No. 15 Texas State volleyball (24-2 overall, 15-1 Sun Belt) defeated No. 12 Coastal Carolina University (18-1 overall, 16-0 Sun Belt) 3-2 (20-25, 25-18, 23-25, 25-19, 15-6) in the Sun Belt Conference Championship Tournament final Nov. 22.
The win marked the Bobcats' third straight Sun Belt Conference Tournament title and fourth overall. Texas State is the first member of the Sun Belt to three-peat since the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (1997, 1998 and 1999).
The first set was close throughout, starting off tied at 5-5. Tied at 9-9, the Chanticleers mounted a 6-3 run to take a 15-12 lead midway through the set.
The Bobcats were able to tie the game back up at 16-16 with a 4-1 run of their own, capped off by back-to-back kills from senior middle blocker Tyeranee Scott, followed by a service ace from sophomore outside hitter Lauren Teske.
Coastal Carolina would then take control of the set with a 9-4 run which included five errors by Texas State. The Chanticleers won the first set 25-20 to take a 1-0 lead in the championship game.
In the opening set, the Bobcats had nine errors and eight kills for a -.029 hitting percentage. On the other end, Coastal Carolina had 16 kills and four errors for a .324 hitting percentage.
The Bobcats started the second set in good rhythm, jumping out to an 8-2 lead following six straight points. During the run, Scott had two kills, two block assists and one solo block.
Texas State continued to rack up points, at one point leading 13-6. Coastal Carolina would settle into its game plan and go on a 9-5 run to close the gap 18-15 following consecutive kills by its sophomore middle hitter Ilse Sinnige.
Shortly after, Coastal Carolina's opposite Anett Nemeth suffered a non-contact injury that would keep her out for the remainder of the match. Up to that point Nemeth had 12 kills on a .320 hitting percentage and two block assists.
The Bobcats would close out the set with a 7-3 run to take set two 25-18 and even the match at 1-1.
In the second set, Texas State improved with 16 kills on a .316 hitting percentage. Coastal Carolina had 13 kills while hitting .231 in the set.
In the third set, Coastal Carolina came out playing with a slight edge early on, leading 15-11, but the Bobcats would score five straight points and take the lead at 16-15 following three kills by sophomore outside hitter Caitlan Buettner and two Coastal Carolina errors.
Following a timeout, the Chanticleers responded with a 4-0 run to retake the lead 19-16 and force a Texas State timeout.
With the set tied 22-22, Coastal Carolina was able to score on back-to-back occasions following a kill by freshman middle hitter Madison Lowery and an attack error by Scott. With Coastal Carolina at set point, a kill by senior outside hitter Ani Bozdeva gave the Chanticleers a 25-23 set victory to take a 2-1 lead.
In the third set, Coastal Carolina freshman outside hitter/right side Blaire Fleming led both teams with six kills. Lowery and Bozdeva each put up five kills.
Coastal Carolina outhit Texas State in the third set, with a .277 hit percentage and 18 kills compared to the Bobcats' .182 hit percentage and 13 kills.
The Bobcats took control early in the fourth set, taking a 10-4 lead, and never allowed the Chanticleers to tie. A 5-2 Chanticleer run would close the gap to 12-9.
Texas State would pull away once again with a 7-3 scoring spurt to regain control at 19-12. Coastal Carolina would come as close as 22-17 before the Bobcats put the set away 25-19 following a set point kill by junior outside hitter Janell Fitzgerald.
After a slow start, Fitzgerald got into a rhythm in the fourth, scoring seven kills.
The Bobcats had a .500 hitting percentage in the fourth set behind 17 kills on 30 swings with only two errors.
The fifth and final set began with the Bobcats taking a 6-0 lead before the Chanticleers got their first point off an attack error by Fitzgerald.
The Bobcats' offense was clicking on all cylinders in the final set, scoring seven kills compared to just two by Coastal Carolina. The Bobcats would win the set 15-6 capped off by yet another kill by Fitzgerald.
Scott finished with a career-high 18 kills and a .333 hitting percentage with eight total blocks. Fitzgerald had 13 kills, nine of which came in the fourth and fifth sets, along with six blocks.
Junior setter Emily DeWalt earned her 50th career and 18th season double-double with 49 assists and a team-high 18 digs.
Teske led the match with three aces. Junior libero Kayla Granado, junior middle blocker Jillian Slaughter and senior setter Brooke Johnson each had two aces. Johnson also had 15 digs, while Granado had 11.
In the match, Coastal Carolina edged out Texas State with a .352 hitting percentage and 62 kills versus the Bobcats' .341 hitting percentage and 61 kills.
Scott and DeWalt were named to the All-Sun Belt Tournament team. Scott was selected as the Most Outstanding Player in the tournament.
For Coastal Carolina, Nemeth and Bozdava were named to the All-Sun Belt Tournament team.
Texas State Head Coach Sean Huiet credits the victory to how well the team adjusted to an unusual 2020 season.
"We are feeling really good right now," Huiet said. "This season, I preached all year that it is going to take everyone to win [the conference championship]. We had to overcome a lot of adversity in 2020 like everyone else, but what I think makes this team so unique is that you never knew whose night it was going to be. Anyone's number can be called at any time, and they are always ready to step up."