The nationally-ranked Texas State volleyball team pulled off a series sweep over Little Rock after a 3-0 victory (25-18, 25-21, 25-18) Oct. 24 at Strahan Arena.
The win marks the team's 11th straight victory and continues the Bobcats' undefeated conference streak (9-0). As of Oct. 21, Texas State is ranked 15th in the nation by the AVCA Coaches’ Poll off a 14-1 overall record.
With the win streak and national recognition, Head Coach Sean Huiet said it is important to focus on consistency no matter what their record shows.
“We want to be confident, we want to believe in what we're doing, but we don’t want to get cocky,” Huiet said. “We know every night we are going to see every team’s best, they want to knock us off, so we try to maintain that focus. Our goal is always to be the same team.”
Both teams knocked down five kills to start the match, tying the set at 7-7 before Texas State pulled away with a six-point run. A final kill from junior outside hitter Kenedi Rutherford stopped a Trojan comeback and solidified a 25-18 first set win.
The second set saw 16 tie scores throughout, with neither team gaining control for much of the set. After back-and-forth kills from each team, Texas State recovered from a final 20-20 tie score off a kill by junior outside Janell Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald went on to tally two more kills and a block to take the second set 25-21.
The ‘Cats’ four service aces helped to secure an early lead into the third set, with two consecutive aces coming from senior setter Brooke Johnson. Texas State led by as many as eight points in the set, and another final kill from Rutherford finished the sweep with a 25-18 final set victory.
The Bobcats doubled the Trojans in service aces (8-4) and also dominated in digs (58-41), assists (47-30) and kills (49-31). Texas State also edged Little Rock in blocks (4-3).
Huiet said that studying film before and practicing repetition with serves helps the ‘Cats land service aces and give the Texas State defense a leg up.
“We serve a lot, and that’s something that we want to take advantage of, not only to get the aces but to work really hard to get the other team out of system,” Huiet said. “If we can get them out of system, it makes it a little bit easier on our defense, so we work a lot on serve-receive and watch video to see who we’re going to serve to.”
Junior setter Emily DeWalt reached a double-double as she put in a game-high 38 assists with 12 digs. Both Fitzgerald and Rutherford saw double-digit kills, with Fitzgerald topping both teams with 15 kills and Rutherford reaching 12. Sophomore outside hitter Lauren Teske contributed to three of the team’s eight service aces, while junior libero Kayla Granado contributed a team-high 16 digs to the match.
The weekend saw several broken records for the Bobcats. In Friday’s second match, DeWalt saw a career-high 63 assists, which broke NCAA records as well as her own, as she logged the highest number of assists in a four-set match in Division 1 history. With the win, DeWalt also hit the fifth-place mark in all-time career assists in program history with 3,039.
“It’s an honor, and I’m very blessed, but there’s no way I would be able to do it without the people around me,” DeWalt said. “I don’t do it without a dig, and I don’t do it without the people that can put the ball down, so I’m blessed to have the team I have.”
Rutherford and Scott both saw career-high kills Oct. 23 as well. Rutherford’s game-high 15 kills led the team to a three-set victory, while Scott broke a career record with 17 kills later that night.
DeWalt said that Rutherford, who logged her first career start on Oct. 16 and has since tallied 66 kills, has brought new energy to the Bobcat offense.
“I think she brought a lot of confidence when she first stepped on the court last weekend against Louisiana,” DeWalt said. “She just brings a lot of energy and something new and is able to move inside out a little bit more.”
Next up for the Bobcats is a much-anticipated two-match series at the University of Texas-Arlington. Texas State was scheduled to meet the Mavericks in early October, but the two-game series was postponed due to positive COVID-19 cases on the UTA team. The Mavericks have since recovered and are 8-1 in conference, putting them at second in the West Division behind the Bobcats.
Texas State will face off against UTA at 6 p.m. on Oct. 20 and 1 p.m. on Oct. 31 in Arlington.