SLU claims Southland Conference Tournament crown, NCAA Tournament bid with 3-1 win Over HCU – Crescent City Sports

(Photo by Randy Bergeron/SLU Sports Information)

HAMMOND, La. – In a 2022 season full of firsts, the Southeastern Louisiana University volleyball team’s latest first-time feat was the sweetest.

A day after earning their first SLC postseason match, the second-seeded Lady Lions (25-7) rallied from a set down for a 16-25, 25-20, 25-20, 25-16 victory over No. 1 seed HCU (23-10) in the Southland Conference Tournament championship match Sunday afternoon in the University Center.

Southeastern punctuated a perfect 14-0 record in the University Center by winning its first Southland Conference title and earning the program’s first berth in the NCAA Tournament. The 64-team field will be announced Sunday, Nov. 27 at 6:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPNU.

“We had to go through two of the top teams in the conference to win this tournament in HCU and McNeese and they didn’t make it easy,” Southeastern head coach Jeremy White commented. “I’m proud of our team for the way we competed and earning this championship.”.

Sunday’s win was the culmination of steady improvement for the SLU program under White. The fourth-year head coach took over a program that finished 2-27 the season before he arrived in Hammond.

“Our players deserve the credit for changing the culture,” White said. “We have great athletes and great people. I have to thank (associate head coach) Gabby Ording for her contributions to our program. Our players have elevated our culture to beyond where we planned to be at this point and I’m so proud of our program.”

Kailin Newsome led Southeastern with 18 kills Sunday on the way to earning Southland Conference Tournament MVP honors. Cicily Hidalgo (16 kills, 19 digs) and Ansley Tullis (17 digs) joined Newsome on the SLC All-Tournament Team.

Karlee Wilkerson added 14 kills for SLU, while the setter duo of Ariana Hebert and Gracie Duplechein finished with 29 and 22 assists, respectively. Hannah Brewer paced the Lady Lions with four blocks, while Hebert led the way with five service aces.

Sara Arroyo hit .310 and led three Huskies with double-digit kills, finishing with a team-high 15 winners. Grace McLaughlin (42 assists), Kaley Feris (13 digs) and Jada Allen (four blocks) were the other leaders for HCU.

The opening set saw HCU jump out to a 11-2 lead. The Lady Lions got as close as seven, but couldn’t overcome a .433 attack percentage by the visitors and dropped the opening set, 25-16.

“We had to remember what we were playing for,” White said of the team’s reaction to the opening set. “We’re playing for each other, our seasons, our team and our families. We know that when we’re playing for the right things, good things will happen for us.”

It was Southeastern’s turn to get off to a hot start in set two, taking an 8-2 lead. Three straight aces by Ariana Hebert highlighted a 25-20 set for SLU, evening the match behind a .441 attack percentage.

No such dominance was present in the third set, though HCU led most of the way. However, three kills by Newsome and a pair of kills by Crispin Adams keyed a set-clinching 6-0 run, as Southeastern took set three, 25-20 to take a 2-1 lead in the match.

The Lady Lions clinched the tournament title in convincing fashion in set four, leading wire-to-wire. A 9-1 run gave SLU a 13-4 lead early on and HCU never got closer than seven the rest of the way.

A Hidalgo kill set up match point, then Audrey Pearce’s attack sailed long to close out the final set, 25-16, and give Southeastern its long-awaited title.

2022 Southland Conference Tournament | Nov. 17-20 | Hammond, La. | University Center

Thursday, Nov. 17 | First Round
Match 1 | No. 5 Northwestern State 3, No. 8 UIW 2 (22-25, 19-25, 25-20, 25-20, 15-12)
Match 2 | No. 7 Texas A&M-Commerce 3, New Orleans 1 (27-25, 25-20, 21-25, 25-19)

Friday, Nov. 18 | Quarterfinals
Match 3 | Northwestern State 3, No. 4 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 2 (23-25, 17-25, 30-28, 25-17, 15-11)
Match 4 | No. 3 McNeese 3, Texas A&M-Commerce 0 (25-15, 25-18, 25-11)

Saturday, Nov. 19 | Semifianls
Match 5 | No. 1 HCU 3, Northwestern State 1 (25-21, 26-24, 18-25, 25-19)
Match 6 | No. 2 Southeastern 3, McNeese 1 (25-22, 27-29, 25-22, 25-21)

Sunday, Nov. 20 | Finals
Match 7 | Southeastern 3, HCU 1 (16-25, 25-20, 25-20, 25-16)

Southland Conference All-Tournament Team
MVP: Kailin Newsome, Southeastern
Cicily Hidalgo, Southeastern
Ansley Tullis, Southeastern
Sara Arroyo, HCU
Shelby O’Neal, HCU
Bailey Tillman, McNeese
Addison McDermott, Northwestern State

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