The Arkansas State volleyball team won the 2015 Sun Belt Conference regular-season championship and clinched the number one seed in the SBC Tournament with a 3-0 (25-13, 25-20, 25-20) sweep of Appalachian State Thursday night at the Convocation Center in front of an all-time single-match record crowd of 2,517.
The win over the Mountaineers extended the Red Wolves’ nation-best winning streak to 21 matches and puts the team at 25-1 on the year with an undefeated conference mark of 16-0. The regular-season championship is the first SBC conference title since the team won the West Division in 2011 and first outright championship since 1998. The undefeated regular-season run through the league is first time an A-State team has accomplished that feat since the 1996 season.
“It’s been a fantastic ride so far,” A-State head volleyball coach David Rehr said. “I couldn’t ask for 18 other girls to be on this ride with. Everyone did their job and that’s the magical part about this because they don’t care if they get the credit or not. This is what happens when a team comes together.”
Arkansas State came out on fire to begin the match by racing out to a 12-4 advantage after a Markie Schaedig service ace and extended its lead to 19-7 on a Brentlee Weaver ace that forced Appalachian State (20-6, 13-2 SBC) to take a timeout. App State got within 23-13, but a Kelsey Reis kill and Appalachian attack error gave the Red Wolves a 25-13 set victory.
A-State took a slight 11-10 lead in set two over the Apps before a 6-2 run created some space to make the score 17-12 and cause the visitors to call a timeout. App State battled back to within four points on three different occasions, including 24-20, but a Drew Jones kill gave the Red Wolves a 25-20 victory and 2-0 advantage going into intermission.
The two teams battled to a 7-7 to begin set three, but a 5-0 run by the Red Wolves made the score 12-7 before the home team took a 21-14 advantage on a Darby Graff kill. However, the Apps used a 6-2 run to climb back within three points at 23-20. However, Carlisa May quelled any threat of a Mountaineers’ comeback with two straight kills to clinch the set victory at 25-20 and match win for the Red Wolves 3-0.
“I think they came up with a different game plan than the first time they played us,” added Rehr. “They tried to stick to it even though it only worked at moments, but they went away from what the original scouting report was. They obviously fixed it a little bit after set one so that’s why the last two sets were closer.”
May and Jones led the team with 10 kills each, while Graff added eight of her own on a .500 hitting percentage. Kariana Castanon-Hill, one of two seniors honored before the match, tallied seven kills on a career-high .636 hitting percentage. Mallory Warrington handed out 37 assists, while Schaedig had a team-best 10 digs and added two aces. Weaver led the team with three service aces, while Jones added two of her own. Reis led the team with five blocks, while the team’s other outgoing senior Hannah Robey recorded six digs.
“I’m speechless honestly,” Warrington said. “I didn’t ever expect anything like this. I knew we were going to be good because we have good pieces, but didn’t expect it to be this way. This team is literally my family. We hang on to each other on and off the court, and being able to share this with them is unreal. We love the crowd and love showing the people who haven’t seen us how good we are.”
Arkansas State returns to action Friday, Nov. 20 at the Sun Belt Conference Tournament in Statesboro, Ga. The Red Wolves will face the eighth seed in the first round. The bracket for the SBC Tournament will be released after the conclusion of all final regular-season games in the conference on Sunday, Nov. 15.