The Golden Suns walked away from Ozarks Arena in Hot Springs this weekend as champions. Hard work and dedication paid off for Arkansas Tech’s volleyball team at the Great American Conference Tournament, as the Golden Suns defeated Southern Nazarene in the title match 3-2 on Saturday.
Tech (29-5) defeated Southwestern Oklahoma State University 3-0 and Harding University 3-1 before advancing to the finals and winning by scores of 25-18, 19-25, 17-25, 25-23, 15-13 against Southern Nazarene (22-10). The same team defeated Tech at home earlier in the year 3-2.
The Golden Suns took a 13-4 lead early in the first set and extended it to 22-14 until Southern Nazarene cut the final score to 25-18.
The opposite occurred in the second set. Southern Nazarene took a 5-1 lead until Tech managed a 6-6- tie. The score was again tied five more times until Southern Nazarene took a 22-19 lead. Two kills and two forced errors resulted in a 25-19 Tech loss.
Southern Nazarene also played a dominant third set, scoring eight-consecutive points to lead 14-11. Tech trailed 19-16, but Southern Nazarene ended the 25-17 set on a 6-2 run.
Tech edged a win fourth-set win 25-23. The Golden Suns had a 21-19 lead before allowing Southern Nazarene a three-point swing. Tech tied and took the lead before Southern Nazarene returned the favor. However, a kill and attack error worked in favor of Tech for a forced-fifth set.
Tech fought back from an 11-4 deficit in the final set, scoring seven-consecutive points to tie Southern Nazarene. A kill gave the each team one point, tying the set again at 2-12. Tech then scored two quick points with two kills before committing a service error, bringing the score to 14-13. A kill by Sarah Bennett won Tech its championship game 15-13.
Katie Huff recorded 18 kills, Emily Todd recorded 14 kills and Kaylee Konsella recorded 13 kills. Sierra Nighswonger added 59 assists, and Madison Nagel added 25 digs.
An automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Central Region Volleyball Championship places Tech against No. 2 University of Minnesota-Duluth on Thursday at 8:30 p.m. in the Romano Gymnasium at Minnesota-Duluth.
Minnesota-Duluth is 31-1 this season with a current 25-game winning streak. Winners of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, Minnesota-Duluth defeated the Golden Suns in the opening regional round 3-0 last season. Tech will face the nation’s top teams of not only No. 2 Minnesota-Duluth but also No. 3 Concordia-St. Paul, No. 4 Southwest Minnesota State, No. 4 Nebraska-Kearney, No. 6 Wayne State, No. 14 Washburn and No. 16 Central Missouri.
To follow the Golden Suns through the regional tournament, visit www.athletics.atu.edu.