SEATTLE, WA (A-STATE) – The Arkansas State volleyball team’s season ended Friday night with a 3-0 loss to Michigan State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Alaska Airlines Arena at Hec Edmundson Pavilion on the campus of the University of Washington in Seattle, Wash.
The Red Wolves, ranked 24th in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Top-25 Poll, end the 2015 campaign with a 28-2 record. The team’s winning percentage of .933 is the second highest in school history. The loss to Michigan State (19-13) snapped the nation’s longest winning streak of 24 matches and dropped A-State to 0-5 in NCAA Tournament matches in school history. MSU advances to the second round to play the winner of Washington and Denver.
A-State began the match with the first two points after a Kariana Castanon-Hill and Jessica Uke block and Spartans’ attack error, but Michigan State battled back with two straight points of its own to set the stage for a set that featured 14 ties. Mallory Warrington put A-State on top 8-6 after an ace, but a 3-0 run by Michigan State gave them the lead at 9-8. The teams then battled with neither team getting ahead by more than one point and Drew Jones knotted the set at 23-23 with a kill. However, Michigan State won the final two points with kills and claimed a 1-0 edge in the match.
The second game went much like the first one early with Arkansas State earning an 8-7 advantage on a kill by Jones. The Spartans responded with a 6-0 run to take control of the set at 13-8, but A-State clawed its way back to within three at 16-13 on a Carlisa May kill to force a Michigan State timeout. However, A-State couldn’t get any closer and fell in the second set 25-17.
The two teams split the first six points of set three, but went on an 8-3 run to take control at 11-6. A-State got two straight points on a Warrington kill and MSU attack error to get within 11-8, but a 4-0 Spartans’ run stretched their lead out to 15-8. Michigan State went on to close the match on a 10-4 run to clinch set three 25-12 and the match 3-0.
“This was not how we wanted it to end and not how we thought it should have went,” A-State head volleyball coach David Rehr said. “Not to make excuses, but not having Darby Graff on the court hurt us. We were able to play some smoke and mirrors in the first set and it was ok, then we just didn’t have enough in the second set and it fell apart in the third. Not to take anything away from Michigan State because they handled the match and we didn’t show up like we should have.”
Jones led the team with 13 kills and 10 digs for her seventh double-double of the season, while May added nine kills of her own. Warrington handed out 27 assists and registered five kills on a .556 hitting percentage. Castanon-Hill had four kills and two blocks, while Hannah Robey had two digs and an assist in the pair’s final match for A-State.
“I felt like we didn’t play our game,” Warrington said. “They’re a big team, but we just weren’t ourselves. This season has definitely been one for the books. It’s not even about our record, it’s about the people you’re with. You don’t even think about the wins and losses with this team and I hope that carries into next year.”
“Something just clicked today and I was really excited to play and play with this team,” said Jones. “We play so well because we love each other and we have such good team chemistry on the court. We’re going to work super hard in the spring to come back even better than we were this year.”
“You want to take this ride with the team that we had because we didn’t have any problems,” Rehr added. “Everybody knows why they are here and knows their role on the team. You couldn’t ask for a better bunch of girls to be a part of and it’s sad that it’s over.”
The Red Wolves will return 13 letterwinners from this season’s squad in 2016 with three redshirt freshmen also in the mix. The team also added four newcomers for 2016 in the early signing period. For the latest on the A-State volleyball team fans can follow the squad on Twitter (@stAteVolleyball) and Instagram (astatevolleyball).