San Antonio - After playing a full five sets last Thursday night in Corpus Christi while earning their first conference win of 2021, the Ladyjack Volleyball squad made quicker work of their Saturday opponent. The 'Jacks defeated Incarnate Word in straight sets (25-14, 25-21, 26-24) to up their conference mark to 2-0 and season record to 14-4. "I thought we did a lot of good things tonight. Especially considering we have been on the road. Overall, I was pleased with what we did", said Head Coach Debbie Humphreys.
The first set at the McDermott Center saw the Ladyjacks play at a near flawless level on offense. SFA hit .412 in the first frame while only committing two attack errors. The Ladyjacks raced out to a 5-1 lead behind kills from sophomores Ariana Pagan and Peyton Cerny coupled with a pair of Cardinal errors. From there, they never looked back. The lead ballooned to 14-6 and UIW never got closer than seven points the rest of the way. The 'Jacks wouldn't allow UIW to make much of a run at any point in the set, siding out at a 75% clip for the set. SFA put up 16 total kills for set 1 while UIW could muster only seven while hitting a paltry .029.
Incarnate Word, which had run a two-setter offense in Set 1, switched to the 5-1 setup, trusting junior Pilar Gonzaba with the task of running the offense herself from that point on in the match. UIW outside hitter Bethany Clapp, who carries a heavy load for the Cardinal offense was held to just two kills in set one, but began to heat up in the second. Clapp killed seven early balls in the set, but still found her club trailing to the Ladyjacks 17-13. At that point in Set 2, the Cardinals got error prone. A service error, then two straight attack errors followed by a ball handling error on Gonzaba coupled with a Cerny kill combined to create a 5-1 run and push the score to 22-14 in favor of the purple. However, the 'Jacks struggled to quickly close out the set at that point allowing a late 7-1 Cardinal run that creeped UIW to to within two points at 23-21. "With a young squad, you are going to have your ups and downs. Those things are going to happen", Humphreys said about the UIW run. "One thing we will definitely work on in practice this coming week is not allowing our opponent to go on runs like that', she added. SFA was able to close out Set 2 behind consecutive kills from Taya Mitchell and Pagan. The 'Jacks hit at a .195 clip compared to .175 for UIW in the second set carrying a 2-0 lead into the half.
While staying with one setter, UIW made additional changes to begin Set 3. The Cardinals switched liberos going to senior Alyssa Carlin after having started with freshman Britney Ong in the off-colored jersey. Ong paired with fellow freshman DS Audrey Patton to try and achor the back row. Patton played well - digging several balls to target and passing crisp in the later sets. Early on, it appeared the changes sparked the Cardinals as they raced out to a 4-1 lead. SFA clawed back and took their first lead of the set after 'Jacks freshman Bryli Contreras dropped in an ace in front of Ong to make the score 7-6. The set stayed close to the midpoint with SFA clinging to a one point lead at 12-11, but then SFA went on a mini-run behind kills from freshman Leah Powell and Cerny to stretch the score out to 16-12. Incarnate Word fought right back and the 'Jacks errored in two straight rallies and then suffered an ace by the hands of Gonzaba. UIW continued the run with kills from senior Chase Jackson and Clapp that left the score tied at 18. After an Ashley Procious kill for SFA and a Clapp error, SFA had a two point lead and was first to 20. But, UIW again went on a run, this time scoring five of the six next points to take the lead 23-21 and put themselves in a position to force a fourth set.
After a 'Jacks timeout, the tables were turned as SFA scored five of six for themselves to close out the set and the match. The final run in the third set featured three straight kills down the stretch for Cerny, the last of which tied the score at 24. From there, a Cardinal attack error and a final 'Jacks kill from Leah Powell completed the 3-0 sweep.
SFA hit .304 for the match and allowed the Cardinals only a .129 attack percentage. Ariana Pagan paced SFA with 11 kills and Cerny chipped in 10. Junior setter Allie Hamsher had three aces and 13 assists while her setting counterpart Maddy Bourque dished out 18. SFA out blocked UIW 7-5, with Procious and Cerny assisting on four each. Maddie Miller had 12 digs to pace her club. Like she has all four matches she has played in during 2021, UIW's Bethany Clapp had a double-double. Clapp knocked down 13 kills to go along with her 12 digs. Gonzaba had 27 assists for the Cardinals.
The 'Jacks head back home to Shelton Gym for two matches next week before having a scheduled week off from competition. SFA will take on Lamar on Thursday evening and then tangle with the Cowgirls from McNeese on Saturday. Both matches are slated to be broadcast live on ESPN+. Brittany Castledine and I will have the calls - with first serve against Lamar set to begin at 6:30 PM Thursday.