MIAMI, Fla. - There seems to be a pattern emerging for the Trojans when they play their first road Sun Belt match.
After falling to South Alabama in 2010 and Western Kentucky last year in five, UALR (5-8, 1-0 Sun Belt) changed its fortune with a 25-17, 24-26, 26-24, 20-25, 15-7 win over FIU (3-10, 0-1 SBC) in southern Florida Friday night (Sept. 21).
"Our girls played their hearts out tonight," head coach Van Compton explained. "This was our sixth five-set match of the season and we have done it against some very good teams. That rehearsal in the non-conference helped us greatly."
After both teams battled to a draw after four sets and a 2-2 score in the fifth, it was UALR scored nine unanswered to take control of the match. Sophomore Edina Begic slammed home a kill that ignited a service run by classmate Marleen de Zoete that included five-straight kills by Begic, senior Emily Pepperman's first kill of the season, an ace by de Zoete, two FIU timeouts and even a yellow card on the FIU coach. FIU saved two match points in the fifth, but a spike from Hodzic gave the Trojans the 15-7 triumph in the fifth.
"First off, Marleen had a great, sporadic service game during the run where she put the ball in different spots and helped force bad FIU passes," Compton said. "Second, Edina had a great attacking first set but was getting a little timid as the match went on. In the fifth during Marleen's serve, she had a favorable defensive rotation by FIU and she was able to take advantage with her aggressiveness."
UALR outhit FIU .271-.254 for the match, including .375-.125 in the all-important fifth staza. The Trojans slammed home 73 kills compared to the Golden Panthers 62 while de Zoete recorded more assists (57) then the entire FIU team (56).
FIU won the battle of the net 12-6.
The Trojans' Begic notched her ninth double-double of the season with 28 kills and 14 digs. Senior Eva Xie added 14 kills while senior Daniele Souza Moura matched a season-high with 10 kills. Pepperman recorded a match-high 25 digs with 17 digs from sophomore Allison Wyatt.
Marija Psra of FIU actually had a match-high 24 kills heading into the fifth, but only tallied one more to finish with team-highs of 25 kills and 16 digs. Ashlee Hodskin added her own double-double with 50 assists and 16 kills.
The first set was all UALR with the Trojans racing to a 7-0 lead. An attack gave the visitors the first point and kills by Souza Moura, de Zoete and a pair by Begic forced a quick FIU timeout. FIU came out and struck two attack errors and before they knew what hit them, the Golden Panthers were down seven. UALR kept the pressure on the home team by only allowing FIU to score off its serve twice as the Trojans won the opening frame by eight.
The second set saw UALR race out to a 17-13 lead, but FIU went on a 6-0 run to take momentum and the two-point lead. The rally started with a Kimberly Smith-Brittany Spencer block followed by a Prsa kill and Carolyn Fouts ace. Two more kills and a UALR attack error put FIU up two.
Up 22-20 later in the set, Hodzic and Xie tallied back-to-back kills to tie. Both teams recorded sideouts before a sophomore Adisa Hodzic-de Zoete block put the Trojans on set point. A Prsa kill knotted the score and two UALR attack errors tied the match at one set apiece.
The third saw the Trojans giving FIU a taste of its own medicine. UALR began the set up 6-0 but FIU hung around and actually took a 22-19 lead. Coach Compton called timeout and the team responded out of the breather with kills by Xie, de Zoete and Hodzic to tie the match at 22. Both teams sided-out the next three points and FIU served for match point at 24-23. UALR repelled set point with a kill by Begic and a double-block by Souza Moura and senior Sawyer Schaedig. de Zoete served up the game winner when the ball went over the net and Prsa could not control it to put UALR up 2-1.
The fourth saw the score tied at 10 before an FIU 3-0 run put the Golden Panthers up and an eventual five-point win to tie the match and send it to sudden death. UALR controlled the fifth for the victory.
"A lot of things came together and it is always good to get a win on the road," added Compton.
The Trojans return to action Sunday (Sept. 23) when it battles the Owls of Florida Atlantic. Match time is set for noon. FAU is 3-7 overall and 0-1 in Sun Belt action after a 3-1 loss to Arkansas State Friday night.