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Courtesy: Southland Conference

UTSA sweeps Stephen F. Austin to advance to Southland Conference Tournament semifinals

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CONWAY, Ark. — No. 2 seed UTSA used a balanced attack and hit .392 en route to a 25-21, 25-20, 25-14 sweep of seventh-seeded Stephen F. Austin in Friday's opening quarterfinal of the Southland Conference Tournament.

The defending champion Roadrunners (21-10) will play in Saturday's semifinals against No. 3 seed Sam Houston State (18-12), who defeated sixth-seeded UT Arlington in five sets, at 5 p.m.

"Our performance was great," 10th-year head coach Laura Neugebauer-Groff said after the match "We started off a little hesitant, but we regained our confidence throughout the match."

Redshirt junior Kelsey Schwirtlich guided the Birds to the steady offensive performance with a match-high 41 assists.

"Kelsey did a great job distributing today," Groff said. "Our ball handling was really good, which gave her options to run the offense and distribute the ball evenly."

Seniors Elise Huskey and Kelsey Jewasko anchored the Roadrunners on defense with 14 and 10 digs, respectively.

Junior Brittney Malloy started and ended the scoring to lead the Roadrunners to the first set victory. The San Antonio native racked up five kills and led UTSA to a .375 hitting percentage in the panel.

Stephen F. Austin (14-18) opened up a 4-1 lead, but the Birds answered with a 5-0 run that was capped by back-to-back kills from junior Whitney Walls. UTSA used another 5-0 run to push out to a 13-7 advantage. The Ladyjacks pulled within two (23-21), but Malloy posted two consecutive winners to close out the frame.

The Ladyjacks held a 19-16 lead in the second stanza, but an 8-0 spurt by the Roadrunners pushed the momentum to UTSA's side. The Birds surrendered a point to allow SFA within four, but Walls finished off the set with a slam off a set from Schwirtlich.

UTSA hit at a .500 clip in the final frame and jumped out to a large lead.

The Roadrunners pushed out to a 16-5 advantage on the strength of 10 kills. The Ladyjacks were unable to pull within single digits the rest of the way and the Birds cruised to their 16th sweep of the season.

Jill Ivy paced Stephen F. Austin with 12 kills.

UTSA will look to advance to the championship match at 5 p.m. on Saturday.

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