ITTA BENA, Miss. – In a hard-fought four-set affair, Alabama State bested in-state rival and top seed Alabama A&M to win the 2018 Southwestern Athletic Conference Women’s Volleyball Tournament Sunday afternoon at R.W. Harrison HPER Complex.
Alabama State won the first two sets by scores of 25-13 and 25-15. Alabama A&M took set three 25-22, but the Lady Hornets rebounded to claim their third-straight championship – and fifth in the last six years – with a 25-19 set four win.
A stalemate initially, Candace Martin’s cross-court smash keyed a frame-turning run for the Lady Hornets, who then went ahead 10-7 on a Bayle’ Bennett ace. The Lady Hornets pushed their lead to double-digits behind Bennett’s effectiveness, as she put away six kills and three aces in the frame to power the defending champions to a decisive set one win.
Misfires from the Lady Bulldogs aided Alabama State’s 8-4 run to open the second set, and a trio of smackdowns from Krysta Medearis increased the advantage to 14-9 in favor of the Lady Hornets.
With Alabama A&M unable to get going offensively – or slow down Alabama State’s attack – the Lady Hornets built a 22-11 advantage after a pair of kills and a block from Martin. After an AAMU timeout, the Lady Bulldogs showed some life with a quartet of points to get within seven, but the Lady Hornets yielded no more, as Bennett closed the frame with a service ace.
With championship hopes dimming, Alana Cox began asserting herself for the Lady Bulldogs, who were the aggressors to begin the third frame. Cox put away four kills as AAMU jumped ahead 14-10. The early advantage ultimately carried the Lady Bulldogs to a crucial set three win, as a late charge by Alabama State was stuffed by a Jaelin Gant kill.
In the fourth set, 2018 Tournament Most Valuable Player Bennett rose to the occasion, smoking three kills to push Alabama State ahead. The Lady Bulldogs wasted no time tying the set, but Martin and Medearis tag-teamed on a pair of blocks to spark a 5-1 run. Alabama A&M closed within one, but the Lady Hornets were too strong down the stretch, fending off a comeback attempt to seal the deal.
Bennett posted 20 kills, nine digs and dealt four aces. Kutsch put up 45 assists and nine digs. Medearis added 17 kills, and Martin added eight kills and figured in on five total blocks.
Cox led AAMU (23-15) with 10 kills. Terra Brooks posted nine kills and 16 digs, and Megan Evans dished out 25 assists.
2018 SWAC Volleyball All-Tournament Team:
Alexis Austin, Texas Southern
Paige Hall, Southern
Terra Brooks, Alabama A&M
Maya Evans, Alabama A&M
Megan Evans, Alabama A&M
Bayle’ Bennett, Alabama State (#SWACVB18 Tournament MVP)
Krysta Medearis, Alabama State
Kori Kutsch, Alabama State
Candace Martin, Alabama State