MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - With eight five-setters for the season before this weekend, it was not shocking UALR and Middle Tennessee went the distance on Friday night (Oct. 19). Who could have imagined the Trojans would accomplish a first in its ninth sudden-death match?
UALR (10-11, 6-3 Sun Belt) came back for the first time this year in defeating Middle Tennessee (7-19, 4-5 Sun Belt) 23-25, 25-21, 24-26, 25-17, 15-12 at Alumni Gym in Murfreesboro, Tenn. It was the Trojans fourth five-set win in nine conference matches this season.
As the match was in the first four sets, it was a back-and-forth affair in the fifth with mini-service runs being the difference. With UALR up 10-8, two MT kills around an attack error gave the home team the 11-10 edge. Sophomore Edina Begic knotted the set at 11 and a Middle Tennessee error put UALR up 12-11. A Katie Bange kill for MT retied the score, but UALR kept tough attacks by the home team alive and won the next three points to secure its fourth-straight five set win. Begic put UALR up 13-12 and an attack error gave UALR two set points.
Not wanting to risk Middle Tennessee getting back on serve, Begic and sophomore Adisa Hodzic teamed up for an assisted block and the 15-12 set win.
"After losing three in a row, I was really proud of the team to come on the road and win in five in a hostile environment," explained head coach Van Compton. "I give the players credit. They really pulled themselves together as a team to get the win.
"Road wins, especially in conference play, are tough to come by," Compton added.
For UALR, Begic recorded her 15th double-double of the season with 26 kills, 15 digs and five blocks. Hodzic added 13 kills and seven blocks while senior Eva Xie finished with 10 spikes. Sophomore Marleen de Zoete contributed 51 assists and 12 digs for her sixth double-dip of the season. Senior Daniele Souza Moura rounded out a solid match with 11 digs, eight kills, four assists and a pair of blocks.
Chelsea Ross led Middle Tennessee and mirrored Begic with 26 kills and 15 digs. Bri McCombs added a match-high 19 digs while Shelby Anderton contributed 62 assists.
UALR dropped a back and forth first set played with neither team leading more than three. Middle Tennessee started strong up 6-3 a pair of MT errors and single kills by Hodzic and Begic gave the Trojans first lead and started the back and forth set. UALR called a timeout down 15-14 and answered with a 5-1 run thanks impart to a Begic ace and three MT attack errors.
Back came the Blue Raiders with their own 6-1 spurt thanks to three UALR attack errors. The Trojans called a timeout and responded with a kill by Begic and an assisted block by Begic and Souza Moura that tied the match at 22. Both teams sided out for the ninth tie of the frame before a net violation by the Trojans and a Middle Tennessee ace gave the Blue Raiders the first set.
An ace, UALR attack error and Chelsea Ross kill by MT gave the home team a quick start in set two. With the Blue Raiders clinging to a 16-15 lead, the Trojans threw seven unanswered points to race out to a 22-16 advantage. A kill off an over pass by de Zoete followed by a MT attack error and a Begic kill forced a Blue Raider timeout. Allison Wyatt's service run continued out of the break thanks to a trio of attack errors by Middle Tennessee and a Begic kill.
Middle Tennessee didn't go quietly with a 3-0 run after trailing 23-17, but sideouts ended the set and UALR tied the match. For the second, the Trojans hit .382 (17 kills and four errors on 34 attempts), including Begic's eight kills and only two errors on 13 attacks.
The first two sets were nail-biters so why would the third be any different? UALR fell behind 20-18 before MT hit two attack errors to tie the score. Both teams sided out to 23 until an assisted block by Hodzic and Begic put UALR on set point. Three blocks by the Blue Raiders to end the third gave the home team the 2-1 edge.
The fourth featured major runs by both teams with UALR getting the last laugh. With the Trojans up 14-12, a 4-1 run with a pair of Xie's kill and a duo of errors by MT gave the visitors a five-point edge. Middle Tennessee answered with three-straight to force a UALR timeout. The Trojans countered with six unanswered, five on Wyatt's serve, to put UALR on set point. During the run, de Zoete registered a pair of kills off the initial bump, Begic added a spike and MT chipped in with three errors. Both teams sided out to end the frame and UALR and Middle Tennessee was all square at two sets.
UALR went on to win its fifth five-setter of the year and the fourth consecutive. It was the first sudden-death frame since North Texas on Sept. 29th. The win also guaranteed UALR will finish with a winning record against the SBC West.
The Trojans have a quick turnaround when it travels to Bowling Green, Ky. to take on WKU. First serve with the Hilltoppers is set for noon.