CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (astateredwolves.com) – The Arkansas State volleyball team moved to 3-0 on the young 2015 season with a 3-0 (25-10, 25-22, 28-26) victory over the Saint Louis University Billikens Saturday afternoon in both teams’ final match of the Drury Hotels Redhawks Invitational at Houck Field House in Cape Girardeau, Mo.
The Red Wolves jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, but the third set proved to be a thrilling one after Saint Louis raced out to an early 6-1 advantage. The Billikens led 18-11 and appeared to be on their way to forcing a game four, but A-State rallied to get within 23-20 on a Drew Jones kill that forced SLU to call timeout. Assistant coach Tristan Johnson was the vocal leader on the sidelines before and during the timeout. The Red Wolves came out of the timeout with two straight points on a Kelsey Reis block and Hannah Robey service ace to force another Saint Louis timeout.
Once again, Johnson led the team huddle with an emotional speech that led to A-State tying the set on the next point at 23-23. SLU and A-State traded the next six points to set the score at 26-26 before a SLU attack error gave the Red Wolves a 27-26 advantage. A-State defended well on the last point and was able to set up a Darby Graff kill that clinched a 28-26 third game win and 3-0 match victory for the Red Wolves.
“That was a rollercoaster of a match,” A-State head volleyball coach David Rehr said. “We win the first set big and then a competitive second set, but we were down by quite a bit in the third set. But Tristan is the emotional coach of our staff. I’m more laid back and never too high or low, but Tristan’s emotion definitely lit a spark in our team and it showed. I’m very proud of this team and very happy with the start to the season.”
A-State began the match with a resounding 25-10 victory over the Billikens in the first set. The Red Wolves jumped out to a 10-2 advantage after a Carlisa May kill, but Saint Louis won the next two points to make the score 10-4. However, Saint Louis wouldn’t get any closer the rest of the set as A-State ended the set on a 15-6 run with Jones securing the final point on a kill.
The second set was much more competitive featuring 15 ties between the two teams. The last tie came at 21-21 after a Saint Louis kill, but A-State got a kill by May and service ace from Warrington to take a 23-21 edge. SLU won the next point, but kills by May and Jones gave A-State a 25-22 set win and 2-0 advantage in the match.
Jones led the Red Wolves with 13 kills on a .481 hitting percentage with no errors, while May and Graff each added 11 kills of their own. Mallory Warrington handed out 38 assists to lead the team, while Markie Schaedig tallied 20 digs in the three sets. Reis led the team with four blocks, including three block solos, while Warrington and Robey each had a service ace.
Jones was named the tournament’s MVP after recording 37 kills (4.11 per set) in the Red Wolves’ three contests. Jones also added 15 digs, seven blocks, and two service aces. Graff was named to the all-tournament team after picking up 34 kills on a team-best .434 hitting percentage in her first three matches of the season, while Schaedig also earned all-tournament accolades after leading the team with 55 digs.
Arkansas State returns to action Friday, Sept. 4 in the South Florida Classic. A-State will take on the host school South Florida at 6 p.m. before playing Missouri and Florida Gulf Coast the following day.