Abilene Christian volleyball's 2012 season and its time as a D-II member of the Lone Star Conference came to an end Thursday here at the Junell Center following a 3-0 loss to ninth-ranked West Texas A&M.
The second-seeded Lady Buffs won its first-round conference championship match by scores of 27-25, 25-20 and 25-21 to improve to 28-4 on the season. They will play again Friday in the semifinals vs. third-seeded Tarleton State, which needed five sets today to beat sixth-seeded Texas A&M-Kingsville.
ACU finished its season at 12-19, but expects to return a strong corps of players for next season's D-I debut in the Southland Conference. Starting outside hitters Jennifer Loerch and Rachel Riley each ripped over 200 kills this year, while middle blockers Sara Oxford and Corrie Reeder accounted for 137 blocks among their 612.5 points.
Setter Sarah Siemens was named LSC Freshman of the Year after averaging 10.6 assists per set, and freshman libero Madison Hoover ranked among the league leaders with 5.01 digs per set.
This year's pack of Wildcats was largely comprised of freshmen and sophomores, but for the third time this season, they played the six-time defending conference champions with the confidence of veterans. The Lady Buffs edged the Wildcats in all three sets played in Canyon this season, and then were stunned at Moody Coliseum in October, losing for the first time to ACU since 2005.
After trailing by as many as six points today in the first game, ACU turned the tide on WT with a late 5-0 run to take a 22-20 lead, but couldn't come through with the clincher after reaching set point with the score in its favor, 24-23.
The Lady Buffs regained the lead with back-to-back kills from Erin Dougherty and Stormi Lancaster, but then Loerch tied the score for the seventh and final time with one of her 11 kills. Dougherty, however, would hammer home another point to bring the serve back to WT's side, and a block by Laura Iwuchukwu sealed the all-important victory.
ACU jumped out to an 11-9 lead in game two, only to see the Lady Buffs respond with a 7-2 run that featured three kills from Iwuchukwu. From there, the Wildcats twice crept within a couple points of WT, but after getting the score to 22-20, Halie Harton finished the game in style with three straight kills.
Harton hit .238 for the match and led all players with 14 kills.
The Wildcats trailed for most of game three, but made it interesting toward the end as WT watched its five-point lead reduced to two but with the score still in its favor at 23-21. However, once ACU got the ball back, Siemens made a costly service error and on the next play, Lacy Hayes and Iwuchukwu blocked Kalynne Allen's attempt.
Iwuchukwu played a role in six of West Texas' 10.0 team blocks to finish the game with 10.5 points. By comparison, ACU recorded eight blocks with Reeder having a hand in seven.
Oxford led the Wildcats' attack with 13 kills and a .233 hitting percentage, but ACU only hit .096 as a team and had 23 errors between games one and three. The Wildcats made just five errors in set two.
Siemens again had the most assists with 34 to finish her first season with 1,123. Hoover dug out 30 attacks to finish with 541, which is the fourth highest single-season total in ACU history, ranking her behind Kelsie Edwards (696), Ricci Wingett (577) and Amy Wilson (566).
Information for this story provided by ACU Sports Information.