LITTLE ROCK - The Trojans came into the weekend with half of its matches going to sudden death in 2012. Why would the first home weekend be any different?
UALR (8-8, 4-0 Sun Belt Conference) won the first two sets and withstood a North Texas (17-6, 3-1 SBC) charge as the Trojans completed a weekend sweep with a 25-17, 26-24, 22-25, 24-26, 15-11 victory Saturday night (Sept. 29) at the Jack Stephens Center.
"There were many factors that helped us in that fifth set," UALR head coach Van Compton explained. "It helped us to be home and the crowd was great. And then we had so much practice with five-setters in the pre-conference that it helped us, even down 7-5."
In the finale, North Texas held a 7-5 lead and in the midst of a 4-0 run on the serve of Shelby Tamura. Senior Eva Xie swung for a kill out of a UALR timeout and a North Texas error tied the deciding frame at seven. Sophomore Allison Wyatt stepped to the service area and served short over the net. The UALR defense stopped the ensuing attack and sophomore Edina Begic swung back to give the Trojans the lead as the teams switched sides. UALR got two more points of Wyatt's serve thanks to North Texas attack errors to open it up 10-7.
"Wyatt had a tough match with three service errors in the first four sets," Compton said. "We told her just to get the ball in the court. Allison is a tough, resilient player that after a mistake, just shakes it off and says 'I'll get the next one.' It showed in the fifth."
Both teams sided out the next six points before Xie and sophomore Adisa Hodzic teamed up for an assisted block to put UALR on match point at 14-10. A kill by NT extended the match, but Xie ended it with a smash to push UALR into the SBC West lead.
Xie and Begic teamed up with nine kills and only one error on 23 attempts in the finale.
Begic set a new career-best with 33 kills, hit .305 and added 24 digs for the match. Xie added 14 kills on 38 swings (.289 hitting percentage) while Hodzic contributed 11 kills on 20 swings (.400 hitting percentage). Senior Emily Pepperman came up big for the UALR defense with her second 30-dig match of the season.
Sophomore Marleen de Zoete added 63 assists while Wyatt contributed 15 digs and senior Daniele Souza Moura added 10 digs, six blocks and two aces.
"Dani has a nice, floating serve that she can place very well," Compton added.
North Texas registered a trio of double-doubles, led by Carnae Dillard (26 kills and 15 digs). May Allen contributed 31 assists and 15 digs while Ebony Godfrey had 12 kills and 10 digs. Tamura led NT with 29 digs.
The match was hotly contested from the opening set. It stood at 12 apiece before Begic stepped to the service area and delivered a trio of points on a pair of Hodzic stuffs and a kill by senior Sawyer Schaedig. NT got the next point but Xie answered right back with a kill. Schaedig registered a pair of kills and Xie finished off the 8-1 run with a spike. North Texas climbed within 20-17, but Schaedig's service game and a trio of Begic kills put UALR on set point. An assisted block by de Zoete and Souza Moura ended the set.
UALR hit shy of .400 in the set with Hodzic connecting on five of six swings (.833) while Schaedig added three on seven attempts (.429).
The second easily was the set of the match. North Texas was cruising up 22-16 before a Begic kill and a North Texas attack error got one point back for the Trojans. The Mean Green sided out to go up 23-18, but Souza Moura added a kill and NT was called for being out of rotation as UALR pulled within three and forced an NT timeout. Begic tallied a kill out of the stoppage and a trio of attack errors knotted the score at 23. North Texas got the kill to force set point, but Hodzic tied it back up with a kill and two attack errors by the visitors gave UALR a 2-0 lead heading into intermission.
"The team showed us in set two what fighters they are," Compton said. "Down six, they did not quit. They are fighters and survivors and they compete."
North Texas cut the lead in half thanks to a strong ending to the third. Tied at 20, Dillard added a pair of kills and then a block to give the Mean Green a 23-20 edge. Both teams sided out to end the set and North Texas claimed the third by three.
The fourth saw North Texas putting up a strong block to repel a UALR set point. The Trojans led 24-23 with two swings by Begic to end the match, but her second attempt was sent back by an NT assisted block. Dillard put the Mean Green on set point with a block before a Courtney Windham block sent the match to a deciding fifth set.
With the win, UALR won its third-straight five setter and is now 4-4 in such matches on the year.
UALR continues its four-match home stand next weekend with a pair of intra-divisional SBC match-ups. The Trojans begin the weekend on Friday (Oct. 5) when they battle the Jaguars of South Alabama (9-8, 2-1 SBC).