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Courtesy: Southland Conference

UTSA sweeps way into Southland Conference Tournament final

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CONWAY, Ark. — No. 2 seed UTSA recorded 15 team blocks and received a match-high 19 digs from senior Kelsey Jewasko in a 26-24, 25-17, 25-11 sweep of third-seeded Sam Houston State in Saturday's first semifinal of the Southland Conference Tournament.

The Roadrunners (22-10) will play for their second consecutive league title against I-35 rival Texas State (26-7) at 2 p.m. on Sunday. The winner will earn the Southland's automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.

Jewasko anchored a strong defensive effort that limited the Bearkats (18-13) to a .030 hitting percentage and forced 31 errors.

"It's known that defense wins games and that's what we did today," 10th-year head coach Laura Neugebauer-Groff said. "We topped them in all of the defensive categories."

The three-time first-team All-Southland selection was joined in double figures by fellow senior Elise Huskey, who collected 17 saves.

The Roadrunners managed their 17th sweep of the year despite hitting a season-low .095.

"When you look at the stats, you might think we weren't very good," Neugebauer-Groff said of her team's offensive performance. "However, we were hitting some good shots and Sam Houston State was playing well at the net, again."

Carli Kolbe tallied a match-high 12 kills for Sam Houston State.

Huskey paced the Birds to a hard-fought, opening-frame victory that featured eight ties and three lead changes. The Columbus native netted four kills and four digs to lead the way.

With the set tied 15, Sam Houston State's Kim Black served the ball into the net, which put the Roadrunners on top. Huskey accounted for two of UTSA's next three points on kills to push the advantage to three. The Bearkats battled back to tie things up at 24, but Huskey and sophomore McKenzie Adams combined on a block to gain a one-point lead. Redshirt junior Kelsey Schwirtlich then closed it the trimuph on the next rally with a cross-court winner.

UTSA turned up the defensive pressure with six total blocks and 24 digs, including 10 from Huskey, in the second frame.

The Roadrunners raced out to a 16-9 lead after junior Brittney Malloy slammed down a set from Schwirtlich. Sam Houston State was unable to get any closer than five points late in the frame. UTSA pushed the lead back to seven (24-17) and then Adams picked up her third winner in the set on a blocking error by the Bearkats.

A balanced performance to open the third stanza allowed the Roadrunners to open a 9-1 advantage. However, the Bearkats responded with a 12-1 run to take a three-point lead. Sam Houston State stayed in front and increased its advantage to 21-17 before the Birds mounted a late comeback.

Following a Kaylee Hawkins attack error, Adams and junior Whitney Walls netted back-to-back winners, which pulled UTSA within one. The same duo combined on a block to tie the set and another error from Hawkins gave UTSA the lead for good. With UTSA holding a 24-22 edge, freshman Dempsey Thornton notched the final winner to send the Birds into the championship match.

Sunday's contest will be televised on the Southland Television Network (check local listings/KCWX Channel 2 in San Antonio) and it also will be available online at ESPN3.com.

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