FORT SMITH – So far, so good.
UAFS was picked to win the Heartland Conference regular-season title in the preseason, and as the conference race reaches the midway point, the Lady Lions volleyball team its well on its way to fulfilling those expectations.
The Lady Lions will look to complete a perfect first round of league play on Thursday when they play the Newman Jets at 7 p.m. at Fugate Gymnasium in Wichita, Kan. Live statistics and live stream will be available.
UAFS (16-5, 5-0) leads the conference by two matches over Newman (9-12, 3-2) and St. Mary’s (8-9, 3-2), has a three-match lead over Lubbock Christian (6-12, 3-3), St. Edward’s (12-7, 2-3) and Dallas Baptist (6-10, 2-3) and a five-match lead over Texas A&M International (2-17, 0-5).
The Lady Lions have won 42-consecutive, regular-season, conference matches and haven’t lost a regular season league match since losing in four sets to the Newman Lady Jets on Oct. 9, 2014, at the Stubblefield Center.
Factor in conference tournament matches, and UAFS has won 48 consecutive matches against conference opponents and owns an all-time winning percentage of 91 percent against conference opponents (119-12) over nine seasons.
UAFS has won eight matches in a row overall going into its first-round, conference finale on Thursday and is coming off an impressive four-set, nonconference win against in-state rival Harding (17-3) on Monday night at Rhodes-Reaves Fieldhouse in Searcy.
Harding’s previous two losses were against No. 20 Central Missouri and No. 16 Arkansas Tech.
UAFS has compiled a 0.220 hitting percentage. Sophomore outside hitter Anna Demmer, who is this week’s conference Offensive Player of the Week, leads the team in kills (308), kills per set (4.22) and aces (26). Senior setter Susannah Kelley, who is this week’s conference Setter of the Week, leads the team in assists (858) and assists per set (10.86).
The Lady Lions have held opponents to a 0.151 hitting percentage. Junior middle hitter Debra Rogers leads the team in solo blocks (25), block assists (80), total blocks (105) and blocks per set (1.33). Junior libero Autumn Reese, who is this week’s conference Defensive Player of the Week, leads the team in digs (551) and digs per set (6.97).
Newman snapped a three-match losing streak on Saturday with a sweep of Texas A&M International.
The Jets have compiled a 0.197 hitting percentage. Senior right-side hitter Emily Harvey leads the team in kills (276) and kills per set (3.73). Sophomore setter Megan Pederson leads the team in assists (440) and assists per set (6.29), and senior outside hitter Kayla Turner leads the team in aces (19).
Newman has held opponents to a 0.174 hitting percentage. Junior middle blocker Yemima Buana leads the team in solo blocks (18), junior middle blocker Crystal Powell leads the team in block assists (34), total blocks (64) and blocks per set (0.84). Senior libero Anna Burton leads the team in digs (445) and digs per set (5.71).