Alva Review-Courier -

Muleriders dazzle home crowd with pair of thrilling wins to close out Dr. Margaret Downing Invitational


August 26, 2018

MAGNOLIA, Ark. – The second-annual Dr. Margaret Downing Volleyball Invitational came to a close on Saturday night inside the W.T. Watson Center as Southern Arkansas defeated Mississippi College in four sets (25-17, 18-25, 25-19, 25-21); a win that came just a couple of hours after the Muleriders knocked off Cameron in a thrilling five set victory (17-25, 25-18, 25-22, 27-29, 15-13). SAU improves to 3-1 on the season and the successful weekend stands as the best four-game start to a season since 2011.

In the opener against Cameron, the Muleriders dropped the opening set, before taking the next two sets, while also having an opportunity to put away the Aggies in four. Trailing 23-21 in that fourth frame, SAU received back-to-back kills from freshmen Rylea Brimhall and Fabiola Rivera to even the score at 23, while a bad set on the next Cameron serve gave Southern Arkansas match point.

The Muleriders would be unable to close out Cameron in four, but proved gritty in the fifth set as they battled back and forth with the Lone Star Conference foe before mounting a 4-0 run late to take a 14-11 lead that they would soon turn into a match victory courtesy of a kill from freshman Ciarra Wright.

The largest lead for either team in the final two sets of play stood at only three points. SAU as team produced a .173 attack percentage and was led by sophomores Bailey Cagle and Morgan Gross who combined for 27 kills behind Cagle's 15. Freshman Abby Bermudez added nine kills and hit a highly efficient .533 (9-1-15), while sophomore Lauren Smith produced nine kills and a team-leading seven total blocks. Wright flirted with a double-double in the win as she finished the match two kills shy of reaching the feat after producing 13 digs.

Freshman Camryn Bihary solidified SAU's back row defense by making dig after dig as she finished with 28 and a team-best three service aces. For the third straight match, rookie classmates Lexi Kruse along with Rivera facilitated the offensive attack combining for 47 of SAU's 53 assists.

In the nightcap, Southern Arkansas faced off against Gulf South Conference opponent Mississippi College led by former Lady Mulerider head coach Shawna Laurendine. SAU notched a season-best .199 (54-24-151) team attack percentage in the victory and registered 53 total assists as Rivera and Kruse yet again teamed up to orchestrate the offensive attack accounting for all but six assists in the win.

Both players logged a double-double as each recorded double-digit dig totals and Wright finished with a double-double as well as she was one of four Muleriders with double-digit kills. Cagle led the offense with 14 kills, while Brimhall and Gross tacked on a dozen kills each with the former's coming at an impressive .409 hit clip. Bermudez led SAU with seven total blocks and five players recorded ten or more digs including Bihary who added a dozen more to her impressive afternoon flying around the Southern Arkansas backcourt.

In the fourth set and while leading 10-8, the Muleriders withstood a 5-0 run by the Choctaws and answered with a 14-8 run to close out the match.

Next up for Southern Arkansas is a weekend trip to Durant, Oklahoma, for the South Central Classic hosted by fellow Great American Conference member Southeastern Oklahoma State. While in the Sooner State, the Muleriders will face New Mexico Highlands and Washburn on Friday, August 31 and Western State Colorado and Central Oklahoma on Saturday, September 1. Live coverage links will be made available on www. in the coming days.


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