Grambling State had won just three volleyball matches all season, and Arkansas-Pine Bluff was aware of it.
The Lady Lions admittedly took Grambling State lightly to start Tuesday’s match and fell behind 10-3 in the first set. But they turned it around and marched to a four-set victory inside H.O. Clemmons Arena.
Final scores were 25-23, 21-25, 25-21, 25-22. It’s UAPB’s second straight victory and fifth in its last seven.
“We came out thinking it was going to be smooth sailing instead of realizing they want to win this as bad as we do,” Lady Lions coach Kyetta May said.
But UAPB is one of Grambling State’s few victims this season, dropping a three-set match on the road Sept. 4. That was part of an 0-9 start to the season for the Lady Lions.
Ashlie Jones, part of a talented front line for the Lady Lions, did her fair share Tuesday. She helped UAPB (10-19, 3-2 SWAC) with a .238 hitting percentage (14 kills and four errors in 42 total attacks) and made 11 digs.
“I know for myself, I told myself, ‘Ashlie, it’s time to pick it up, be the leader on the floor and help the team get up,’” Jones said.
Ayanna Parker (.433) Whitney Harris (.421) led the Lady Lions in hitting. Parker matched Jones’ kills and digs totals and committed just one error, while Harris finished with 12 kills against four errors.
“It’s extremely needed because our defense is so sound,” Jones said. “The defense is helping us win games. If the defense is giving us passes, it’s crucial we put the ball down.”
Freshman libero Courtney Brand gave the Lady Lions outstanding defense with 21 digs.
May called timeout after Grambling State (3-23, 1-6) jumped out to its seven-point lead in the first set. The Lady Lions responded to tie it at 12, but the Lady Tigers raced to an 18-14 lead before a 5-2 UAPB run forced them to call timeout. UAPB broke a 23-all tie and Jones sealed the set with a block.
Grambling State hit .312 (14 kills, four errors) in the second set. Asia Drenon, whose .458 percentage (13 kills, two errors) was a match-high, scored the winning point.
A block by Jordan Foyer and a Grambling State error knotted the third set at 19. UAPB finished it off with a 6-2 run, forcing the Lady Tigers to take two timeouts in the process. An Audrey Sherles kill capped the set.
“Mentally, the third set was important … to give us momentum into the fourth set,” May said.
UAPB scored the last three points of the match, breaking a 22-all tie. Grambling State erred on a serve-receive to end it.
The Lady Lions have four matches remaining in the regular season. They’ll resume action Thursday and Friday at Prairie View A&M and Texas Southern, respectively.
A home match against Southern on Nov. 4 will wrap up SWAC play, followed by the regular-season finale Nov. 11 at home against Arkansas-Monticello.
“These next three games are extremely crucial,” Jones said. “We must go out there and play our hardest and not play around with those teams like we did in the beginning.”