Henderson hat trick

Volleyball defeats SAU in first round of GAC tournament, advances to quarterfinal round vs. Arkansas Tech

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Reddie Athletics

Reddies down the Muleriders in the first round of the GAC tournament, 3-1.

Donovan Lee, Sports Editor

ARKADELPHIA, AR- With all of the challenges that the 2021 season presented to Reddies volleyball (6-5, 5-5 GAC), the postseason has arrived and the quest for a long-awaited conference title is here. Third seed Henderson State’s first-round competitors were the familiar faces of Southern Arkansas, who entered the tournament as the sixth seed and held an 0-2 record versus the Reddies in the regular season.

The underdogs came to prove that they were not a team to play with. In an early back-and-forth set one, the Muleriders led by a single point, 18-17, before they kicked it into another gear. An 8-1 scoring run by SAU put them in the driver’s seat with a 1-0 match lead after a 25-17 set one victory.

After struggling to get over the hump of the early rounds of the tournament in past seasons, the Reddies began their efforts of overcoming the past that has plagued them. Henderson and Southern Arkansas were more evenly matched than what their records conveyed. With the second set tied at 11 all, a 4-0 run from HSU put the Reddies out front, that is until SAU responded with a 5-2 run of their own to trail by one, 15-11.

The run from the Muleriders spawned the intensity that Henderson State needed to assert themselves in the set, as well as the match. HSU capped off set two with an 8-3 scoring run, taking set two 25-19 to notch the match at 1-1.

SAU battled to avenge their second set defeat and retake the match lead. They were one step ahead of the Reddies for much of the third set, leading most of the set and breaking away from four ties. Unfortunately for the combatants from Magnolia, a final flurry of offense from HSU late in the set was enough to pull away for a 25-22 win.

Now out front 2-1, Henderson State worked on what could be their match set, after discouraging the Muleriders in a third set comeback win. With not much resistance from SAU, HSU was able to run away with the match, triumphing 25-13 in set four and winning the match to advance to the GAC quarterfinals.

HSU will face two-seed Arkansas Tech in Russellville on April 8 for a spot in the conference semifinals two days later.