressure was key, but maybe we could have cut down on one or two of those [service] errors", she added.  Miller added to a fine performance on Friday night to chip in 15 more digs thwarting the Lady Techsters attack.  Miller finished the weekend with 36 digs in seven sets for a 5.14 dig/set clip.  Her first dig of the afternoon was the 1700th of her collegiate career.

Junior setter Allie Hamsher had the only double-double of the match by distributing 17 assists while also collecting 12 digs.  Pagan's eight kills were matched by nine scoops.  Gillett was particularly impressive offensively as the match wore on and she finished errorless in her 16 attempts (8-0-16, .500).  Bradley also hit .500 and fellow middle Taya Mitchell was four for five with no errors.  Cerny (.368) and Powell (.273) were also efficient as SFA never hit less than .267 for an entire set.

Pagan finished the tournament handling 47 serves without committing a return error.  Bradley was in on two of the four SFA team blocks on the afternoon.  The 'Jacks out blocked Louisiana Tech for the match 4-3.

Louisiana Tech dropped to 0-4 on the extended 2020-2021 season and SFA improved to 10-2.  The Lady Techsters kill leaders could muster only 5 a piece (Marie Verlinden and Emily Boylan).  Abigail Hildenbrand dished out 10 assists and fellow setter Mallory Meers lead Louisiana Tech with 11 digs.  The Lady Techsters only hit .124 for the match and never hit above .167 in any of the three sets.

SFA travels to H-town on Thursday to face off with the University of Houston Cougars for two Thursday matches.  Then the 'Jacks will tangle with Tulane for two matches next Saturday.  All but the early match in Houston will be carried live on Internet radio right here at sfavolleyblog.net.

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