The University of Tulsa Volleyball team won their second tournament in as many weeks as they swept host Arkansas State to win the A-State Invitational on Saturday afternoon. Tulsa (8-1 overall) have their last six matches, equaling the best start since the 2008 team opened the season with eight wins in their first nine contests.
Tulsa came out on top in a tightly contested first set that saw six lead changes and the score tied 11 times. The Golden Hurricane attack was effective throughout the early stages of the set, beginning with an Erica Bohannon kill to open the match before her second kill of the set ended a 5-0 Arkansas State (6-4 overall) run. Jaime Rahilly recorded three consecutive kills, beginning with her first to tie the match before the next two put TU up 10-8.
“It [the early attacking success] set the tone,” said TU Head Coach Ryan Wills. “We averaged over 16 kills a set in the match. We were executing at a high level and took advantage of some weaknesses in their defense and it allowed us to have success. Our attackers made good choices and stayed aggressive. We could’ve been a little more efficient as the match unfolded, but we started off on fire offensively. As the match wore on, our defense stepped up.”
Rebecca Reeve and Haley Coulter combined for two straight kills before Trinity Alualu served two consecutive aces to put Tulsa up by four, 20-16. ASU’s Kenzie Fields tied the match up at 21-21 prior to committing an error that gave TU a one-point advanatage. Bohannon put the Hurricane ahead by two with her fifth kill of the match to bring it to set point before an eventual ASU error sealed the 25-23 win.
The Hurricane survived a late Arkansas State push in the second set on their way to a 25-23 win. Tulsa put together a 4-0 run to take a 14-10 lead behind kills from Rahilly and Reeve and a Brooke Berryhill service ace. Rahilly gave TU their largest lead of the set at 22-14, forcing a Red Wolves timeout. ASU started to put together their push with a quick 3-0 run after the break before forcing a TU timeout with another run to bring the score to 23-20. Bohannon put the Hurricane ahead 24-20, but ASU would not go away as the strung together three straight to pull within one. Rachel Moore came through for Tulsa with her second kill to put the Hurricane up 2-0 in the match at the break.
Tulsa used service aces from Alualu and Ashton Anderson to grab a 9-6 lead early in the third set before Bohannon put TU up 11-7. After an Arkansas State timeout, the Red Wolves took advantage of a few Tulsa errors in a 4-0 that allowed ASU to score eight of the next nine points.
Bohannon started a Tulsa 6-0 that saw two blocks from Alualu and Moore to put the Hurricane ahead 18-15 before ASU eventually tied the set up at 19-19 with another quick run. A back-and-forth ensued over the final moments of the match as the score was tied up five times with ASU serving set point two times and TU serve match point three. Alualu and Rahilly put together two straight Tulsa kills to see match point before a service error tied it up at 28-28. Reeve’s 11th and final kill of the day gave the Hurricane another match point before an ASU attacking error helped seal a 30-28 win and give Tulsa their second straight tournament title in two weeks.
“We’re playing hard, we’re playing with grit,” said Wills. “Our kids are doing the right things, making the right choices, practicing hard. They love the big moments. There were three two-point sets, but they enjoy that and they play hard. That’s the number one thing you ask as a coach.”
Bohannon led Tulsa with 13 kills on the day while Rahilly and Alualu each chipped in nine kills of their own. Berryhill led the TU defense with 16 of their 66 digs.
Tulsa will wrap up non-conference tournament play next weekend when they host the Doubletree Tulsa Volleyball Invitational. The Hurricane will open up the tournament with a match against cross-town rival Oral Roberts at 7 p.m. on Friday.