Memphis – The Sugar Bears got off to a hot start in Memphis at the Tiger Brawl versus in-state foe Little Rock. While the Trojans were up 6-3 early, the Sugar Bears got red hot and rattled off 11 unanswered points to comfortably control set one, 14-6. The Trojans would try to climb back into the game, but the Sugar Bears never relented, taking the first set by a score of 25-16. The first match was completely a team effort, no players from UCA had eye-popping statistics in set one, but all six on the floor put in an incredible effort, allowing UCA to take an early lead.
The Trojans had better luck in the second set, but the Sugar Bears always found an answer. UCA once again found themselves in front early, forcing Little Rock to take a time out with the Sugar Bears leading 9-6. The Sugar Bears then jumped out to a 16-9 lead before Little Rock went on a run of their own to make it a 16-14 game. UCA dug deep and answered with a 3-0 run of their own capped by a Lexie Gregory ace, forcing another Little Rock timeout. Freshman Alexis McDaniel was crucial down the stretch, pitching in back-to-back aces that helped the Sugar Bears close out the second set, 25-18.
UCA hoped to put this match away up two sets, and to do so, they would need a strong start once again. UCA didn’t pull away early, but they hung in and then eventually found themselves with a 13-6 lead and forced Little Rock to take a timeout. Out of the break, Little Rock went on a 4-0 scoring run that UCA countered with a 7-0 run to make it a 21-12 score. The Trojans and Sugar Bears traded points until finally, the Sugar Bears came out victorious with a score of 25-17.
Sophomore Lilly Taylor continues to come on strong this season, as she led the Sugar Bears with 7 kills. Alexis McDaniel and Lexie Gregory each had 3 aces, and Marissa McKelvey had 26 assists in the game.
For the second match-up of the evening, the Sugar Bears took on Memphis. Trailing by a few points, the Sugar Bears had a rough start to the first set but never let Memphis get too far ahead. The Sugar Bears gave up the first set to Memphis, giving them a 1-0 lead. Mackenzie Vernon led with 4 kills for set one.
In the second set, the Sugar Bears started strong with a 3-0 lead to start the set. The two teams took turns earning points until Memphis had a 4-0 score run making the score 8-11. The Sugar Bears lost momentum, and Memphis took the second set 15-25.
In set three, the Sugar Bears fought hard to stay a point or two behind Memphis, eventually tying the set 19-19. After bouncing points back and forth, Memphis took the lead and took the third set 23-25.
The Sugar Bears took on their last opponent of the tournament on Saturday morning for the 9:00 a.m. game. In set 1, Arkansas-Pine Bluff had a strong start, setting the score to 8-3 by the Central Arkansas timeout. The Sugar Bears gained momentum and tied the set 10-10 after a 3-0 score run and took the lead to continue that run 5-0 to make a 10-12 score. Sugar Bears kept their momentum, and at the next Arkansas-Pine Bluff timeout, UCA led 14-20. The Sugar Bears take the set with a 16-25 score after four Sugar Bear kills were made by Kendall Haywood and Allison Holloway and two kills by Lilly Taylor.
In set two, the Sugar Bears kept the same momentum with a 3-0 scoring run with two service aces by Lexie Gregory. At an Arkansas-Pine Bluff timeout, the Sugar Bears held the lead 9-14 after a Mackenzie Vernon kill. The Sugar Bears earned the second set with a score of 17-25. Caylan Koons and Mackenzie Vernon scored the last two points with Sugar Bear kills.
In set three, the Sugar Bears started strong and held their momentum with a 9-0 scoring run for a 7-16 lead over Arkansas-Pine Bluff. The rally included kills by April Conant, Jamiryana Hall, and Mackenzie Vernon. The Sugar Bears continued strong and won the set 18-25 with a Lilly Taylor kill and secured the match 3-0.
The Sugar Bears will travel to Jacksonville, Ala., for their next ASUN conference game with Jacksonville State on Friday, September 23rd at 6:00 p.m.
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