Texas State volleyball grabbed its 12th-straight victory as it defeated the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks 3-0 (26-24, 25-8, 25-20) on Nov. 12 and the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns 3-1 (24-26, 25-16, 25-14, 25-20) on Nov. 13.
As they enter the Sun Belt Tournament from Nov. 18-21, the Bobcats clinched the first seed in the conference’s west division.
The Warhawks (5-26 overall, 1-15 Sun Belt) came into the contest sporting a 13-match losing streak. One of those losses was a 3-0 (25-11, 25-7, 25-15) defeat to the Bobcats on Oct. 1.
Texas State went ahead early in the first set with a 5-1 lead, highlighted by two kills from senior outside hitter Kenedi Rutherford. The Warhawks put up a quick 6-2 run to tie the set 7-7.
Both teams continued to trade blows before the Bobcats went on a 5-1 run later in the set, taking a 16-12 lead. The run was highlighted by another pair of kills from Rutherford and a kill and a block assist from senior middle blocker Tyeranee Scott.
Down 19-15 later in the set, the Warhawks launched a 6-1 run to finally take the lead 21-20, forcing a Texas State timeout. Three kills by senior outside hitter Janell Fitzgerald put the Bobcats up 23-22.
ULM scored two points forcing set point at 24-23, but Texas State scored three straight to win the first set 26-24. Fitzgerald and Rutherford combined for 12 kills in the set.
After a difficult first set, the Bobcats took over the second set to win 25-8. Where Rutherford and Fitzgerald took over in the first set, the pair were joined by junior outside hitter Caitlan Buettner in the second as all three combined for 13 kills.
The Warhawks came back to form in the third set as they kept up with Texas State early in the game down 5-4.
The Bobcats began to separate themselves with a 5-1 run to go up 10-5. They later launched an 8-2 run to extend their lead 18-9.
The Bobcats stayed ahead with a set point at 24-17, but ULM scored three straight points to bring the score to 24-20. Fitzgerald’s final kill ended the set 25-20 and gave the Bobcats a 3-0 victory.
Texas State dominated ULM particularly offensively as it had a .416 hitting percentage compared to the Warhawks’ .202 hitting percentage. Although neither team committed many total errors, ULM’s 25 versus Texas State’s 11 was a stark enough difference.
Fitzgerald led the way with team-highs in kills (16), hitting percentage (.533) and digs (10). Rutherford followed up with 11 kills (.526).
"You have to give a lot of credit to ULM as that team played a really clean game and pushed us to work really hard off the ball,” Head Coach Sean Huiet said. “We were kind of sluggish to start, but I thought [Rutherford] and [Fitzgerald]'s offense gave us the spark we needed tonight.”
Senior setter Emily DeWalt tied for the match-high in assists (26) followed by sophomore setter Ryann Torres (12). DeWalt also led the match with three total blocks.
The second contest of the weekend was a rematch against the Ragin’ Cajuns. The previous match was one the Bobcats lost 3-1 (25-15, 25-21, 20-25, 25-23). It was Texas State’s last loss before the team went on its current win streak.
Louisiana went ahead early 4-1 but the Bobcats answered back with a 6-1 run, capped off with kills from Rutherford and Fitzgerald to take the lead 7-5.
The set continued to go back and forth to the point where Texas State was ahead 20-18. A 5-2 run by the Ragin’ Cajuns allowed them to take a 23-22 lead. Although Texas State brought the score to 24-24, two straight kills won the set for Louisiana 26-24.
Texas State bounced back in the second set sparked by a 4-0 run, which included a pair of kills from Rutherford. The Bobcats increased the distance as they went up 11-6. A 5-3 run, capped off by a kill from graduate outside hitter Jada Gardner, extended Texas State’s lead 15-9.
Both teams continued to trade blows but Texas State won 10 of the final 17 points of the set to win the game 25-16 and tie the match 1-1.
The Bobcats continued forward with a 14-3 run to start the third set, where Louisiana committed seven errors. Later in the set, Texas State went on a 4-0 run, where Fitzgerald had three kills, to go up 20-7.
The Ragin’ Cajuns went on a 7-3 run late in the set, but the Bobcats scored the final two points to win the set 25-14 and go up 2-1 in the match.
In the fourth set, the Bobcats took another early lead 9-3. Soon after, Louisiana cut into the deficit winning five straight points, bringing the score to 13-11.
Three straight kills by Fitzgerald and junior middle blocker Tessa Marshall extended the Maroon and Gold lead 16-11.
Late in the set, down 23-18, Louisiana scored four of the next five points to bring the score within two, 24-22, but a kill by Rutherford won the set 25-22 and the match 3-1.
Fitzgerald led again with a match-high 17 kills (.233), followed by Rutherford with 12 kills (.308) and Gardner with nine kills (.280). Marshall and Scott had eight kills apiece.
DeWalt led with 48 assists along with 13 digs. Senior libero Kayla Granado had a match-high 18 digs followed by Fitzgerald (14).
The Bobcats will receive a first-round bye in the tournament. They will face the winner between the Troy Trojans and the Little Rock Trojans in the quarterfinals at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 19 at the Foley Event Center in Foley, Alabama. All 11 matches of the Sun Belt Tournament will air on ESPN+ from Nov. 18-21.