RUSSELLVILLE, AR- After cruising their way to a first round victory over Southern Arkansas, Henderson State volleyball was adamant to advance past the quarterfinal round of the GAC tournament. Standing in their way was the two-seed Arkansas Tech Golden Suns. During the regular season, ATU and HSU met up twice, with the teams splitting the season series 1-1.
What seemed to be a good start out the gates for the Reddies in set one, turned into a runaway by the Golden Suns. After trailing for just five plays, Arkansas Tech tied the first set score at 3-3 and took off. They held the lead for the remainder of the set to claim a 1-0 set lead off of a 25-20 set one victory.
Set two remained close for much of its duration. The largest lead either team took was six points, owned by the Golden Suns. Once again, ATU put on display their scoring ability and propel themselves to a 25-22 set win, now taking a 2-0 match lead heading into a potential match set.
With their chances of advancing on the lines, it was now or never for the Reddies. They battled and clawed their way through the set, holding the lead all the way to the 14-14 point. ATU went on a 11-5 run to seal the deal at 25-19 and move on to the semifinals and end the chances of HSU finally surmounting that early elimination trend they have faced for multiple seasons.
For the Reddies, GAC Defensive Player of the Year Makenzie Thoman recorded 20 digs on the night, while GAC Newcomer of the Year Violeta Mendoza Quintana had 41 total attacks, including 11 kills. Senior Abby Blackburn accounted for 17 assists and 9 digs of her own for the Reddies. The big blunder for Henderson was their 21 errors, as well as being out blocked by ATU 11-4.
Henderson State finishes their GAC season with a 5-5 conference record and a 6-6 overall record. In his fourth year as the head coach, Phil McDaniel has a 69-38 record, with the team reaching the GAC Championship game in 2018.
Although their chances at a conference title have been halted, the Reddies have a chance at securing hardware in the AVCA Division II Volleyball National Championship in Dallas, TX. The tournament takes place April 14-17 and will conclude the Spring 2021 season for the Reddies.