The Texas State volleyball team claimed the Sun Belt Conference title against UT-Arlington in straight sets at Troy, Ala. Nov. 23, qualifying for an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
“I get teary-eyed when I watch the team celebrate,” said Coach Karen Chisum. “That’s really what has kept me coaching for so long, just to see the players’ excitement when they win. I’m very proud that Texas State can be represented as champions of a sport.”
Three seniors on the team produced career-best performances during this season. Ashlee Hilbun, senior middle blocker, generated 24 kills during the team’s game against UTSA, finishing with a .548 hitting percentage. Hilbun ended her final year with a team-best .315 hitting percentage, ranking fourth in SBC competition.
Molly Ahrens, senior middle blocker, had a career-high in kills against Troy, registering 14 in the contest. Ahrens finished with 186 kills on the year, which was fourth best on the team.
Amari Deardorff, senior right-side hitter, finished the season with a team-high 430 kills. Deardorff averaged 3.23 kills per set during the season, placing her seventh the Sun Belt Conference.
“This team has been a building process even before preseason started,” Deardorff said. “We really grew as a team throughout the season and peaked just at the right time. This is an awesome win to be able to share with the entire team.”
Junior setter Caylin Mahoney accumulated team-high 1,230 assists during the season, averaging 8.98. Mahoney ended the game without an error during the championship performance against UTA. She also finished the contest with eight kills and a game-high 38 assists. Mahoney was named “Most Outstanding Player” in the conference tournament.
“From the start, it was a goal for us to compete for the Sun Belt championship,” Mahoney said. “This win doesn’t feel real right now. I think it was very important that the team was able to bond during the summer and work together. We definitely kept that bond going throughout the season and peaked at just the right time.”
The Bobcats had a supporting cast of underclassmen that contributed to the success of the team. Shelby Vas Matt, freshman outside hitter, was an integral component in the process. Vas Matt was named “Freshman of the Week” on two occasions during the season. The Oregon native ended her first collegiate season with 283 kills, averaging 2.10 per set.
Sierra Smith, sophomore defensive specialist, gathered 540 digs during the season. Smith registered a career-high 37 digs Oct. 9 against the Mavericks. Smith finished eighth in the conference in digs for the year.
Texas State finished first in the Sun Belt in opponent hitting percentage, restricting its competitors to an average of .159. Hilbun and Ahrens contributed in the team’s defensive success, both finishing within the top six in conference in blocking.
Although the team had some questionable moments during the season, it peaked at the right time. During the season, whether winning or losing, the team rallied around each other, continuing to maintain a winning mentality.
The Bobcats will encounter number one seed Texas in Austin Thursday. The team represents one of four Texas universities that qualified for the
“It’s a great opportunity for these young ladies,” Chisum said. “They deserve it, and we want to compete and represent Texas State to our fullest.”