Volleyball looks to retake postseason title at home in championship tournament

Senior Konner Wood (11) held up by Cheyenne Huskey, celebrates the team's conference and game victory after the UTA game Nov. 15 at Strahan Arena.

Kate Connors

Senior Konner Wood (11) held up by Cheyenne Huskey, celebrates the team's conference and game victory after the UTA game Nov. 15 at Strahan Arena.

Cade Andrews, Sports Reporter

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For the second time ever and the first time since 2014, the Bobcats will be hosting the Sun Belt Conference Volleyball Championship Tournament at Strahan Arena from Thursday to Sunday.

After going 22-8 this season and 14-2 in the Sun Belt, Texas State enters the tournament as the top seed. The ‘Cats already took the regular season championship at Strahan this season and are looking to take postseason on the same court.

Texas State has played in four of the last six conference tournament title matches (2013, 2014, 2017, 2018) and are competing for their 3rd Sun Belt Tournament title (2013,2018). They’ll be looking for much of the same this time around: as No. 1 in the conference for the second year in a row, the Bobcats are motivated to take the tournament championship and move on to the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive year.

The odds will be stacked in their favor as well. The ‘Cats earned the top seed in the tournament in a sweep against UTA on Nov. 15, and the dominating win gives them a two-match bye heading into the tournament. Their opponent is undetermined, but they are set to play the winner of No. 4 Troy vs. No. 5 Louisiana/No. 8 Arkansas State at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Troy, who finished at a tie with Louisiana but earned the higher seed, is one of three Sun Belt teams who finished in the top 100 in the latest NCAA Division I RPI on Nov. 17 (Texas State 39th, Coastal Carolina 50th and Troy 88th). Although Arkansas State comes in near the bottom of conference, they pulled off the Bobcats’ first conference loss early in the season and proved a slight challenge in a rematch at home that saw the Red Wolves lose in a 3-1 battle. The ‘Cats also suffered a loss at the hands of the Ragin’ Cajuns in conference play, so the first round won’t be an easy test for Texas State. After the first round, the Bobcats could face a challenge in Coastal Carolina, who comes in next in the RPI standings, won the Sun Belt tournament in 2016 and 2017 and enters the contest as the second seed.

After a rough start to the season, the Bobcats quickly turned things around and kept the momentum going throughout conference. Texas State only won two out of their first six matches to kick off the season due to tough scheduling and growing pains. Two of those losses include Southern California and 21st-ranked Rice.

When they swept an SEC powerhouse, Georgia, things started to look up. The Bobcats won five out of their next six matches, including a win against in-state rival UTSA, before eventually falling to second-ranked Baylor in Waco. Conference play began in late September as Texas State won their first two matches before eventually falling to Arkansas State in Jonesboro. Following that loss, the Bobcats bounced back with a nine-match win streak, sweeping five straight opponents in an impressive run. The team finished out the regular season facing UT- Arlington at home in front of 2,419 fans, the fifth-largest crowd in program history.

This season the Bobcats have had numerous accomplishments both as a team and individually. Head Coach Karen Chisum captured her 900th career win on Sept. 13 against Northwestern State. Chisum is the seventh head coach in NCAA history to accomplish this and only the fifth to do it with the same program. The successful season earned Chisum a nod as the Sun Belt Coach of the Year for the second consecutive year on Monday. Sophomore setter Emily DeWalt was also named Setter of the Year for the second consecutive time in the Sun Belt, as well as a member of the All-Sun Belt First Team alongside senior outside hitter Cheyenne Huskey. Junior middle blocker Tyeranee Scott and sophomore outside hitter Janell Fitzgerald rounded out the awards as selections on the All-Sun Belt Second Team.

The tournament begins Thursday, Nov. 21 at 5 p.m. as No. 8 Arkansas State takes on No. 5 Louisiana at 5 p.m.

The ‘Cats will grace the floor against the winner of No. 4 Troy vs. No. 5 Louisiana/No. 8 Arkansas State at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.

All seven matches will have live coverage on ESPN+ and the ESPN app.

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