Cowgirls playing for Southland volleyball title

Published 10:00 am Sunday, November 21, 2021

Special to the American Press

HOUSTON — Anyse Smith smashed a match-high 25 kills and McNeese State advanced to the championship match of the Southland Conference women’s volleyball tournament for the first time since 1999 after beating Houston Baptist 3-1 Saturday.

The third-seeded Cowgirls (18-10), who have won nine of their last 11 matches, will play No. 1 seed and regular-season champion Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the championship match at 2 p.m. today. The Islanders (18-9), the defending tournament champions, eliminated No. 5 Incarnate Word 3-0 in the other semifinal to extend their winning streak to seven matches.

The Islanders swept the Cowgirls 3-1 and 3-0 this season. They are playing for their seventh championship and fourth SLC Tournament crown in program history. They are also looking to earn the automatic bid and make their fourth NCAA Tournament appearance.

McNeese beat the second-seeded host Huskies (21-8) 25-17, 26-24, 23-25 and 25-20. HBU, which had a double-bye, had won the last four meetings and six of the last seven, including this season’s two regular-season matches. It was the Huskies first loss on their home court in 11 matches.

Aryn Johnson recorded a double-double of 18 kills and 12 digs for McNeese. Ceci Harness passed out a match-high 26. Baylee Laskoskie had 23 assists and made six digs. Lizzy Low led all players with a career-high 28 digs. Bria Plante made four blocks while Jaylin Gordon and Smith made three each.

Mikayla Vivens led HBU with 10 kills and two aces. Kaley Feris recorded 16 digs, Ellie Wipf dished out 20 assists and Ebonie Ballesteros and Anna Gadway made six blocks apiece.

McNeese outhit the HBU .214 to 1.48. The Huskies made 17 service errors.

Leading two sets to one, McNeese scored three of the first four points in the fourth set and built a 12-7 lead. The Cowgirls extended their advantage to 16-10, but the Huskies scored the next four to get back within two. HBU got within one four times, the last time at 21-20, before McNeese scored the last four points for the 25-20 win.