Thursday, November 17, 2022

WAC Tournament Quarterfinal Recap: SFA 3, CBU 0

 Edinburg, TX - After a slow start in the opening moments of the first set, SFA Volleyball found their stride and never looked back en route to a three set sweep over #7 seed California Baptist University.  Junior right-side hitter and first-team WAC All-Conference selection Ielan Bradley led the way with eleven kills on 18 swings against only two errors posting an even .500 attack percentage for the match.  At times, especially in the final two sets, the Ladyjack front line was smothering of the Lancer attack posting a total of 10 team blocks for match, seven of which were assisted by senior Kelsey Harrington. Fellow middle blocker Izabella Ortiz showed why she was an All-WAC Freshman selection by downing six balls on seven swings while also rejecting three Lancer attacks.  But the highlight of Ortiz' evening was a service run in the middle of the second set that saw her attempt nine serves before CBU could finally side her and the 'Jacks out.  From that point forward, SFA was on cruise control and posted a .293 attack percentage overall while holding the Lancers to just .075.

SFA found themselves behind by five in the first set with score 10-5 in favor of CBU. Bradley and freshman Camryn Hill committed two errors a piece within the matches first eight rallies.  Slowly throughout the middle of the first set the SFA offense found its stride. Behind a kill and then block by Ortiz, two Harrington kills and one each from Bradley and senior Ariana Pagan, the 'Jacks got to within one with the score 11-10 in favor of CBU.

The Ladyjacks took their first lead of the match at 15-14 signaling the media time out and from that point on, CBU never led again in the match.  The Lancers committed a whopping seven service errors in the first set - their grand total on the night - to aid in the 'Jacks comeback.  Leading up the media timeout, Ortiz posted three more kills and a block.  The service game for CBU got particularly bad at that point in Set 1 and amidst it,  junior setter Maddy Bourque dropped in one of her three aces on the night and the 'Jacks built a four point lead at 21-17.  The set ended with SFA getting a kill each from a trio of pin hitters - Pagan, Hill and Bradley and went up one set to none after Pagan's ace ended the first frame with the score 25-17.

The second set was a complete runaway as SFA committed only one attack error and hit .455. After a Payton Cerny kill gave SFA a sizeable lead at 11-5, Ortiz stepped back to serve for the first time in the set. Ortiz proceeded to serve nine straight times to build the lead to 19-5 before CBU's Laura Walewska and Anna Jackson finally stopped the bleeding with a block on Pagan.  Cerny put down another kill and SFA had scored 20 points in its first full six rotations around the floor.  Soon after, a Pagan ace made it 22-9 and the 'Jacks polished off the set with a kill by Bradley and a CBU bad set to make the final score 25-10 giving SFA a 2-0 set lead at the intermission.

The 'Jacks onslaught wasn't done as they scored the first four points of Set 3 on three Lancer attack errors.  A Jayden Flynn ace - her 43rd of the season - ran the score to 8-2 and the rest of the way CBU would get no closer than four as the 'Jacks cashed in on 16 kills in the set while hitting .310.  Bradley came alive in the final frame terminating seven of her 11 match kills in the third with several of them down the stretch in the matches' final rallies.

Overall, behind Bradley's 11, SFA was led by Ariana Pagan with eight winners and Ortiz and Cerny finished with six each.  Five Ladyjacks hit over .300 in the offensive takedown and SFA out-slugged CBU 40-26 in the match kill tally.  The defense for SFA was also strong with WAC Libero of the Year Haley Hoang scooping a match high 13 digs to up her season tally to 513.  Maddy Bourque finished with 17 assists and moved into 9th place all-time at SFA in career assists with her total now standing at 1559.  Jayden Flynn finished one dig shy of a double-double posting 11 assists and nine digs.

SFA returns to action in the WAC Volleyball Tournament semifinals on Friday at 4:00 PM CT against #3 seed Grand Canyon.  The Lopes are one of the hottest teams in the nation having swept their last seven matches including their semifinal win against #6 seeded New Mexico State.  Earlier this season, SFA defeated GCU in Nacogdoches by a set score of 3-1.  The winner of the SFA/GCU match will take on the victor in the other semifinal which pits #4 Utah Valley against host and #1 seed UTRGV.  Radio for the Ladyjacks match against the Lopes kicks off just a few minutes before 4:00 PM Friday.