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The Hawkeye

The Student News Site of University of Louisiana Monroe

The Hawkeye

The Student News Site of University of Louisiana Monroe

The Hawkeye

2nd match win breaks SBC losing streak

Beau Benoit

After a little more than two years, ULM volleyball can celebrate a win versus a Sun Belt Conference opponent. 

Following a quick 3-0 loss to Arkansas State (13-13; 3-11 SBC), the Warhawks (5-23; 1-13 SBC) rallied in game two with a decisive 3-1 win.

Head coach Matt Kearns said he felt this win meant more to the team than a typical victory. 

“It’s a big deal for some of them because you’ve got kids who’ve been here for a long time, and they haven’t won a game against these Sun Belt teams yet,” Kearns said. “Just to get it for them, it’s huge.” 

This win ends a two-year winless drought in conference play spanning 44 regular season matches, with the most recent win occurring in 2021 against Georgia State. 

Game one continued the trend of conference losses. A gruesome 25-12 set one loss and an offensive meltdown in sets two and three gave the Red Wolves the match.

Going into the game, players said they felt a win was possible, which was why the loss stung worse than anything they’ve felt before in the season, according to the team.

“We got swept horribly, and we didn’t play our best. We didn’t show up like we should’ve,” sophomore setter Bailey Roberson said. “It really hit hard [Friday] for some reason, more than the previous losses because we came into this game thinking we had a shot, and we let it get the best of us.”

Luckily for the Warhawks, the quick turnaround meant a chance at redemption wasn’t far away. “[Friday], we had a stern talking to from every single one of our teammates,” junior libero Cameron Rodgers said. “Our mindsets completely changed coming into [Saturday’s] game, and I think we played for each other instead of ourselves.”

The first set of game two didn’t show any drastic changes from the ULM side of the ball, as the Warhawks trailed the Red Wolves for the majority of the match. Keeping the match within reach but never overtaking the opponent, ULM lost the first set 25-23.

Momentum swung in favor of the Warhawks when Arkansas State opened the second set with three attacking errors. A 5-point run by the Red Wolves tied the two teams, but ULM reclaimed the lead which lasted all the way through the end. 

Both teams battled for the lead in set three. Amidst bad sets and attacking errors by the Red Wolves, Roberson assisted in breaking ahead 20-12. 

Facing another chance at winning, Roberson started the serve for set four. She said she felt the pressure of the game and knew something needed to change.

“Having such a long losing streak, you think ‘we must be cursed’ because we’ve been able to hang with all of these teams,” Roberson said. “There was a huge mental switch like, ‘We have to win this game.’”

Roberson began what turned into an 8-point run to start the set. After multiple Arkansas State errors and runs by the Warhawks, the lead quickly rose to 22-9. 

The Red Wolves didn’t give up, and the lead diminished just as quickly as it appeared. 

Arkansas State stood right at the doorstep of an upset, going on a 5-point run to trail 24-19. 

Thanks to outside hitter Ariana Brown, any chance at a comeback was laid to rest, and the Warhawks finally could celebrate their first conference win in over two years.

With such a young roster, this win marks the first conference victory ever for some members of the team, including Kearns. When talking about what’s next for the team, Kearns only had two words: “more wins.” 

Kearns said the team won’t think much about the early season losses or even the heartfelt first victory. Instead, he said the team will remember something much larger than a regular season win.

“What we’re going to remember is what happens in November,” Kerns said. “So that’s what all of our focus is on right now. We’re going to show up, we’re going to try to beat Georgia State, and then we’re going to try to make some waves in this conference tournament.”

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