Sadie Appleton, Correspondent
Coming off their historic regular season and being crowned the Ohio Valley Conference champions, the Gamecock volleyball squad moved on in the post season to compete in the OVC tournament. Being regular season conference champions, Jacksonville State was automatically slotted in the quarterfinal match where they faced off against Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. This was the second straight time the two teams had met in the opening round of the OVC tournament. It would also be the second consecutive year that JSU would move on with a 3-0 clean sweep.
The Cougars had previously defeated the Gamecocks in the regular season and looked to do this once more and spoil the fun for JSU, who had the home court advantage. However, JSU would prove to be firing on all cylinders and while the match was one of the closest of the season, they took home the sweep against SIUE.
Initiating the match, the first set saw strong efforts on both sides. The largest lead held throughout the match was a mere two points with JSU at 12-10 and then later at 21-19. SIUE fought off match points three times by evening the score at 25-24, 28-27, and 29-28. Each time the Gamecocks seemed to get an edge, the Cougars quickly responded, as did JSU. All tied up at 30-30, Jax State gained an opportunity to end the marathon of a frame following a SIUE error. An ace from freshman Erin Carmichael put the Pete Mathews Coliseum crowd on its feet and sealed the set win at 32-30. It was JSU’s season high extended rally since another 32-30 frame against New Orleans early in the season.
Moving on to following frame, Jacksonville State utilized the momentum from the impressive first set to help JSU seal the win. A 7-1 scoring run in the midst of the set brought them to a 20-12 lead and eventually to a decisive 25-16 victory.
Jax State trailed the majority of the final set. Following a 7-7 tie, the Gamecocks wouldn’t have a lead until senior Sadie Anderson drove home a kill that led to a JSU match point at 24-23. A decisive block by Anderson and Frear wrapped up the clean sweep and sent JSU on to the next round.
Junior Kaylie Milton proved to be a team asset as she posted a team high of 14 kills on a .333 attack percentage. Following Milton, seniors Kaylie Frear and Anderson had nine and seven kills, respectively. The 2019 OVC Setter of the Year, Lexie Libs, orchestrated the offense with 38 assists in the match.
Moving forward in the tournament, Jacksonville State once again faced Morehead State in the semifinal round of the OVC tournament. In their previous meeting, JSU barely edged out MSU to earn the regular season title. Unfortunately, this meeting was much different as the Eagles swept the Gamecocks, ending their historic season. It was the first time Jax State had been defeated by Morehead State this season.
The Eagles began the match and gained a quick lead. After trailing at 11-6, JSU took a timeout to regather. The Gamecocks came back to narrow the gap twice at 14-13 and 18-17. However, it turned out to be not enough as MSU took the frame 25-20. Mirroring the previous set, the Eagles came out again to a 11-6 lead. JSU fought back and got within a one-point gap several times. At 22-17, the Gamecocks led a 3-0 scoring drive that was sparked by a kill by Schmidt. While Jax State fought off back-to-back match points until Morehead State sealed the set at 25-23.
The Gamecocks shot off to its best start of the match at 7-4 in the final set thanks in part to kills from Frear and Anderson. MSU returned to take the lead at 11-10 after a 3-0 scoring run. A block by Schmidt and Kindermann evened the slate at 11-11. The Eagles quickly responded after taking the lead following a missed serve and held the lead until the end of the frame at 25-20. The loss to Morehead State ended Jacksonville State’s tournament championship hopes and closed out their victorious season.
While the season ended in an unfortunate way, there was plenty to be celebrated for the Gamecocks. It was the first time in ten years that the squad won a regular season championship and had double the number of wins than losses.