By Robert Walden, ORU Assistant Director of Media Relations
TULSA, Okla. – Head Coach Sheera Sirola earned her 200th career victory on Thursday night as Oral Roberts University rallied to beat Stephen F. Austin, 3-2, in a classic battle at the Kenneth H. Cooper Aerobics Center. With the win, ORU improves to 13-2 (5-0 Southland Conference) on the season.
ORU took the thriller by scores of 25-16, 22-25, 21-25, 25-23 and 15-13.
Already ORU’s career wins leader, Sirola tallied her 200th victory in front of a packed crowd of more than 500 onlookers at the Aerobics Center. The Croatia native led ORU to the 1994 and 1995 NCAA Tournaments as a student-athlete and was named Mid-Continent Conference Coach of the Year in 2006, when she guided the Golden Eagles back to the postseason.
ORU hit .234 for the match and tallied a season-high 72 kills as a team. Sara Pope led the way with 19 kills, matching a career high, and McKenna Qualls had a big night with 15 kills.
In the middle of the attack was setter Laura Taylor, who matched a career high with 55 assists and added a double-double with 10 digs.
Senior Bruna Silva also had a monster effort in the historic victory, with a season-high 36 digs.
Stephen F. Austin (10-7, 2-2 SLC) was led by Jill Ivy, who blasted 19 kills before leaving late in the 5th set with an apparent knee injury. OJ Olsen added 21 digs for the Ladyjacks, who hit .182 as a club.
The heart of SFA’s performance was their block, as they finished with 16 total blocks on the evening. Jacque Allen had seven individual blocks to lead the way.
Not to be outdone, Qualls and Jessica Pancratz had seven blocks each to power ORU.
The Golden Eagles were barely tested in the opening set, using a seven-point rally midway through the period to take a 21-12 lead. Luara Rosa tallied kills on the final two points to give ORU a 25-16 win. The Golden Eagles hit .395 as a team and looked poised to claim their fifth consecutive 3-0 victory.
But the Ladyjacks had other plans, storming back to take the 2nd set. Down 17-14, the visitors scored six straight points, capped by an Amanda Rister service ace, to take a 20-17 lead. The advantage would hold, as Ivy ended the frame with a kill, giving SFA a 25-22 win.
The road team scored four of the first five points in the 3rd set and never looked back. Leslie Jackson gave the Ladyjacks a lead at 10-9, and they never trailed again. A Tori Bates kill at set point gave SFA the lead with a 25-21 victory.
ORU fought back in the 4th set, building a 16-12 lead on a Qualls kill. But the Ladyjacks tied it up at 23-all on a kill by Ivy, bringing the visitors to within two points of a victory.
The Golden Eagles won the next two points, however, to claim the set. Pancratz broke the tie with a kill and Qualls followed with a smash of her own to end the frame at 25-23, forcing a decisive 5th set.
Pope and Jovana Poljasevic combined on a monster block to give ORU an 8-5 lead in the final set, giving the Golden Eagles a comfortable lead as the teams changed ends. But SFA stormed back again, taking an 11-10 lead on another Ivy kill and stretching it to 13-10 on a Madison Martin ace.
But ORU scored the final five points of the match, starting with consecutive kills by Rosa and Kylie Johnson. The visitors committed attack errors on the next two points, and a combined block by Taylor and Pancratz at match point ended the contest and sent the Aerobics Center into euphoria. ORU won the final set, 15-13, to secure the 3-2 win.
Pope and Qualls weren’t the only Golden Eagles to record double-digit kills, as Pancratz finished with 11 and Rosa racked up 10. Poljasevic also had a big night, with six kills and six total blocks (one solo).
ORU completes their weekend home series on Saturday afternoon, when Southland Conference foe Northwestern State visits the Aerobics Center. First serve is booked for 2 pm CT.