After a successful first year in the Western Athletic Conference, Thunderbird volleyball lost in the quarterfinals of the WAC tournament to top seed University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. The Thunderbirds fought hard but fell three sets to one on Thursday, Nov. 17 in Edinburg, Texas.
The Vaqueros walked into the matchup 25-5 on the season and 13-1 in WAC play. UTRGV set the tone early in the first set, leading 3-1. The Thunderbirds fought back with a kill by senior Raegen Beeson making it 4-3 in favor of Southern Utah. The Vaqueros went on a 10-5 run at the midway point of the match for a 13-9 lead in their favor. The Thunderbirds were within one point of the Vaqueros in the late stages of the first set due to a kill by junior Makenzie Templeton, which brought the score to 16-15. However, the momentum for the Thunderbirds crashed afterwards, as they only scored two more points in the set. The Vaqueros won the opening set 25-17.
The second set was a different story for the Thunderbirds. Southern Utah dominated and cruised to an early 5-0 lead, an advantage they would not give up for the rest of the set. Junior Macy Short led the team in assists with 34. Short tallied 15 of these during this set, creating a plethora of scoring chances for her teammates. The Thunderbirds also took advantage of the six errors committed by the Vaqueros. SUU won the second set 25-18.
The third and fourth sets showed why the Vaqueros are the top seed in the Western Athletic Conference. The Vaqueros set the pace and only allowed the Thunderbirds to lead once in the third set, which culminated in a 25-15 win for UTRGV. The Thunderbirds fought hard in the fourth set, but the Vaqueros dominated on the attack to take the last set 25-12.
The loss puts a wrap on the season for the Thunderbirds. Ultimately, they had a successful season, qualifying for the WAC tournament in their first year in the conference. The Thunderbirds had a great home court advantage this season, winning five of their seven games in the America First Event Center.
The Thunderbirds will be retaining much of their team next year and will be headlined by Templeton, who has earned All-Conference Second Team honors, Templeton led the Thunderbirds with 275 kills. Short will also be a player to watch next year, as she boasts 778 assists on the season.
Article by: Anthony Colasuono
Photos by: SUU Athletics