FORT SMITH — During UAFS’ brief five-year history as member of NCAA Division II, volleyball coach Jane Sargent has taken her Lady Lions across the country to compete in nonconference invitationals to improve their strength of schedule.
Finally, the Lady Lions will host one of their own.
UAFS will host the Mary Beth Sudduth Invitational this weekend at the Stubblefield Center. Six teams will compete in the two-day affair that begins on Friday morning at 10 a.m. and features 11 total matches.
"We are so pleased to be able to showcase the university and our beautiful facilities here at UAFS and to honor our friend Mary Beth Sudduth, who is one of UAFS’ greatest supporters, in our very first NCAA Division II invitational," Sargent said.
UAFS will be host to a very competitive field that includes fellow Heartland Conference member Dallas Baptist (4-3), Harding University (5-4), Washburn University (6-2), Texas Woman’s University (5-3) and Southern Nazarene University (4-4).
The field includes one nationally-ranked team. Washburn is ranked No. 11 in the latest AVCA Division II Top 25. It was ranked No. 6 last week before suffering consecutive five-set losses to No. 24 Central Washington and No. 21 Grand Valley State to start the Colorado School of Mines Oredigger Classic.
"We are excited to have such strong teams in our invitational. All six teams are leading their respective conferences, and one is even nationally ranked," Sargent said. "There will be a lot of great matchups throughout the weekend, so if you like great volleyball come on out. You won’t be disappointed," Sargent said.
UAFS will open play in the invitational against Texas Woman’s at 2 p.m. and Harding at 6 p.m. on Friday and will play Dallas Baptist at 10 a.m. and Washburn at 6 p.m. on Saturday.
The Lady Lions will carry a two-match winning streak into the invitational and are coming off a hard-fought, five-set win against Newman University at the Stubblefield Center on Saturday.
It’s been somewhat of a tough start to the season for the Lady Lions despite winning four of their six matches. With a roster made up of predominantly new players, the Lady Lions have endured their share of growing pains.
"The first two weeks were a little rough. We are still experiencing some growing pains while trying to figure out the lineup and who and what works best," Sargent said. "We have played as good as it gets and just about as bad as it gets, so we are looking for more consistency on both ends of the court. Luckily, we are still at the beginning of our season and have the time to make adjustment that will help us to get better."
This invitational, considering it is on the Lady Lions’ home court, should provide a great opportunity for the Lady Lions to develop more consistency and confidence, Sargent said.
"I hope we are a little closer to finding out what works best for this team," Sargent said. "We know the talent is there. We just have to find ways of making all the pieces fit together for more than one set. I hope after this tournament we are playing with a lot more confidence and consistency."
UAFS-Mary Beth Sudduth Invitational
UAFS Stubblefield Center
Washburn vs. Texas Woman’s University, 10 a.m.
UAFS vs. Texas Woman’s University, 2 p.m.
UAFS vs. Harding, 6 p.m.
Dallas Baptist vs. Harding, 2 p.m.
Dallas Baptist vs. Washburn, 6 p.m.
UAFS vs. Dallas Baptist, 10 a.m.
Dallas Baptist vs. Southern Nazarene, 2 p.m.
UAFS vs. Washburn, 6 p.m.
Washburn vs. Harding, 10 a.m.
Texas Woman’s University vs. Harding, 2 p.m.
Texas Woman’s vs. Southern Nazarene, 6 p.m.