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Courtesy: UTSA Athletics

UTSA holds off Central Arkansas in five sets for Southland Tournament Championship

Courtesy: UTSA Athletics Communications
Release: 11/29/2010
Courtesy UTSA Athletics Communications
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HUNTSVILLE No. 2 seed UTSA overcame a late fifth-set deficit to upend top-seeded Central Arkansas by scores of 25-17, 25-22, 19-25, 21-25, 15-13 on Sunday at Johnson Coliseum and the Roadrunners won the second-ever Southland Conference Tournament Championship in program history (third overall).

UTSA (22-11) trailed 8-6 in the final frame before scoring four consecutive points to take a 10-8 lead. The Sugar Bears (22-8) stopped the run with a winner from Kyle Hartman, but the Birds then went on a 4-2 run for match point. Central Arkansas fought off elimination twice, but sophomore Whitney Walls slammed home a winner to send the Roadrunners to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in a decade.

"I've wanted this to happen for so long," head coach Laura Neugebauer-Groff said. "It's a dream come true. It was a tough match to win. Central Arkansas is a very good team, but I'm proud of our team for coming back."

Senior Kendra Rowland was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player after notching her third consecutive double-double of the weekend. The first-team All-Southland performer racked up a match-high 22 kills and 17 digs. Walls (15 kills) and fellow sophomore Kelsey Schwirtlich (49 assists/11 digs) joined Rowland on the all-tournament team.

"I've been waiting for this moment for four years," Rowland said. "It's a phenomenal feeling. All the hard work we've put in this season has paid off."

UTSA received another solid performance from sophomore Brittney Malloy who notched 14 winners and blocked a team-best five Sugar Bears attacks. Junior Kelsey Jewasko collected a team-high 20 digs, while sophomore Megan Wimbish tallied 17.

Central Arkansas received double-doubles from Jessica Hays (match-high 22 kills/22 digs), Chloe Smith (16 kills/14 digs) and Marissa Collins (53 assists/10 digs).

Collins and Smith, along with Lamar's Jayme Bazile, joined the trio of Roadrunners on the the all-tournament squad.

After UTSA busted out to a 2-0 lead, the Sugar Bears answered back after intermission with a 16-4 run to win the third set. UCA then sent the contest to a fifth-and-deciding frame and looked to have momentum on its side.

The Roadrunners will learn their NCAA Tournament destination and first-round opponent on Sunday, Nov. 28, when the 64-team bracket will be announced on ESPNews between 2-2:30 p.m. (CT). The first and second rounds will be played on campus sites throughout the country from Dec. 2-5.

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