Little Rock (LR) volleyball struggled this weekend, dropping the first three matches of its season at the Arkansas Classic in Fayetteville. The Trojans failed to win a single set in two days of competition versus Montana State, Northwestern State and in-state rival Arkansas.
The tournament kicked off Friday morning with a match versus Montana State. Although the Trojans entered the match with a better 2018 record than the Bobcats, LR failed to capture any early momentum and only took its first lead midway through the final set. Despite some improvement in the team’s play as the match progressed, LR dropped all three sets by scores of 25-11, 25-11 and 25-21.
While the team struggled, sophomore Laura Jansen notched 13 digs, a career high for the Trojan outside hitter. Freshman Janae Thurston, competing in her first collegiate match, led the team with seven kills.
LR didn’t have long to focus on the opening loss. Some eight hours later, the team faced off against Arkansas in the first regular-season meeting and second overall match between the two programs. An opponent of Arkansas’ quality would always prove a challenge for the Trojans. But playing them only hours after another match and in Arkansas’ home arena compounded the challenge.
In spite of difficult circumstances, LR competed from the opening point, pushing Arkansas to the limit in the first two sets.
The Trojans leveled with the Razorbacks five times in the opening set before dropping it 25-20.
The second set proved just as competitive, with LR coming within two points of Arkansas, 23-21, as the set closed. Again, the deficit proved too much to overcome, as the Razorbacks took the second set 25-21.
Fatigued against fierce SEC opposition, LR couldn’t keep up with the Razorbacks and dropped the final set 25-12.
Jansen and senior Diana Giordani led the Trojans with two service aces apiece, while Giordani tallied nine digs.
LR saved its best performance for last, competing with Northwestern State through all three sets on Saturday afternoon. Despite failing to win a set, the match was the Trojans’ most competitive of the tournament, with 11 ties and five lead changes and final set scores of 25-20, 25-17, and 25-17.
Senior middle hitter Carol Barbosa starred for the Trojans with seven kills on her way to a spot on the All-Tournament Team, while sophomore Nathalia Vigineski recorded 10 assists.
Another weekend tournament approaches for LR in the Oral Roberts Classic in Tulsa next weekend. The Trojans will face Illinois State, Air Force and tournament host Oral Roberts on Friday and Saturday.
While the season hasn’t started according to plan for the Trojans, LR can take some positives from their three opening matches. LR competed with quality opposition in Arkansas and put together feisty performances to extend sets throughout the weekend.
Perhaps most importantly, the youthful Trojans gained valuable experience away from the comfort of the Jack Stephens Center.