New Orleans - The 'Jacks shook off a one set deficit to rally and grab three straight set wins to close out Tulane by a score of 3-1 (23-25, 26-24, 25-19, 25-19) at the Hertz Center on Saturday morning. SFA got down by eight points in the middle of Set 1 and then put on a furious rally attempting to steal Set 1. The back half of the set featured the 'Jacks making a 6-1 run to get within three at 19-16 and then the teams traded points down the stretch with each of Payton Cerny, Leah Powell and Ariana Pagan finding the floor to eventually bring SFA to within one at 24-23. A kill by Tulane middle hitter Anna Davis ended the first set by the minimum two points and put SFA in the position of playing from behind.
However, the momentum from late first set run by the 'Jacks was propelled into the second where SFA turned the tables and made the Green Wave play from behind the majority of the set. Late, Tulane made their own comeback and actually had a shot to go up 2-0 for the match late in Set 2 while holding a 22-20 lead. But SFA wouldn't let the strong set go to waste with a big block by Cerny and Ielan Bradley along with a Cerny kill and a slew of Tulane errors pushed SFA to a 26-24 set win to tie things up at the half.
Tulane looked flat during the first half of Set 3 and SFA cruised to a 25-19 win to take a 2-1 advantage. The Green Wave shook off their sluggishness and matched the 'Jacks energy in a very emotion-filled 4th set. SFA set the tone by jumping out to a 10-5 lead behind several winners from Powell and a huge strike in the middle by senior Taya Mitchell. The Ladyjacks got error prone in the middle of the set and allowed to Tulane to draw within one at 11-10. From that point, the match emotion ramped up even more as the teams slugged out trading points and SFA found things all knotted up at 17. However, the Ladyjacks kicked into one final high gear to go on an 8-2 run to win the set and the match in large part due to a late burst by Freshman Ashley Procious. Procious downed two balls and was in on a key block down the stretch. At many points during the match, her insertion into the middle allowed fellow freshman Bradley to slide over to the right side for the rotations where Cerny was out.
The match saw the return of Pagan who had sat out the two matches in Houston with a minor leg ailment. Pagan showed no signs of wear contributing several key kills and finishing with 8 overall. She fell two kills shy of a double-double as she also picked up 12 digs. The offense was carried by the efficiency of Cerny who tallied 17 terminations (17-4-27, .481) and Mitchell, who hit .545 while finding the floor seven times. Maddie Miller anchored the back row and collected 27 digs many of which came on perfect placements on line attempts by the Tulane right side attack.
Tulane ran slides to freshman middle hitter Anna Davis repeatedly during the match. Davis was successful on 10 strikes. SFA contained Tulane's other big-scoring middle hitter junior Kayla Dinkins. Dinkins only handled 10 attempts and scored only three times. The strong armed senior Lexie Douglass swung 39 times and hit .205 while racking up a team leading 15 kills. Davis led on defense with 6 blocks and Makala Heidelberg - who was converted from outside hitter to libero earlier in the season - led Tulane with 18 digs.
Neither team was overly efficient in terms of attack percentage as the 'Jacks hit .184 which was down from the .247 clip they had posted to this point in the season. Tulane hit only .136 and committed 12 service errors, many of which came early in the match. The 'Jacks were out blocked by the Green Wave 8-5 while holding a slight overall advantage in total digs 62-58. Tulane sliced out nine aces and SFA had six.
The teams meet again at 4 PM in what will be the 'Jacks final tune up before Southland Conference play. SFA travels to Corpus Christi to take on the Islanders in their conference debut at 6:30 PM on Thursday, February 4 and then hops up to take on UIW in San Antonio on Saturday at 1:30 PM. Both of those road matches next week will be carried live here at SFA VolleyBlog Radio.