SFA earns second-straight Southland Tournament Championship

The Ladyjacks took home their second consecutive SLC championship title on Nov. 24 after a 3-1 win against the Sam Houston State Bearkats. SFA will play USC in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday.

After another undefeated season and a second consecutive Southland Conference tournament win, the Ladyjacks will play in the first round of the NCAA tournament against the University of Southern California Trojans at 5 p.m. Friday at the Ferrell Center in Waco.

SFA volleyball finished its season with a 31-1 overall record, a 16-0 conference record, a .969 winning percentage and a 24- game winning streak. The Trojans finished their season with a 17-13 overall record, an 11-9 conference record and a .567 winning percentage. In the NCAA rating percentage index (RPI) poll, SFA remained No. 29 while USC was selected No. 28. In the AVCA Coaches poll, neither team was ranked, but SFA had votes to make up 57 points, and USC had 20 points.

After defeating the Sam Houston State Bearkats 3-1 in the final match of the SLC tournament, honors were given to three Ladyjack seniors, outside hitter Corin Evan earning All-Tournament Most Valuable Player, middle blocker Danae Daron and setter Ann Hollas earning All-Tournament Team.

This will be USC’s 29th straight appearance in the NCAA tournament and 37th appearance for the program. USC has won six national championships. Last year, they advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament after 3-0 win against Samford but lost 3-0 against the University of San Diego.

The Trojans are sixth in the PAC-12 Conference. The top five team of the conference who will also play first-round games on Friday were Stanford University, University of Washington, University of Utah, University of California in Los Angeles and Washington State University.

They come off a 3-0 loss against UCLA, ranked fourth in their conference. The Trojans have a .145 hitting percentage for the game and allowed UCLA a .250 hitting percentage and 47 kills. USC’s sophomore setter Raquel Lazaro, from Cordoba, Spain, had a double-double with 27 assists and 10 digs.

USC is led by the programs second all-time leader in kills with 1,996 and All-American outside hitter, senior Khalia Lanier. Lanier has a season high of 40 kills with a .264 hitting percentage, averaging 4.93 kills per set. She is also averaging 0.14 assists per set, 2.24 digs per set and 0.35 blocks per set. On offense, the team averages a .243 attacking percentage while allowing opponents a .214 attacking percentage.

On defense, the Trojans average 13.3 digs per set and 2.7 blocks per set. Leading the team in digs is Lazaro with 345 digs this season, averaging 2.74 digs per set. With two Spanish National Championship gold medals under her belt, Lazaro was named the PAC-12 Freshman of the Year, was an AVCA All-American honorable mention, Volleyball Magazine All-Freshman First Team and Volleyball Magazine All-American honorable mention as well as several more accolades last season. Another defensive contributor is senior middle blocker Jasmine Gross leads in blocks with 170, 14 solo blocks and 156 assisted blocks, averaging 1.39 blocks per set.

The game will be broadcast on ESPN3. The winner of the match will play in the second round at 8 p.m. on Saturday against the winner in the matchup between Baylor University, who was ranked first in the RPI and in the AVCA Coaches poll with 43 votes and 1575 points, and Sacred Heart University, who will play at 7 p.m. Friday.

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