HOUSTON, Texas (AStateRedWolves.com) – The Arkansas State volleyball team went 1-1 at the Rice Invitational on Saturday , picking up a 25-22, 15-25, 32-30, 25-23 victory over Rice, but falling 26-24, 16-25, 25-21, 25-15 to Air Force in the nightcap.
The victory against Rice gave head coach David Rehr his first career victory as a Division I head volleyball coach, while also giving the Red Wolves (1-2) their first match victory of the season.
Against Rice, the Red Wolves battled the Owls in a thrilling four-set match that included 62 points in the third set. A-State led 24-23 and had a point opportunity, but Rice battled back to tie the score at 24-all. A-State had another opportunity to put the set away at 25-24, but the Owls again fought off the ASU attack to force the match to continue. After trading points and Rice having a set point opportunity of their own, the Red Wolves finally pulled away.
With the score tied at 30-30, Jonesboro native Kelsie Hodges connected on a kill opportunity to put ASU ahead 31-30. On set point Hodges connected again on an attacking opportunity to give ASU the set and a 2-1 advantage in the match. Taylor Szypulski led ASU with eight kills in the set, while Allison Kearney added 18 assists.
"We could have easily laid down and died instead of being in the situation were win," Rehr said. "I told the kids I was proud of the way we wanted to be in the match and the fight they showed and then we ended up winning that set and that propelled us through and gave us a lot of confidence."
In the first set ASU never trailed and the score was only tied at once early in the set. The Red Wolves had a .200 attacking percentage in the set and fought off a late rally from the Owls to secure a 25-22 win.
In the decisive fourth set ASU trailed 20-18, but rallied to score the next three points to take a 21-20 lead. Later on, Jasmine Terry connected on a kills to give A-State a 24-23 lead and to setup match point, which was scored on an attacked error by the Owls to give Arkansas State the 3-1 match victory.
Terry tied a career-high with 18 kills in the match, while Szypulski added 15 kills and Amanda Chaparro added 10. Szypulski set a career-high with 16 digs, while Megan Baska added 24 digs, Kerney added 11 and Chaparro collected 10. Kearney led ASU with 55 assists, just 11 shy of her career-high.
In the match against Air Force, the Red Wolves lost the first 26-24 after having a set point opportunity at 24-23 but failing to convert. The Falcons captilized on the A-State miscue and scored three straight points to take the first set.
A-State rebounded in the second set, picking up a 25-16 victory behind strong performances from Terry and Hodges who had four kills each in the frame. However, Air Force came out strong in the third set and earned the 25-21 victory and prevailed 25-15 in the fourth set to take the victory.
"We had had several teaching moments in this tournament and I really thought the light bulb clicked against Rice and then you lose the lesson against Air Force," Rehr said. "I think that is the hardest part, but this is when you learn lessons. You don't learn much after a win, you learn after a loss. It is just about learning that lesson and not putting ourselves in that situation again."
Terry led ASU with 14 kills in the match, while Hodges added 12 and Szypulski finished with 11. Kearney added 43 assists to give her a total of 98 assists across both matches on Saturday. Baska added 27 digs, while Taylor Coughlin had 10.
The Red Wolves will return to the court Tuesday, Aug.28 for it's their opener against Memphis at the Convocation Center. First serve is set for 6 p.m.