Photos: UTA volleyball wins first home matches against Arkansas State after COVID-19 postponement

Junior outside hitter Brooke Townsend high-fives her teammates during player introductions before a match against Arkansas State University on Oct. 16 at College Park Center. The Mavericks improved their record to 4-0 this season. 

The volleyball team (5-0, 5-0) picked up two victories over Arkansas State University as part of its home-opening series Friday at College Park Center.

The series had originally been postponed and rescheduled due to quarantine protocols and positive COVID-19 tests by UTA team members.

UTA 3, Arkansas State University 2

The Mavericks started their first match on the right foot, taking a commanding 18-12 lead in the first set and distancing themselves from Arkansas State. The Mavericks won the set 25-20 with sophomore outside hitter Devon Martinka and freshman outside hitters Briana Brown and Brianna Ford leading the team with three kills each.

UTA led 15-13 in the second set of the match, with Ford leading with five kills. The lead didn't last long, as Arkansas State bounced back to gain a 23-19 advantage. The Red Wolves eventually closed out the set with a 25-20 win.

The Mavericks started off strong in the third set, taking a 15-11 lead halfway through, with Martinka leading with seven kills. The Mavericks held on to their lead in the third set as Arkansas State tried battling back, finishing it off with a score of 25-22.

It seemed UTA was en route to winning the match, taking a 10-6 lead early in the fourth set, but the Red Wolves battled back and took a 14-13 lead over the Mavericks.

UTA eventually fell to Arkansas State in the fourth set by a score of 25-22. Arkansas State tied the match 2-2.

In the fifth and decisive set of the match, UTA came out strong, gaining a 6-3 lead. The Mavericks held on, leading 13-7 late in the match and closing out the fifth set with a score of 15-7.

Brown came up big in the first of two matches, notching 15 kills. Sophomore libero Alli Wells led the team in digs with 33, and junior setter Kylee Kapp and freshman setter Mollie Blank were tied with 21 assists each for the match.

UTA 3, Arkansas State University 1

The second match’s first set saw both teams tied early on. The Mavericks were able to distance themselves from Arkansas State, taking an 8-5 lead.

Arkansas State answered back, tying the set at 14-14 and gaining a 20-19 lead. The Mavericks ultimately prevailed and won the set 25-22.

At the start of the second set, UTA was down 2-0 before starting a 4-0 scoring run to take a 4-2 lead.

Arkansas State answered back and regained a 10-6 advantage. The Red Wolves had the upper hand for most of the set, winning it 25-18 and tying the match at 1-1.

UTA started off the third set with a 3-0 run and led 8-5 early. The Red Wolves rallied back and tied things up at 14-14 before taking over and gaining a 19-17 lead.

The Mavericks outscored Arkansas State 6-3 late in the third set to win it 25-22. Ford reached double-digit kills in the set.

In the fourth set, Arkansas State took a 6-point lead after tying things up at 15-15. After the Mavericks cut the lead to 23-21, they held Arkansas State scoreless to win the set 25-23.

Head coach J.T. Wenger was impressed with the way his team was able to keep its composure after dropping the second set in Friday’s second match. He said they played good volleyball from then on.

“That's one of the cool things about volleyball is that once that set ends, it’s just worth one. There's no carry over,” Wenger said. “You got to kind of wipe the slate clean, and they did that, and they came back.”

Wenger said he was impressed with the freshmen on his team, noting they have transitioned well from playing in high school.

Ford and freshman outside hitter Simara Peyton had double-digit kills in the second match. Blank led the team with 24 assists and freshman libero Alyssa Duran had three aces on the day.

“They absolutely absorb information, and they’re learning really quickly,” Wenger said. “They’re eager for the information, they’re eager for the challenge, and as you saw today, they’re very athletic.”

Wenger said he is expecting a defensive battle when UTA faces Arkansas State again Saturday.

Each player was allowed a couple of family members in attendance. These matches are not open to the public this season. Wenger said the atmosphere provided a bit of positivity.

The Mavericks will close out their series against Arkansas State at 1 p.m. Saturday at College Park Center.

@JayRod003

sports-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu

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