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Skyhawk volleyball falls flat at Arkansas State tournament

Published (Volume 76, No. 3)

UTM head volleyball coach Chris Rushing had mixed emotions about his team’s effort in last weekend’s Arkansas State Classic in Jonesboro.

The Skyhawks lost matches to Northwestern State, Arkansas State, Memphis and Arkansas-Little Rock.

“We just didn’t have it Friday,” Rushing said. The Skyhawks lost 3-1 to Northwestern State and 3-0 to Arkansas State, the tournament host and eventual champion.

“We played extremely well Saturday,” Rushing said.

“Had we played that way Friday we would have been 2-0 going into Saturday’s matches against Memphis and Arkansas-Little Rock.”

The Skyhawks lost 3-2 to Memphis and Arkansas-Little Rock.
Senior Jamie Fitzwater led the Skyhakws throughout the tournament. Fitzwater, a 6-0, outside hitter from Naples, Fla., had 59 kills in the four matches. She turned in a .229 hitting percentage and had 16 total blocks and five service aces.

Junior Maribeth Hanneman earned the starting job at setter, while Heather Kea, the team’s only other senior, earned the starting job at the other outside hitter position.

Forced to build around the two seniors, Rushing relied on his talented group of underclassmen.

“Maribeth was a little nervous in the first two games, but she settled down for Saturday’s matches and she was able to get the hitters the ball,” Rushing said

Among the freshmen that played in the tournament were Kirsten Thompson, Mandy Kroll, Kim Tipton, Tammy Konitzer and Krissy Neumann.

“We will continue to see some inconsistency, but that will improve throughout the season,” Rushing said.

A year ago the Skyhawks had six seniors in the starting rotation. The experience helped the Skyhawks win their second consecutive OVC championship and advanced to the NCAA tournament.

“We played liked last year’s team when we played Memphis,” Rushing said.

Junior Leigh Reiniche recorded 24 kills against Memphis and tied a Skyhawk record for kills in a match.

“After day one in this tournament, it looked like a long season,” Rushing said. “After day two, it looked like we could be in the hunt this season. After the entire weekend, the team looks very promising.”

The Skyhawks return to action tonight in the Mississippi State Tournament. The Skyhawks will play today and tomorrow against Mississippi State, Southern Mississippi and Austin Peay.