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GAC volleyball tourney returns to Bank OZK Arena

ARKADELPHIA -- After posting its most successful regular season since 2001, the Henderson State volleyball team looks to get its first ever win in the Great American Conference tournament today when the Reddies take on the Oklahoma Baptist Lady Bison in the quarterfinals.

Henderson (26-5, 13-3), as the No. 3 seed, and Oklahoma Baptist (16-16, 9-7), as the No. 6 seed, will open up the tournament today at Bank OZK Arena. They will be followed at 2:30 p.m. by the 2-7 matchup between Southwestern Oklahoma State (20-6, 13-3) and Southern Nazarene (17-15, 9-7). The winners of the two matches will meet in the semifinals on Friday at 3:30 p.m.

Ouachita Baptist (22-8, 11-5) will close the first day of the tournament at 7:30 p.m. as the fourth seed against fifth seed Arkansas Tech (17-11, 10-6). Top seed Harding (22-7, 15-1) will meet Northwestern Oklahoma State (18-13, 7-9) at 5 p.m. The winners of the second two quarterfinal matches will meet Friday at 6 p.m. in the other semifinal.

Henderson had never won more than eight matches in GAC play before this season. The team's 13 conference wins included season sweeps of rival Ouachita and perennial power Arkansas Tech. The Reddies finished in a second-place tie with Southwestern, but they are the No. 3 seed after losing out on the tiebreaker.

They defeated Oklahoma Baptist, 16-25, 25-19, 25-22, 25-18, in late October. Adrianna Hartmann and Courtney Bolf shared the team lead with 13 kills, while Karlie Greene added 12. A season-high five Reddies collected double-digit digs in the match, led by Gigi Garramone with 15.

This marks only the second time Henderson has participated in the GAC tournament. The Reddies also qualified in 2016 and finished the season 13-16 overall and 8-8 in conference play after losing to eventual champion Southern Nazarene in the opening round.

Oklahoma Baptist had an up and down 2018 season, but back-to-back wins against Southeastern Oklahoma State (8-20, 4-12) and Southern Nazarene gave the Lady Bison a winning record in GAC play and put them safely in the postseason tournament. They only had a 3-6 record through the first nine matches of the season before posting a 5-1 record in the first six matches of the conference season.

The Lady Bison attack is led by Mikayla Watson, an All-GAC Second Team selection in 2017 who ranks third in the GAC in kills per set with 3.53. Head coach Anna Howle is one of the most successful coaches in the GAC and has compiled a 288-131 record in 10 years at Oklahoma Baptist, taking home three Coach of the Year awards.

Bolf leads Henderson with 393 kills, while Taylor Scalzi is the team leader in assists with 568. Greene and Hartman have each made 116 blocks, while Garramone currently has 400 digs.

Sports on 11/08/2018

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