CARBONDALE, Ill. - With an easy first set and a big lead in the second Friday night, UALR suddenly found itself in a match and had to claw out a win.
The Trojans made absolutely sure that was not happening on Saturday.
UALR (4-5) hit north of .300 for this second match this season and swept Nicholls State (2-6) 25-15, 25-15, 25-13 in its final match of the 2012 Saluki Invitational. UALR took second place after losing to Southern Illinois (8-1) 25-23, 25-16, 25-13 earlier on Saturday.
For the day, sophomore Edina Begic averaged a jaw-dropping 5.5 kills per set with 33 total kills against only nine errors and 80 attempts (.300) and was named to the Saluki Invitational All-Tournament team. Begic was joined by classmate Marleen de Zoete, who added 64 assists, 12 digs and four kills and blocks.
Senior Eva Xie tallied 19 kills on the day, just missing double-digits in the second match with nine kills against the Colonels. Senior Emily Pepperman and sophomore Allison Wyatt finished with 23 and 22 digs in two matches, respectively.
As a team against Nicholls State, UALR converted 45 of 113 kills against only nine errors for a .319 hitting percentage. The Trojans held the Colonels under .100 in hitting percentage and also out-blocked Nicholls State 7-3.
With the first set tied at two, it was a long service rally by de Zoete that pushed the Trojans to a 9-2 advantage. Senior Daniele Souza Moura put the Trojans on serve with a kill, and after a NSU error and a pair of UALR assisted blocks, the lead grew to 6-2. Begic added a pair of kills around a de Zoete ace that gave UALR a seven-point lead.
Nicholls State finally was able to end the run, but a service error and then a pair of ball-handling errors around a senior Sawyer Schaedig kill pushed the UALR lead to 13-3. The teams split the next four points and a Wyatt's service run effectively put the set away. With UALR up 15-5, de Zoete registered a kill and two errors increased the lead to 13. Sophomore Adisa Hodzic punctuated the run with a kill and UALR won the set 25-15.
The second set saw the first six points split, but again it was de Zoete and Begic's service games that gave the Trojans a working lead. With the set tied at three, two connections of de Zoete to Begic put UALR up two. NSU got its own kill to cut the deficit to one, but a Begic kill and Souza Moura-Xie block pushed the lead to 7-4. Souza Moura and Schaedig kills with a Begic ace and a Schaedig kill pushed the lead to 10-4.
In shades of yesterday, Nicholls State crawled back within 14-11, but this time UALR had none of an opponent's comeback. Two Begic kills, a Souza Moura spike and a bad set by NSU pushed the lead back to 18-11. UALR captured the second by 10.
The third was just utter domination as UALR outhit Nicholls State .364-.059. The Colonels just could not record sideouts and Begic once again went on a big service run to put some distance between the teams. Begic put herself on serve with a kill and a Souza Moura block and ace pushed UALR out to an 8-4 advantage. A Begic ace and Schaedig kill out the Trojans up six and UALR went on to win the final frame by 12.
In the first match against Southern Illinois, Pepperman finished with 11 digs while sophomore de Zoete finished with 34 assists. Laura Thole led a Southern Illinois trio with 14 kills, Alysia Mayes added 13 and Jessica Whitehead contributed 12 spikes.
UALR trailed by as much as seven in the first set but its comeback fell short against the Salukis. The Trojans hit .424 in the set, including Begic's seven kills on nine attempts with no errors (.778). Southern Illinois took early leads in the final two sets and never looked back.
Begic finished the tournament with 64 kills in 10 sets played, an average of 6.4 kills per set and a .350 hitting percentage. De Zoete finished with 116 assists (11.6 per set), 18 digs, 11 blocks and six kills.
UALR completes non-conference action next weekend (Sept. 14-15) when it travels to Norman, Okla. to participate in the Oklahoma Nike Invitational. Besides the Sooners, the Trojans will also face New Mexico and SMU.