LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The Trojans used a 64-49 advantage in digs as UALR (19-7, 11-3 Sun Belt Conference) knocked off a hot South Alabama team (10-13, 5-8 SBC) 25-18, 20-25, 25-22, 25-20 Sunday afternoon (Nov. 3) at the Jack Stephens Center.
USA had come into the match as winners of five of its last seven SBC matches.
UALR edged South Alabama 58-54 in total kills while holding a .298-.202 edge in hitting percentage. USA kept the match close with a 13-8 edge on the block.
Individually, junior Edina Begic hit a blazing .426 with 26 kills and only three errors on 54 swings. Sophomore Sonja Milanovic added the double-double with 18 kills and 14 digs while junior Marleen de Zoete added a match-best 47 digs.
Three different Trojans added double-digit digs, led by freshman Kelsey Leech with 21. Besides Milanovic’s 14, junior Allison Wyatt contributed 11 bumps.
“Allison played a great match today. She never takes a play off and brings so much energy and passion to this team. Allison’s enthusiasm on the court is contagious and fires up her teammates,” head coach Van Compton said.
A trio of players hit double-digit kills for South Alabama. Mechell Daniel led the way with 18 kills and a team-best 14 digs for the double-double. Jessica Lewis added 13 spikes while Symone Stephenson contributed 10 kills and six blocks. Running the 6-2 offense, Kiki von Piekartz had 27 assists while teammate Emily Hundt contributed 20.
Abby Baker added 13 digs for the Jaguars.
UALR started strong in the first set on the serve of Milanovic. She helped herself with a pair of kills, and the Trojans went up 3-0 on a kill off an overpass by Begic. South Alabama tied the set at four, but UALR scored the next four points to take the advantage in the first frame. A kill from Begic put de Zoete on serve and an attack error by USA and a solo block from redshirt freshman Carolee Dillard put UALR up three. Begic punctuated the run with a kill, and the Trojans never trailed the rest of the frame. Freshman Rachel Williams' third kill of the match concluded the first frame as UALR won 25-18.
Begic finished the set with seven kills and no errors on 13 swings. In helping UALR win the first set in all three matches this weekend, Begic had 19 kills and no errors on 36 attempts (.528 hitting percentage).
South Alabama fought back in the second set to tie the match heading to intermission. With UALR clinging to a 5-4 advantage, a Mechell spike started a run of four kills for the Jaguars. After Mechell, Stephenson added a pair of spikes before a kill from Lewis put the visitors up 8-5. USA saw its lead balloon to five, but the Trojans did not go quietly. With UALR down 21-16, a Begic kill and a pair of points off of South Alabama errors cut the deficit to two.
South Alabama led 22-20 when it scored the final three points of the set. A kill from Daniel and a pair of UALR errors tied the match.
Set three went back-and-forth until UALR was able to assert control at the end. With the Trojans down 20-19, a Begic kill and a Williams-Dillard wall gave UALR its first lead of the set. USA was able to tie the match at 22 when UALR scored three unanswered to end the third frame. A USA error put Leech on serve, and two kills from Milanovic gave UALR the set 25-22 and put the home team up 2-1.
UALR closed out the match in the fourth with a strong service game from Milanovic. South Alabama scored the first point of the set on an ace before eight unanswered put UALR in the lead in the match for good. An attack error put Milanovic on serve. USA hit another attack error, Begic recorded a pair of kills and Milanovic had her lone two service aces of the match to put UALR up 6-1. A Begic knuckle shot down the line found the court and forced a South Alabama timeout. Junior Adisa Hodzic punctuated the run with a solo block.
The Jaguars climbed within 11-10, but a Milanovic kill and Leech ace pushed the advantage back to three. Only up 14-13, UALR’s Hodzic put Milanovic back on serve and kills by Begic, Hodzic and de Zoete pushed the lead back to five. Like the third, UALR scored the final three points to end the set on Leech’s serve. A service ace by Leech punctuated the match as UALR won in four sets.
UALR returns to action next weekend when it travels to Georgia State and Western Kentucky. The Trojans are 6-0 in SBC season away from the Jack Stephens Center, the only undefeated team on the road in conference play.