OXFORD, Miss. (11/29/17) – The Arkansas State volleyball team won a hard-fought 3-1 (25-21, 28-30, 29-27, 27-25) decision over SIU-Edwardsville to open the 2017 National Invitational Volleyball Championship Wednesday afternoon at the Gillom Athletics Performance Center in Oxford, Miss.
The win for A-State improved the team to 21-11 and is the first postseason victory for the program since a 3-1 triumph over Wright State in the 1993 NIVC. The Red Wolves were out hit by the Cougars (23-7) .160 to .134, but A-State tallied six aces to SIUE's one and had a season-high 15 blocks to the Cougar's 14.
"We honestly didn't play very well," A-State head volleyball coach David Rehr said. "However, we were able to grind out some tough points when we had to. The main point of us playing in this tournament was to get our team used to playing, and winning, in the postseason. I want our team to get used to this for years to come. I'm glad to get the win and proud of the team for fighting so hopefully we combine the effort with better play tomorrow."
Carlisa May tallied a match-high 21 kills, her ninth match of 20 or more kills this season. Kenzie Fields was the only other A-State player with double-digit kills (10) and picked up 11 digs for her sixth double-double of the year. Seven different players recorded a block for the Red Wolves with Jessica Uke's career-high nine leading the way. Ellie Watkins handed out 34 assists and was one of three players along with Madison Turner and Lindsay Cline with two aces. Tatum Ticknor posted a match-high 18 digs, while Anna Murphy came off the bench to provide five kills and three blocks.
Both teams battled to a 16-16 tie in set one before a 4-1 A-State run, capped by an ace from Watkins, put the team ahead 20-17. SIUE called a timeout, but it didn't slow the Red Wolves down as a kill by Uke gave A-State a 25-21 set one win. The Cougars jumped out to an 11-5 advantage in set two, but A-State rallied to tie the game at 18-18. The set featured 14 ties with the last coming at 28-28 before SIUE strung together two consecutive points for a 30-28 set victory.
The Cougars raced out to an 18-12 edge in set three before A-State came back to within 21-18 after a kill by Fields to force a timeout by SIUE. However, the Cougars were able to gain match point at 24-20 before a 5-0 run by the Red Wolves put them ahead 25-24. The two teams kept trading points to 27-27 before a kill by Drew Jones and attack error by the Cougars gave A-State a 29-27 set three win.
SIUE jumped out to leads of 4-1 and 14-10 in set four, but saw the Red Wolves make another comeback to get within 19-18. A-State tied the set at 22-22 on a kill by Murphy and ended up tied 25-25 after a kill by Fields. Arkansas State received two straight blocks by Jones and Murphy to seal the set 27-25 and the match 3-1.
The Cougars were led by Jackie Scott's 17 kills, while Ashley Witt added 15. Defensively, Taylor Joens had seven blocks and Katie Shashack picked up 16 digs.
A-State continues play in the NIVC Thursday night at 6 p.m. at the Gillom Athletics Performance Center in Oxford, Miss., against Ole Miss. The Rebels defeated Stephen F. Austin 3-0 in the nightcap to set up the matchup with the Red Wolves. Tomorrow's match will be streamed on SEC Network Plus.