SLC volleyball tournament breakdown

Eight teams will compete in the Southland Conference volleyball tournament that begins tomorrow in Natchitoches, La. at the home of Northwestern State University.

The Sam Houston State Bearkats enter the conference tournament as the fourth seed after losing back-to-back road games this past week to end the SLC season. The Kats will face seven other Southland Conference teams, four of which SHSU lost to previously in season.

The championship match will be broadcasted on ESPN3. All quarterfinal and semifinal matches will be streamed live at

Central Arkansas and Southeastern Louisiana will start off the SLC tournament on Friday at 11 a.m. TAMUCC will face HBU at 1:30 p.m. and SFA versus Nicholls at 4 p.m. SHSU will take on host NWU Friday at 6:30 p.m.

The winners of the two semifinal matches Saturday will play for the tournament championship Sunday at 2:05 p.m., with the winner earning the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA championship.

[toggle title=”No. 1 Stephen F. Austin State”]

Road to the Tournament

SFA finished its season undefeated with a perfect 16-0 record for the first time since 2006, the last year the Ladyjacks won the conference tournament. SFA claimed its first regular season title since clinching a share of the title in 2008. The Ladyjacks have won the most SLC tournament titles with four. Last year, the Ladyjacks lost in the first round of the tournament. SFA will take on No. 8 seed Nicholls on Friday, the third match of the day.

Key players

Senior outside hitter Jill Ivy is the star offensive player of the Ladyjacks. She leads her team in every match in kills, and she hit a landmark against University of New Orleans earlier during the season. With 280 kills so far in 2014, Ivy sits at 1,261 over her four-year career. In 2013, Ivy was named to the All-SLC Second Team.

Junior defensive specialist O.J. Olson runs the Ladyjacks’ defense. In the matches against Lamar and Northwestern State, Olson recorded a combined total of 45 digs, including a match-high 27 digs. She was named Defensive Player of the Week for the third time Nov. 3. Olson is the only student-athlete in the conference to win the defensive award three times in one season.

Senior setter Paige Holland runs the Ladyjack offensive game. She earned her sixth double-double of the year, totaling 52 assists against Northwestern. Holland surpassed her 4,000 assist milestone last month against Houston Baptist. This makes her the fifth player in SFA history to reach this history.

Meeting with SHSU

SFA defeated SHSU back in October after a 2-0 set deficit (21-25, 22-25, 25-16, 25-11 and 15-12).

[/toggle] [toggle title=”No. 2 University of Central Arkansas”]

Road to the Tournament

Last year’s SLC tournament champions are seated second after finishing off the season with a 13-3 record. The Sugar Bears have won both the regular season and tournament titles the past two years. The Sugar Bears will open the SLC tournament taking on the No. 7 seed Southeastern Louisiana.

Key Players

Junior outside hitter Heather Schnars is a strong player for UCA. She was named to the 2013 All-SLC First Team. She finds her way on the leading scorer statistics after every match. Senior middle blocker Alicia Dittrich is one of the star players for the Sugar Bears as well.

Dittrich earned a match-high 14 kills against Southeastern Louisiana.

The Sugar Bears’ defense is run by senior libero Shelbee Berringer. Berringer totaled a match-high 19 digs against Southeastern.

Junior setter Amy South also had a match-high against Southeastern finishing with 49 assists.

Meeting with SHSU

UCA defeated SHSU in five sets (23-25, 26-24, 21-25, 26-24 and 15-11). The Bearkats had a 2-0 set lead and allowed the Sugar Bears to fight back harder and extend their 8-0 SLC record at the time to a 9-0 after beating the Bearkats last month.

[/toggle][toggle title=”No. 3 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi”]

Road to the Tournament

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi finished off the regular season with an 11-5 SLC record.

This marks their highest seed in program history, and the Islanders have earned their third consecutive appearance in the tournament. TAMUCC was a semifinalist in last year’s SLC conference tournament, losing in four sets to Central Arkansas. The Islanders will match up against No. 6 seed HBU in the second match of the tournament.

Key Players

Senior right side hitter Brianna Brink is the Islanders’ heavy hitting leading scorer. She finished the recent match against the Lamar Cardinals with 15 kills. Brink has played in all 33 matches for the Islanders with 1,362 kills currently. In 2013, she earned Honorable Mention All-SLC and was named to the Southland Commissioner’s Honor Roll.

Junior libero Hailey King runs the Islander defense. She leads the team with 3.91 digs per set and is ranked eighth in the SLC. King totals 414 digs.

Freshman setter Kristyn Nicholson averages 9.38 assists per set and has a team-high of 42 service aces on the year, which ranks second in the conference. This season she has earned 10 double-doubles with her most recent against Houston Baptist.

Meeting with SHSU

The Bearkats defeated the Islanders the first time around in three consecutive sets (25-17, 25-21 and 25-20). In the most recent encounter, the Islanders took revenge and beat the Bearkats in three sets (25-19 25-18 25-17).

[/toggle][toggle title=”No. 4 Sam Houston State”]

Road to the Tournament

Making its 20th appearance in the SLC tournament, SHSU finished its regular season with a record of 11-5 in SLC play. The Bearkats were also the fourth seed in last year’s tournament.

Key Players

Senior outside hitter Deveney Wells-Gibson is the leading scorer for the Bearkats and the SLC. As a sophomore, she was named Southland Player of the Year and is a two-time first team All-SLC performer. Wells-Gibson reached her 1,000 kill mark after the Bearkats’ preseason home opener tournament. She is the go-to player for SHSU, averaging a .481 hitting percentage. She is also fourth in the SLC for service aces.

Sophomore libero Claire Kilpatrick runs the Bearkats’ defense. She currently is ranked sixth in digs and is averaging 4.22 per game. She had one of her high matches against Lamar with 27 digs.

Sophomore setter Michelle Griffith currently leads the SLC in assists with a 10.96 average. Griffith assisted on 42 of the Bearkats’ points, which is one of her match highs.
[/toggle][toggle title=”No. 5 Northwestern State”]

Road to the Tournament

The Northwestern State Demons finished off their regular season with a 10-6 record. The team is making its fourth consecutive SLC tournament appearance. The Demons will take on No. 4 seed the Bearkats, as they seek revenge on their two losses to the Bearkats during the regular season.

Key Players

Senior outside hitter Stacey DiFrancesco is one of the leading scorers for the Demons. In the last match of regular season against Abilene Christian, she became NSU’s all-time kills leader, totaling 1,293 for her career. Last season, she earned first team All-Southland selection and first team Southland All-Academic for the second time. DiFrancesco showed out on her senior night, adding 14 kills to the scoreboard.

Senior right side Mackenzie Neely is NSU’s season leader in points and kills. She was named to the All-SLC Preseason Second Team Selection this season.

Sophomore libero Bailey Martin had a team-high with 11 digs in the recent sweep over Incarnate Word. Martin added five kills and three service aces as well.

Senior libero/setter Emily Johnson totaled 18 assists and seven digs in the UIW match. Both Martin and Johnson run the defense for NSU.

The offensive game is also run by Johnson and sophomore setter Natalie Jaeger as the Demons run a 6-2.

Meeting with SHSU

During the regular SLC season, the Bearkats defeated the Demons twice (20-25, 25-17, 25-23, 20-25 and 15-9) (25-21, 25-14, 15-25 and 25-21). Wells-Gibson led the Bearkats to victory with 22 kills in the first match and 19 in the second. The Bearkats out-pointed the Demons 63-55, totaling 50 kills in the second matchup.

[/toggle][toggle title=”No. 6 Houston Baptist”]

Road to the Tournament

The HBU Huskies enter the SLC tournament with a record of 9-7. The Huskies will face opponent Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Friday.

Key Players

The Huskies are led by sophomore outside hitter Jessica Wooten, who ranks fourth in the SLC with 3.80 kills per set and also adds 2.80 digs per set. Senior outside hitter Megan McStravick averages 2.77 kills and 2.77 digs per set, and senior outside hitter Bailey Keith puts up 2.45 kills per set. Junior middle blocker Allison Doerpinghaus leads the SLC in blocks with 1.27 per set and is fourth with a .329 hitting percentage.

HBU’s defense is run by senior libero Hailey Hoffman. She had a match-high of 23 digs for HBU against the Bearkats. Hoffman ranks seventh with 4.20 digs per set.

Sophomore setter Kayla Armer is second in the SLC with 10.68 assists per set as she runs the offensive game.

Meeting with SHSU

The Huskies have split with the Bearkats throughout the regular season. The first matchup SHSU won in four sets (25-22, 25-22, 15-25 and 25-23). In the last matchup, HBU swept SHSU in three sets (26-24, 25-11 and 25-22). The Huskies out blocked the Bearkats 10-5. SHSU outhit HBU by three kills, but the Huskies out dug the Bearkats 56-47.

[/toggle][toggle title=”No. 7 Southeastern Louisiana “]

Road to the Tournament

The Southeastern Lions enter the SLC tournament with an even 8-8 regular season record. This is recorded as the most conference victories since the 2002 season for Southeastern. SLU will take on the No. 2 seed Central Arkansas again, as the Lions lost to them just last week.

Key Players

Junior outside hitter Tiffany Thomas leads the Lions offensively. Against UCA, she led the team with 14 kills, finishing up with double digits for the third-consecutive match and the ninth time overall this season.

Junior libero Morgan Todd runs the Lions’ defensive game. She was named the 2014 Southland Conference Defensive Player of the Week October 13. In a recent rival match against Nicholls, Thomas contributed 17 digs, recording the second double-double of her career. Freshman defensive specialist Kacey Freeman picked up 15 digs.

Junior setter Mikayla Shippy is the offensive coordinator for the Lions, and she totaled 29 assists during the rivalry game. She is consistent and finished with 29 assists in the final regular season match against UCA.

Meeting with SHSU

The Bearkats swept the Lions away with a 3-0 set win previously in the season (25-20, 25-21 and 25-21).

SHSU head coach Brenda Gray mentioned that this team was a “different team,” meaning it is hard to adjust to them.

[/toggle][toggle title=”No. 8 Nicholls State “]

Road to the tournament

Nicholls St. enters the SLC tournament with a 6-10 SLC record. The Colonels defeated their regional rival McNeese State in 3-0 sets for the final spot in the tournament. The Colonels will take on the No. 1 seed SFA in the first round of the tournament.

Key Players

Sophomore middle blocker Mikayla Miller led Nicholls offensively with a career-high 13 kills and a .500 hitting percentage in the matchup against McNeese State. Sophomore outside hitter Kaci Eaton racked up 12 kills.

Senior libero Kalynn Egea finished her regular season career defensively with 22 digs.

The Colonels run a 6-2 offense, and sophomore setter Ainsley Marroccoli and junior setter Alyse Barclay finished with 16 and 11 assists respectively against the Cowgirls.

Meeting with SHSU

The Bearkats defeated the Colonels at the start of regular season (23-25, 25-22, 25-16 and 25-18). Deveney Wells-Gibson led SHSU with 22 kills in the victory. Kali Schwartz led the Colonels with 11 kills.




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