Georgia State volleyball has reached the Sun Belt championship.under first˗year head coach Sally Polhamus.
The Panthers put together a 10˗19 season this year and an 8˗12 season in conference play. The marks were good enough overall for Georgia State to earn the seventh seed in this year’s tournament.
Scoringwise, the Panthers were led by juniors Deidra Bohannon and Eliza Zachary. Bohannon, an outside hitter, finished the regular season with 427 kills. Zachary, a middle blocker put in 355 kills along with posting the highest hitting percentage of anyone on the team with a .309 mark.
Two other Georgia State players ended the season with over 100 kills as junior middle blocker Kitan Ajanaku had 190 and sophomore outside hitter Kristina Stinson had 146.
Blockingwise, the team’s two middle blockers in Zachary and Ajanaku have contributed a combined 119 blocks on the season with Zachary finishing with 66 and Ajanaku rejecting 53.
The defense was also aided by five Panthers compiling over 100 digs. Junior defensive specialist and libero Gabby Serafin ended the year with 331 digs while Bohannon finished with 305. Nieto finished with 242 while sophomore outside hitter Molly Shonk ended the season with 218. Mauer’s season concluded with 164.
As a team, the Panthers did finish near the bottom in a few categories in comparison to the rest of the conference. Georgia State’s 14.12 digs per set, ranked 10th out of 11 conference teams.
The team averaged just over one block per set which placed them at the bottom of the conference. They were also last in the Sun Belt in opponent’s hitting percentage as teams hit .240 against the Panthers.
With the regular season in the books for Polhamus and her team, all eyes now turn to San Marcos, Texas for the Sun Belt tournament. Texas State, the defending champions and host school, will be Georgia State’s opponent on Day One of the tournament Thanksgiving Day.
Here is a look at the competition Georgia State will be up against.
UALR: 26˗4, 20˗0 Sun Belt
Van Compton has been at the helm of the Trojans for 26 years and the team has won 21 straight matches.
UALR has three players ranked in the top 10 in conference for hitting percentage. They are sophomore middle blocker Edina Selimovic at fourth with a .327, senior middle blocker Adisa Hodzic at eighth with a .304, and senior outside hitter Edina Begic at 10th with a .296. Begic also leads the conference in kills, averaging over four per set.
As a team, the Trojans finished with the top spot in the Sun Belt in hitting percentage (.296), opponent’s hitting percentage (.142), blocks per set (2.99), and service aces (1.5).
Texas State: 20˗12, 15˗5 Sun Belt
The Bobcats ended the season with a 1˗1 mark against Georgia State this season. The tournament’s host school is coached by Karen Chisum, in her 35th season at the helm.
Sophomore setter Jordan Moore averaged over seven digs per set which put her in the top ten in the Sun Belt in that category. Sierra Smith also was a major piece in the team’s defensive attack, as the junior defensive specialist and libero contributed an average of over four digs per set.
As a team, the Bobcats finished near the top in several statistical categories. Texas State was at the middle of the Sun Belt in hitting percentage with a .197 mark.
Arkansas State: 20˗9, 15˗5 Sun Belt
The Red Wolves prevailed over the Panthers in both of the matchups this season. David Rehr is the Arkansas State head coach and the team has advanced to the conference semifinals during his previous two seasons.
Freshman middle blocker Jessica Uke has made an impact on the team in the first season as her .376 hitting percentage ranks her at third in the conference. Sarah Kemp posted an average of 3.6 kills per set. Sophomore defensive specialist and libero Markie Schaedig, fittingly, led the conference in digs for the season with an average of 6.61.
As a team, Schaedig’s presence has put the Red Wolves at second in the conference in digs with nearly 18 per set. They also hit the ball well as their .224 hitting percentage as them at third in the Sun Belt.
UT Arlington: 24˗8, 14˗6 Sun Belt
The Mavericks defeated Georgia State in both of the team’s matchups this season, one of which came when they were down to the Panthers at the Sports Arena two sets to none. Diane Seymour, a UT Arlington alum, is in her tenth year as head coach of the Mavericks.
UT Arlington presents the top hitter in the conference this season in sophomore middle blocker Briana Sharratt, who posted a hitting percentage of .411. Also junior Stacey Koch is seventh with a .309. Junior libero Caitlyn Cooney and freshman outside hitter Qiana Canete both contributed greatly to the Mavericks’ defensive effort with 5.42 and 3.83 digs per set, respectively.
In addition, the Mavericks not only ranked second in the conference in hitting percentage with a .225, but in opponents’ hitting percentage with a .157. The individual blocking and digs numbers translated into UT Arlington’s top rank in digs with over 18 per set, and second in blocks with 2.49 per set.
Appalachian State: 21˗9, 11˗9 Sun Belt
The Mountaineers faced the Panthers at the Sports Arena in Georgia State’s final game of the regular season in which Appalachian State prevailed 3˗0. Matt Ginipro is in his eighth season with Appalachian State and his team earned the fifth seed in the Sun Belt tournament in the team’s first season in their new conference.
Junior outside hitters Emily Corrigan and Jess Keller both are in the top ten in the Sun Belt in kills with 479 (second) and 350 (seventh). Junior setter Paige Brown leads the conference in assists per set with nearly 12. Another junior, libero Meghan Mahoney has 4.32 digs per set, fifth in the Sun Belt.
The Mountaineers’ 13.19 assists and 13.72 kills per set both put them at the top spot in the conference in both categories. Two categories Appalachian State is somewhat thin in is blocks with 1.76 per set (eighth in conference) and service aces with 0.78 per set (last in conference).
Louisiana˗Lafayette: 20˗12, 9˗11 Sun Belt
A five˗set match in Lafayette, La. resulting in a Ragin’ Cajuns victory and a four˗set match at the Sports Arena going to the Panthers summarizes this season of Cajuns/Panthers matchups. This is the seventh season for head coach Heather Mazeitis˗Fontenot.
The Cajuns’ hitting attack is led by sophomore middle blocker Chanelle Gardner, whose .297 hitting percentage is ninth in conference. Senior setter Andrea Hole is responsible for putting Louisiana˗Lafayette to score most of its points, as her 10.12 assists per set ranks fifth in the conference.
Louisiana˗Lafayette has only allowed a .176 hitting percentage by its opponents for third in the Sun Belt. The team also averaged nearly two blocks a set.
South Alabama: 12˗18, 7˗13 Sun Belt
The Jaguars have prevailed over Georgia State in both of its matches against the Panthers this season. Amy Hendrichovsky is in her third season at the helm for South Alabama.
Two of the Jaguars’ players concluded the 2014 campaign in the top ten in kills per set. Sophomore outside hitter Mechell Daniel averaged 3.41 kills per set for sixth in the conference while Jessica Lewis’ 3.20 had her at tenth in the Sun Belt. Daniel and Lewis ended the season with 372 and 333 kills, respectively. Junior setter Emily Hundt put in over six assists per set˗˗tenth in the Sun Belt.
One defensive category that the Jaguars excelled at was digs. South Alabama had 1,754 for the year and averaged 15.66 a match for fifth in the conference.
Thursday, Nov. 27
No. 1 UALR vs. No. 8 South Alabama (1 p.m.)
No. 4 UT Arlington vs. No. 5 Appalachian State (3:30 p.m.)
No. 3 Arkansas State vs. No. 6 Louisiana˗Lafayette (6 p.m.)
No. 2 Texas State vs. No. 7 Georgia State (8:30 p.m.)
Friday, Nov. 28
Winner of Match One vs. Winner of Match Two (5 p.m.)
Winner of Match Three vs. Winner of Match Four (7:30 p.m.)
Saturday, Nov. 29
Championship Match: Winner of Match Five vs. Winner of Match Six (2 p.m.)