Jonesboro, AR (A-State) – The Arkansas State volleyball team saw its run in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament end Saturday night with a 3-1 loss to top seed Coastal Carolina inside First National Bank Arena in Jonesboro.
The fourth-seeded Red Wolves (20-11) were not able to advance to the league tournament finals for the third consecutive season despite hosting the event for the first time since 1996. Carlisa May led the team with 20 kills, while Drew Jones posted 19 and also had 10 digs for her team-best 13th double-double. Ellie Watkins handed out 51 assists and had 12 digs for her fourth double-double of the season, while Jessica Uke led the team with three blocks.
“I thought we played a pretty good match,” A-State head volleyball coach David Rehr. “I think that we did a lot of things really well, but we just didn’t come out of it on the right end. I thought set three was a turning point and we just couldn’t convert. There’s a reason Coastal Carolina is the No. 1 seed, but I’m proud of our kids, proud of our effort, proud of our seniors, and proud of everything we did today aside from a couple of execution points.”
Leah Hardeman led Coastal Carolina (19-7) with 19 kills and 13 digs for a double-double, while Kyla Manning had 14 kills. Larissa Dos Santos tallied 11 kills on a .611 hitting percentage as the Chanticleers hit .296 to A-State’s .228.
The first set was a back-and-forth affair as most of the match was with 10 ties along the way, before A-State earned a lead at 21-20 on an attack error. Jones gave the Red Wolves another lead at 23-22 with a kill and an ace by Watkins and attack error giving the home team the first game 25-22. The second set saw Arkansas State battle within 13-12 on a block by Kenzie Fields, but the squad couldn’t get over the hump as Coastal led the entire game and won 25-21 to even the match.
Set three was extremely competitive with 17 ties and nine lead changes with neither team moving too far in front before A-State went ahead 23-21 on a kill by Jones to force a Chants’ timeout. The stoppage proved useful as CCU had four straight kills to clinch the set 25-23. The fourth set was tight as well with the score knotted at 16-16 before a 5-1 Chanticleers’ run put the score at 21-17. A-State battled back to within three on a couple of occasions, but Coastal ultimately won the set 25-21.
“I think the best way to kind of talk about this is that our program is to a point where we are disappointed that we are not winning championships,” continued Rehr. “We are disappointed when we are not in the final. We are disappointed that we are not thinking about the NCAA and that is the way that it is supposed to be. We are already looking to improve, but you got to just love what Drew, Jessica, Anna Murphy, Lindsay Cline, and Nicole Knight have done for this program.”
Arkansas State will wait to find out if it will receive an invitation to the National Invitational Volleyball Championship (NIVC), a 32-team tournament that has been reintroduced this season after running from 1989-1995.
Coastal Carolina meets second-seeded Texas State in the tournament finals Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. The Bobcats defeated Louisiana 3-1 in the other semifinal match Saturday.