A sweet trip to the nation’s capital was made even sweeter as the UCA volleyball team (4-0) was crowned champion of the Georgetown Invitational on Aug. 31.
The combination of teamwork and individual success put the Bears in a position of prosperity as freshman outside hitter Alexis Stumbough, junior defensive specialist Emily Doss and sophomore right side hitter Madi Bowles were all named to the invitational’s All-Tournament team.
Bowles was also named MVP, finishing the invitational averaging nearly three points per set, a .364 hitting percentage and a total of 45 kills.
With wins over Rider (0-4), Central Connecticut State (1-2), Sacred Heart (1-2) and Georgetown (3-1) universities, the Bears leaped into a blazing start of the season.
Doss credited the team’s early success to the culture and mindset created within the program.
“The team chemistry this year is unlike any other,” Doss said. “Each and every one of us love being around each other and we all want the best for the person next to us, whether that be on or off the court. The atmosphere in our gym daily is encouraging and competitive which is just what a successful program needs to get wins and championships.”
However, wins at the Georgetown Invitational did not come easily, as the Bears went into a fifth set in each of the first two game.
In its first contest of the season on Aug. 30, UCA’s resiliency was put to the test in a matchup with Rider University. The Broncs brought the fire in the opening set despite UCA’s early 11-8 lead. Rider finished the set on a 17-7 run to win the initial set 25-15.
The two teams would go on to exchange set wins throughout the game until the Bears finally took control in the fourth. In the set, UCA started and finished strong, jumping out to a 7-1 lead and also ending with six straight points to force a fifth set.
In the fifth, the Bears recorded 10 kills and took the victory behind a pair of kills from junior middle blocker Amari Mitchell and sophomore outside hitter Lexi Miller.
The second matchup against Central Connecticut was another back and forth affair that went the distance. In the contest, senior and junior setters Elizabeth Armstrong and Bailey Waddington combined for 45 assists to propel the Bears offense.
To close out the game with the Blue Devils, UCA took another early lead and never let Central Connecticut cut the lead any shorter than four.
On the next day of competition the Bears played with a much more dominating fire, only losing one set in the two games against Sacred Heart and Georgetown Universities.
The Bears took the first two sets 25-18 and 25-21 before the Sacred Heart Pioneers were able to make a stand. The Pioneers jumped out to an early eight point lead in the third set, but UCA responded with a vengeance.
The Bears took a 25-24 lead late in the set, but were unable to complete the sweep. Sacred Heart was able to come away set win 29-27 and force a fourth set.
This was the only sign of any weakness in UCA’s amor, as they responded by putting the game away with a 25-22 set win behind Stumbough’s second kill of the set followed by two more kills from Waddington.
This set up a championship match between UCA and host university Georgetown, both undefeated teams at the time.
The Bears were able to make quick work of the Hoyas, winning the match 3-0 while only committing 12 errors. They also finished with 38 kills, along with a game-high of 12 diggs from Doss.
The Bears also made sure to make the most of their D.C trip outside of the invitational and continue building team chemistry.
“The experience traveling to the nation's capital was amazing,” Doss said. “Not everybody gets the opportunity to see the history and background of our country, we got to see the capitol, the Lincoln Monument, and stand almost in the front lawn of the nations white house which I know will be a great memory for all of us.”
The Bear’s next competition will come Sept. 5 as they travel to Manhattan, Kansas for the Kansas State Invitational.