Volleyball falls to rival in Southland Conference championship game

The Roadrunners met their I-35 rival Texas State Bobcats in the Southland Conference Final Sunday, Nov. 19 in Conway, Arkansas. UTSA and Texas State split the regular season series when they met. The Bobcats topped the Roadrunners in four sets to capture the 2011 Southland Conference championship, 25-20, 25-22, 16-25 and 25-17.

“It’s a disappointment, I do feel like we had the best team,” Head Coach Laura Neugebauer-Groff said. “We just couldn’t get in a rhythm.”   

The Bobcats jumped to an early game lead by winning the first two sets. The Runners put up a fight in set three, with 11 ties and four lead changes. The Runners were also able to extend the game and avoid the sweep (16-25). However the Bobcats won the final set for the Southland Championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

McKenzie Adams led the both teams with 17 kills in the game and Whitney Walls and Brittney Malloy contributing with 11 kills each. Adams and Malloy had six blocks to contribute to the defensive efforts of the Roadrunners.

Despite the loss, the consistent defender, Kelsey Jewasko, recorded 17 digs in the championship game. These digs were enough to make Jewasko UTSA’s all time dig leader with 2,280.  

“Anyone that associated with her on or off the court knows that she’s such a wonderful person and very talented volleyball player,” Neugebauer-Groff said.  “She’s a gift for UTSA to have, and she basically put UTSA on the map for volleyball and that’s because of her skills and leadership.”

Red-shirt junior setter Kelsey Schwirtlich kept the Roadrunners’ offense flowing the best she could with 46 assists in the game.

The Bobcats’ Amari Deardorff led the Texas State side with 12 kills. This season is the last time these two teams will meet each other in the Southland Conference, as both teams, along with the University of Texas at Arlington will move into the Western Athletic Conference (WAC). Groff is excited for a new start and new challenges with acceptance to this new conference, which will help UTSA grow even more.

“We played Texas State and the gym was packed. So when we play teams like New Mexico State and Idaho, teams with reputable volleyball programs, we can pack our gym for a lot of our home matches,” Coach Groff said.

The future for UTSA’s volleyball is a bright one and Roadrunner fans can expect the same intensity and a bright future. Along with standout sophomore Adams, consistent offensive contributors Walls and Malloy and starting freshman Dempsey Thornton will return to play for the birds next year.

“It’s very exciting to know that we have that kind of foundation, and the freshman class and our incoming recruiting class is very strong,” Neugebauer-Groff said. “I can’t wait for the start of next year.”

UTSA concluded its 21st and final season in the Southland conference. The Roadrunners left with an impressive resume within the conference. The Roadrunners have claimed one regular season title (1999), and two Southland tournament titles (2000 and 2010).