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Cards Fall Short in Nacogdoches

 Lamar University jumped out of the gates quickly and got the league's preseason favorite back on their heels, but Stephen F. Austin managed to hold on to all three sets late to pick up the 3-0 (25-22, 25-23, 25-16) victory Wednesday from Shelton Gym.
LU's offense started the match hitting better than .350 midway through the opening set and finished the first stanza with a .273 (14-5-33) attack percentage. Unfortunately, that was the highwater mark for the Cardinals (0-7/0-2 SLC) as they finished the match 37-20-104 (.163).
Senior Kayla Neumann led the Cardinals with 12 kills and also added nine digs, defensively. Sophomore Kaitlyn Gil added eight kills, with no errors (.571), while classmate Malaysia Murdock was credited with seven on 14 attempts, with just two errors (.357).
SFA (15-4/3-0 SLC) was at the opposite end of the spectrum opening the match with their lowest attack percentage in the first, only to watch that number rise for the remainder of the match. The Ladyjacks recorded 35 kills on 89 attempts, with eight errors (.303). SFA led by Taya Mitchell's eight kills.

"I thought we played well in sets one and two, and had it not been for a couple of untimely errors those sets could've looked different." said LU head coach Jordan Lay. "I thought we came out gates aggressive and really executed our game plan early. We put ourselves in a position to win but just didn't quite get it done. We're still learning and and learning to trust in our system. When we do that we've proven that we're a tough team to play."
The Cardinals started strong forcing a 10-10 tie midway through the first set. Big Red's attack opened the set recording six kills, with just one error, in their first 13 attempts. The hometown 'Jacks responded by getting back out in front and taking a 19-15 lead, before LU had a rally of its own.
The Cardinals scored the match's next three points to trim the deficit down to a single digit, 19-18. In the sprint to the finish, SFA managed to keep the Cards at arm's length holding on for the 25-22 victory. Despite LU's hot start, the Ladyjacks were able to match Big Red's start with 10 kills in their first 28 attempts (two errors). The difference in the score came on the defensive end as SFA recorded two costly blocks.
The Red and White started the second set better than the first racing out to an 8-5 advantage over the SLC preseason favorites. The Cardinals buried five of their first 10 attacks to take the lead.
The Ladyjacks rallied to score seven of the set's next eight points to claim a three-point lead, 12-9. SFA would hold that lead and push it to as many as five, 22-17, before the Cardinals mounted another run. Led by senior Kayla Neumann's eight kills through the first two sets, the Cardinals managed to cut the gap down to a single point, 22-21. Unfortunately, SFA had just enough in the tank to edge out LU by two, 25-23.
The two close setbacks to open the match took the wind out of LU, as the Ladyjacks jumped out to a five-point lead in the third set. After the Cards made run to trim the deficit back down down to two, the 'Jacks managed to regain control of the match and build an eight-point lead late, 20-12. SFA held on to the set for the match.

"I think in the third set we led the pressure get to us a bit," said Lay. "We had some early serve-receive struggles that hurt us, and put us in a position of having to battle back. When you give a team as talented as SFA extra points its extremely tough to get back into a match."
The Cardinals will be back in action Saturday when they make the long trip to Abilene, Texas to face Abilene Christian. The match is set to begin at 1 p.m. – unless weather forces a time change.
Category: Sports