Thibodaux, LA -- SFA's right-side attack was far too much for the Nicholls Colonels defense to handle Thursday night as the 'Jacks posted another straight set (25-19, 25-17, 25-14) Southland Conference victory. The win improves the Ladyjacks to 19-4 overall in 2020-2021 and keeps their SLC record perfect at 7-0. The right-side duo of Sophomore Payton Cerny and freshman Ielan Bradley combined to generated 19 total kills in just three sets of work. Bradley hit .462 (7-1-13) and Cerny posted a .375 mark (12-3-24). SFA enjoyed huge leads in both the second and third sets of action, both of which saw the Colonels struggle to post any consistent offense.
The first set was by far the most competitive of the night as the score was tied as late as 16-16. Both teams were hitting over .250 at that point in the set, but then the 'Jacks went on a 5-0 run fueled by kills from Cerny and freshman Ashley Procious combined with two attack errors by the Colonels' Yani Johnson. From there, the teams traded points and SFA was able to close out the first set 25-19. All of the Nicholls errors that piled up in the very back part of the first frame dragged their overall attack percentage down to .125 for the set, the highest mark they would post all evening. During the first set, 'Jacks libero Maddie Miller posted the 1800th dig of her collegiate career and sophomore OH Ariana Pagan also scooped her 200th ball of the season giving her two-straight 200-dig campaigns to begin her career.
Nicholls' scoring leader Emily Gauthreaux was removed for the beginning of Set 2 while Nicholls' head coach Kallie Noble instead went to sophomore Devon Bright at outside hitter. To no avail, SFA raced out to a 6-1 early second set lead behind two kills from Leah Powell and another from Bradley. Later, a dump by Allie Hamsher started a four point run that saw SFA stretch their set lead to 11-4. The rest of the way, Nicholls would get no closer than five points as SFA cruised to a 2-0 lead at the half. During the second set, Nicholls also made a change at one of the middle blocker spots tabbing freshman Jhayla Bolden in favor of senior Lydia Frederick. The Colonels stuck with that change for set 3 and also returned Gauthreaux to the floor, albeit in only a front-row role.
The 'Jacks again began the set with a fury as the lead quickly got to 8-2 behind three straight kills to open the set by Cerny and then a slew of attack errors by the Colonels. It appeared as though the third set would finish extremely lopsided when SFA had stretched its lead all the way to 15-5 as Bryli Contreras served up two aces during her emphatic six serve run. Nicholls then showed some life going on a 7-2 run of their own as Gauthreaux caught fire for just a moment and thundered down three kills forcing SFA into their only timeout of the night with the score 17-10. The teams traded mini-runs out of the timeout and then one final five point surge by SFA was led by two kills from Leah Powell and strong short serving by Maddie Miller. Miller put on an absolute clinic on the back row racking up 23 digs in just her three sets. That tally leaves her at 399 for the year, just one dig shy of her fourth straight 400-dig season.
SFA hit .270 or above in every set and finished with an overall attack percentage of .298 while holding Nicholls to just .104. SFA was led by Cerny's 12 kills and Powell had eight. Ariana Pagan and Bradley each chipped in seven a piece. Hamsher had 19 assists and Maddy Bourque tallied 17 as both setters were efficient all night long. Pagan chipped in eight digs behind Miller's 23. Ashley Procious added three more blocks to her conference leading total of 64 total blocks during 2020-2021. SFA travels to Hammond, La on Friday for practice and then an early Saturday morning (10 AM) date with the Lions of Southeastern Louisiana. That match will be broadcast live on SFA VolleyBlog Radio here in this space.