COVID wreaks havoc on college volleyball as Sun Belt tourney begins

0
476
NCAA volleyball 11/19/2020-Lauren Hager-Baylor Brumford-Georgia Southern volleyball
Georgia Southern's Lauren Hager, left, and Baylor Brumford block Troy's Cheyenne Hayes as Julia Brooks looks on/GSU photo

College volleyball took more big hits from COVID-19 this week.

The Big 12 postponed four two-match series until the spring.

The Sun Belt Conference tournament started Wednesday in Foley, Alabama, without Arkansas State, which meant major adjustments to the pool-play schedule. There were three matches played and they included Lauren Hager getting 19 blocks as Georgia Southern beat Troy.

There was one SEC match, presumably COVID-free, as Tennessee swept Auburn. The same teams play again Thursday.

SUN BELT — Today’s schedule — all the matches can be seen on ESPN+ — shows Little Rock vs. Georgia State, ULM vs. South Alabama, Coastal Carolina vs. App State, and Texas-Arlington vs. Georgia Southern.

On Wednesday, Texas State swept Louisiana-Monroe, Little Rock surprised an extremely roster-depleted Louisiana-Lafayette in four, and we’ll start with the victory by Georgia Southern over Troy in which the Eagles had a program-best 27 blocks in a five-set match.

Georgia Southern (5-10) won a wild one 29-27, 25-27, 25-22, 20-25, 16-14 despite hitting .050.

Hager not only had 19 blocks — two solo — but six kills and a dig. Baylor Bumford had 13 kills and 11 blocks, and Mya Wilson had 12 kills and seven blocks.  Maddie Bryant had five kills and so did Chamblee Russell, who had two aces, 10 digs, and 10 of those blocks, one solo. Rebekah Farthing had 28 digs to go with two assists and three of her team’s eight aces.

“I’m really proud of our team tonight for the effort and resiliency,” Georgia Southern coach Chad Willis said. “Hats off to Troy for a great defensive battle.

“We struggled to find consistency offensively but clearly made up for it defensively — especially at the net. For the last week, we’ve been talking a lot about moving forward as a program, and tonight we challenged our team to make a statement.”

Troy, which took two of three from Georgia Southern just last week, hit .055. Cheyenne Hayes led with 19 kills, 10 digs and three blocks, one solo. Julia Brooks had 11 kills and two blocks, and Caitlin Cooper had eight kills and seven blocks, one solo. Lacey Jeffcoat had five assists and 29 of her team’s 85 digs.

“Another hard-fought tough match tonight,” Troy coach Josh Lauer said. “These are the type of matches you expect to have during the conference tournament. I felt like we were resilient through the entire match, but Georgia Southern made just a few more plays than we did at the right times late in the sets.”

Texas State (21-2) swept ULM (1-21) 25-18, 25-14, 25-17 as five players had five or more kills. Janell Fitzgerald led with nine and two blocks. Jillian Slaughter had seven kills, hit .500, and had an assist and three blocks. Texas State hit .311.

“I thought it was a great start to the tournament,” Texas State coach Sean Huiet said. “We started slow in the first two sets, but I thought we served very well and that helped separate ourselves. I also thought Jill had a great day and was very effective.”

Louisiana (17-6) was missing setter Avery Breaux and middle Kara Barnes and several reserves because of “COVID-19 related protocols.” Accordingly, Little Rock (5-13) came away with a 25-18, 19-25, 25-22, 25-20 victory. Louisiana won their their regular-season meetings in late September.

Laura Jansen led Little Rock with 21 kills as she hit .347 and had three blocks and 16 digs. Nedima Kamberovic and Janae Thurston had 12 kills each, and Nicole Medlin had nine and four blocks, one solo. Zanobia Willis had six kills and seven blocks, two solo. Alyssa Nayar had 52 assists, a block, and 11 digs.

Hali Wisnoskie led the Ragin’ Cajuns with 23 kills, a block, and 12 digs. Kelsey Bennett had 15 kills, 10 digs, and four blocks, one solo. Their teammates combined for 10 kills. Abby Lynn, the setter who took over, had a kill, 41 assists, a block, and nine digs.

Because Arkansas State can’t play, that left just Coastal Carolina (16-0) and App State (1-12) as the two teams in their pool and their match will decide the pool. The matches between them in early October were postponed and when they finally played October 30-31, Coastal swept both times.

Arkansas State, which went 8-8 this fall, all in the SBC, made its announcement on Tuesday afternoon:

“The Arkansas State Athletics Department announced Tuesday that due to COVID-19 testing and taking extra precautions to provide a safe travel environment, its volleyball team will not be participating in this week’s Sun Belt Conference Tournament.

“The Athletics Department notified the Sun Belt Conference office today that its volleyball team will be unable to travel to Foley, Ala., for the league’s 2020 Volleyball Championship.  As a result of this notification, the Sun Belt has removed the Red Wolves from the tournament bracket and pool play.

“We’re obviously very disappointed that we aren’t going to be able to compete in the conference tournament, but the safety and health of our student athletes is our top priority,” ASU coach Santiago Restropo said. “I’m heartbroken for our seniors who did not get to finish their season at the conference tournament, but I’m thankful for their contributions to our program.”

SEC — Visiting Tennessee (3-4) kept Auburn (0-7) winless with a 25-20, 25-17, 25-19 sweep. 

Tennessee, which hit .308, got 18 kills from Lily Felt. She hit .333 and had two assists, an ace, a block, and 10 digs. Ava Bell and Danielle Mahaffey had eight kills each. Bell hit .429.

Tatum Shipes had eight kills to lead Auburn and added an ace, two blocks, and two digs. 

There are two more SEC matches Friday when Missouri is at Ole Miss and Florida is home for Georgia. The same teams play Saturday.

BIG 12 — There are two matches Thursday when West Virginia plays at Oklahoma and Texas Tech goes to Kansas. The same teams play Friday, when Iowa State is at TCU and Kansas State goes to Baylor.

The conference postponements, from the Big 12 news release:

“Due to postponements caused by COVID-19, four Big 12 volleyball conference series will be rescheduled in the spring season. Dates and times will be announced when available.

Big 12 volleyball teams played a revised conference schedule this fall that consisted of double-headers played over consecutive days at the same site. The fall season will conclude with matches scheduled over the dates of November 19-21.

“The series that will be moved to the spring include Oklahoma at Iowa State, TCU at Oklahoma, Kansas at TCU and Texas at TCU. The All-Big 12 volleyball awards and academic team will be announced in the spring once all Conference matches are completed.

“Texas has wrapped up the Big 12 volleyball championship and earned the Big 12’s automatic berth to the NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship, which will also be contested in the spring.”

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here