Arkansas Tech trips Oklahoma Baptist in GAC volleyball finals

Oklahoma Baptist Athletics
Shawnee News-Star, USA TODAY NETWORK
Oklahoma Baptist senior outside hitter Taryn Weber (5) strikes the ball over an Arkansas Tech block attempt on Saturday.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Arkansas Tech won a tightly-contested Great American Conference Tournament final over Oklahoma Baptist on Saturday afternoon, winning in five sets at Bank OZK Arena.

The Golden Suns used rallies in the third and fifth sets to keep the Bison from winning their third straight tourney title. 

ATU clinched the GAC’s automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament with the win. For OBU, it had to wait and see if it received an at-large bid when the bracket which was announced on Monday night.

Upon conclusion of the match, seniors Kaylee Buell and Malia Leatherland were named to the All-Tournament team.

ATU got out to an 8-3 lead after an ace by Jamie Myrick before OBU settled down. Down 18-13, the green and gold reeled off five straight which included two Avery Hellmuth kills. The score got knotted up a few more times after that, including 21-all on an Audrey Poupard kill. However, the Golden Suns ended the first with a 4-2 run.

In the second, the Bison trailed only once. Leatherland registered two kills while Buell and Taryn Weber added points to push the green and gold ahead 7-2. That hot start helped OBU maintain that lead. OBU hit .389 and tied the match up at 1-1 after a kill by Leatherland, bringing the score to 25-15.

More than midway through the third, OBU looked prime to go up 2-1. The Bison led 18-12 after an ATU attack error which forced a timeout. After the break though, the Golden Suns scored six unanswered including two kills from Kaitlyn Bradley. OBU later led 22-21, however, ATU found another streak, this one four straight to close the set.

The back and forth match continued as the Bison prevailed 25-19 in the fourth. OBU’s big stretch in that set came courtesy of Hellmuth. Up 15-13, the green and gold’s middle blocker secured two kills and a block to move ahead 21-14. Additionally, Taneyah Brown, Poupard, Weber and Leatherland notched points. By the end, OBU won 25-19.

The fifth and final set initially favored the Bison. They scored seven of the first eight including two kills from Poupard and a block assist from Brown and Hellmuth.

Arkansas Tech took a timeout, and like it had in the third, put together a rally. Out of the break, the Golden Suns scored six straight. OBU later went up 10-9 on a Leatherland kill, but again, the No. 3-seeded team came back. In fact, the Golden Suns scored six in a row to win the match. Abby Simpson had three of those points while there was an ace from Madison Grantham which gave the Golden Suns the lead for good.