The UCA volleyball team ended the regular pushing their winning streak to seven with victories over University of the Incarnate Word Nov.14 and Texas A&M Corpus Christi Nov.16.
During this streak, the Sugar Bears have leaped from tenth to fifth in the Southland Conference standings with no signs of slowing down.
The Sugar Bears (16-13, 10-6 SLC) completed a 3-0 sweep of the Incarnate Word Cardinals (7-23, 3-13 SLC) on faculty/staff appreciation night and took a 3-1 victory over the Islanders of Texas A&M Corpus Christi (18-11, 11-5 SLC) on an emotional senior day.
Seniors, outside hitter Abbie Harry and setter Elizabeth Armstrong came up big for the Bears in the final game of the regular season. Harry finished with a game-high 21 kills, while Armstrong added a game-high 30 assists.
The bond within the program was on full display after defeating the Islanders as the team took a moment to embrace the journey they’ve been on together.
“It’s like any kind of war movie,” associate head coach Newberry said. “You go through so many things, you’re with each other 24/7, and when you get a chance to be around a family or organization were you all buy in, it’s a beautiful thing. With these guys, they put in all the hard work. They came in every single day with a mindset knowing we weren’t that great at first, but we’re going to get better and better.”
Throughout this journey senior defensive specialist Rayna Jefferies believes carrying passion into each practice and game has helped the Sugar Bears evolve into the team they are now.
“We’ve really had to come together as a team, I think each and every single one of us has bought into this program,” senior defensive specialist Rayna Jefferies said. “We’ve come into every practice and played with heart. We’ve all come in knowing we’re going to make each other better every day and hopefully get a championship ring at the end of it.”
From a strategic standpoint, Newberry believes swifting the team’s focus was a key factor in turning their season around.
“At the beginning of the season we focused a little more on what the other team was going to do,” Newberry said. “And as we got more into our games, we realized we were going to need to worry more about ourselves and our side of the court. We knew everything else would start to fall into place. We’re being consistent right now in many areas we needed to improve on. We can’t be anymore excited to be in that consistent [position of] aggression and determination right now.”
Heading into the Southland Conference Tournament, hosted by UCA in the Farris Center, the Sugar Bears are full of belief in themselves.
“Our confidence is definitely there,” Jefferies said. “[The winning streak] has helped us a lot with having a championship mindset. We’re just flowing really well.”
After closing out the regular season strong, the Sugar Bears has set themselves up for a rematch with the Islanders on Nov. 22 at 6:30 for a matchup between the fourth and fifth seeded teams.