FOLEY, Ala. – The University of South Alabama volleyball team defeated Texas State in straight sets (25-19, 25-23, 25-13) in Sunday’s Sun Belt Conference Championship Final to capture the program’s first-ever SBC Championship title.
USA (25-6) extended its win streak to 13 games with the victory and also earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, which will mark the first trip to the NCAA postseason in program history.
– South Alabama jumped out to a 3-1 lead after a 3-0 run that included a pair of kills by Hannah Maddux and a service ace by Rachel Hickey.
– USA took a 13-10 lead after a kill by Niki Capizzi and a Bobcat attack error.
– The Jags used a 4-0 run, highlighted by block-assists from Kennedy Wallace and Maddux and Wallace and Maddie Soboleski, for an 18-12 advantage.
– Back-to-back kills by Texas State’s Janell Fitzgerald cut the Jag lead to 18-14.
– USA extended its lead to 20-14 on a solo block by Maddux and service ace by Hickey.
– South Alabama earned set point at 24-19 on a kill by Carissa Bradford, and clinched the set 25-19 on a service ace by Kailey Keeble for a 1-0 lead.
– Consecutive kills by Maddux and Soboleski gave the Jags a 4-3 lead.
– A Bobcat service error and attack error gave USA an 8-6 advantage before a 4-0 Texas State run gave the Bobcats a 10-8 lead.
– USA responded with a 3-0 run, highlighted by a service ace by Hickey, for a 12-11 lead.
– Texas State took a 18-14 lead with a 4-0 run that was aided by a pair of Jaguar attack errors.
– South Alabama went on a 3-0 run that included a kill by Wallace to cut the Bobcat lead to 18-17. But a Jaguar service error and Texas State kill gave the Bobcats a 20-17 advantage.
– USA tied the score 21-21 with a 3-0 run that included a block-assist by Maddux and Wallace, and a kill by Maddux.
– A South Alabama ball-handling error gave TXST a 22-21 advantage before a block-assist by Maddux and Wallace tied the score 22-22.
– The Jags earned set point at 24-22 on a service ace by Hickey, and clinched the set 25-23 on a solo block by Soboleski for a 2-0 lead in the match.
– South Alabama went on a 3-0 run that included a block-assist by Wallace and Maddux to open the set.
– USA doubled its lead to 6-3 with a kill by Soboleski and Bobcat attack error.
– The Jags doubled their lead to 16-7 lead with a 7-0 run that was highlighted by a service ace from Keeble, solo block by Maddux and a block-assist by Wallace and Maddux.
– USA extended its lead to 20-8 with a 4-0 run that featured a service ace by Madisen Werdell.
– South Alabama earned match point at 24-13 on a kill by Soboleski, and clinched the set 25-13 on a kill by Capizzi.
– South Alabama clinched the program’s first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance with the win, which also marked the program’s first SBC Championship.
– Keeble was named the SBC Championship Most Valuable Player in addition to being named all-tournament. Capizzi was also an all-tournament selection.
– USA tied its season high in total team blocks with 14.
– South Alabama recorded a .274 team hitting percentage and seven service aces.
– Soboleski recorded her sixth double-double of the season, finishing with 10 kills and 10 digs, along with three blocks.
– Hickey finished with a game-high 17 digs, and also added three assists, four service aces and one kill.
– Maddux recorded 10 kills, two digs and a career-high nine blocks.
– Wallace posted a career-high eight blocks, and also finished with four kills.
– South Alabama lost just one set in three matches at the SBC Championship, and has dropped only two sets in its last five matches.
Head Coach Jesse Ortiz
– Opening Statement:
“It is an amazing day for us. It was a lot of work all season. I think back to the beginning of the year and just where we started. It just felt like the whole experience of coming to South, finding this group of girls – it is an extreme blessing and I am honored to be part of this team with them. They have tenacity, they are grinders and they work hard every single day. And they’re willing to battle and be in the fight, and I think that’s the biggest thing. We’re trying to win some games and they are down for it, and I think that is the biggest thing. They are up for the competition and willing to go fight for it.”
– On the keys to the win:
“I thought we served and passed extremely well, and played some really good defense. We’re a good offensive team, but as the other team started escalating its offensive production, we matched it up and actually exceeded the things we did throughout the year. It is pretty amazing watching us earn 20 or more points in a set; you don’t see that often, and this group is something special.”
– On earning the program’s first NCAA postseason berth:
“We’re excited for the opportunity. We love the fact that we get to live on another day and get more time to practice. We’re truly blessed and absolutely pumped about being a Jaguar and bringing home a trophy for South Alabama. It is great.”
Setter Kailey Keeble
– On how the team felt entering the match:
“Of course there were some nerves, but (head coach) Jesse (Ortiz) always gives us really good pregame talks that calm us down a little bit. But I think once we got out there and got going, there was no stopping us. We’ve been talking about this since the first day of practice. This has been our goal, and we really put our minds to it.”
– On winning the program’s first-ever SBC Championship:
“It is awesome. There are a lot of new people on this team, and we are setting the foundation to be good for a while. We’re building a culture of winning here.”
– On clinching a spot in the NCAA Tournament:
“This is the first time a lot of us are going, so we’re just going there with clear heads and going to go try and win.”
South Alabama will return to action at the NCAA Tournament, and will learn where it will compete during the NCAA Division I volleyball selection show on Sun., Nov. 28, at 8:30 p.m. on ESPNU.
For more information about South Alabama athletics, check back with USAJaguars.com, and follow the Jaguars at Twitter.com/WeAreSouth_JAGS. Season tickets for all Jaguar athletic events can be purchased by calling (251) 461-1USA (1872).
Join the Rally Score Club, the volleyball specific support club of the Jaguar Athletic Fund. All donations to the Rally Score Club go directly to support the South Alabama volleyball program. For more information on how you can join visit: jaguarathleticfund.com/rallyscoreclub.