STATESBORO, GA (A-STATE) – The top-seeded Arkansas State volleyball team opened the 2015 Sun Belt Conference Volleyball Tournament with a 3-0 (25-20, 25-22, 26-24) sweep of the host team and No. 8 seed Georgia Southern Friday night at Hanner Fieldhouse in Statesboro, Ga., to advance to the semifinals of the conference tournament for the fourth straight season and extend the nation’s longest winning streak to 22 matches.
A-State (26-1) raced out to an 11-3 advantage over the Eagles (10-19) on a Darby Graff kill in set one, but a 9-4 run by Georgia Southern cut the A-State advantage to 15-12. The Eagles battled to within one point at 21-20, but a Drew Jones kill gave the Red Wolves a 22-20 advantage. Arkansas State closed the set on a 4-0 run with the final two points coming on blocks by Kelsey Reis and Carlisa May to claim a 25-20 first set victory.
The second set began with the Red Wolves jumping out to another early advantage, this time by a score of 12-8 on a kill by Jones. However, Georgia Southern went on a 4-1 run to close the gap to 13-12, but A-State responded with a 5-2 run, capped by a Graff kill, to take an 18-14 edge that forced the Eagles to use a timeout. The Eagles were able to get within two at 24-22, but a May kill gave A-State a 25-22 victory and 2-0 match advantage.
The tables turned early in set three with the host team taking a 7-2 advantage, but an 8-4 A-State run, finished with a Jones kill, pulled the Red Wolves within 11-10. A service ace by Jones gave the Red Wolves a 17-16 lead, but both teams would trade points with Arkansas State holding match point at 25-24 after a May kill. Reis was able to block a Georgia Southern attack attempt for the final point and secured a 26-24 set win and 3-0 match victory for the Red Wolves.
“I think Georgia Southern did a great job, they don’t play like the No. 8 seed,” A-State head volleyball coach David Rehr said. “We’ve had a tough time with them all year long so we knew it was going to be a fight. We knew that the matchup for us wasn’t ideal, but we gutted out a win and move on to the next round.”
May led the team with 12 kills on a .478 attacking percentage, while Jones chipped in with 10 of her own. Mallory Warrington dished out 36 assists to lead the offense, while Jones added two service aces. Markie Schaedig led the defensive effort with 19 digs and Reis was tops on the team with five blocks, including two block solos. Georgia Southern was held to a .157 hitting percentage, while A-State hit .289. Megan Chevalier led the Eagles with 13 kills.
Arkansas State returns to action Saturday with a semifinal matchup against in-state rival and No. 5 seed Little Rock, who defeated No. 4 UT Arlington 3-0 Friday. First serve from Hanner Fieldhouse is set for 5:30 p.m. (CT) and the match can be watched on ESPN3. Live stats will be available on AStateStats.com. On the other side of the bracket, No. 2 Appalachian State defeated No. 7 Troy 3-1 and No. 3 Texas State was victorious versus No. 6 South Alabama by a score of 3-1.
Fans can follow the A-State volleyball squad on Twitter (@stAteVolleyball) and Instagram (astatevolleyball).