For the first time in their history, the University of Central Arkansas Sugar Bears, who have won the East Division four years in a row, will host the Southland Conference volleyball tournament.

Play will be at the Farris Center.

The top eight teams from the SLC qualified for the tournament with the winner gaining a berth in the NCAA tournament. The Sugar Bears are the No. 4 seed in the tournament and will square off with No. 5 seed Lamar in first round action on at 6:30 p.m. Friday.     

The Sugar Bears and Cardinals have met each other twice this season already. UCA won the first meeting on Oct. 15 at the Prince Center, 3-1, but fell to the Cardinals in Beaumont, Texas, on Nov. 5 by the same score.     

"Lamar is a very talented team and they do many things well," UCA coach David McFatrich said. "We’ve seen enough of each other during the regular season to know each other’s tendencies."    

Lamar will enter Friday’s match having won four of its last five matches. The Lady Cardinals finished off the regular season with a 3-1 victory over Stephen F. Austin on Saturday. Meanwhile, UCA rides in with two straight victories including a 3-2 victory over Southeastern Louisiana Saturday at the Farris Center. Saturday’s win over the Lions marked the second win in as many tries for the Sugar Bears in matches played at the Farris Center this season. UCA also defeated Texas A&M Corpus Christi 3-2 at the Farris Center on Oct. 27.     

UCA enters the match led by Second Team All-Southland Conference selection Marissa Collins. This season, the sophomore setter led the league with 11.64 assists per game in conference matches only. In her final two regular season matches, she totaled 110 assists, including a 60-assist effort in the 3-2 season finale over Southeastern Louisiana. It marked the third time this year that Collins has reached the 60 assist plateau. Taylor Hammonds and Jessica Nagy have been the receptors of many of Collins’ sets this season and lead the offensive attack. Cristin Curl, who was named honorable mention All-Southland Conference along with Hammonds’ blocking effort at the net, leads the Sugar Bears defensively, digging up 4.64 attack attempts per set.     

Lamar will counter with a Second Team All-Conference selection of their own in sophomore outside hitter Sierra Whittaker. Whittaker led Lamar this season with 3.11 kills per set. Alex Morford, who was an honorable mention selection, finished fourth in the conference with 10.21 assists per game will play a large role in the Lamar offense. Defensively, the Cardinals are led by Cristina Hobbs’ 1.05 blocks per game and Angel Colyar, who averages 3.70 digs per set this year.     

UCA’s match with Lamar is the last of four matches Friday. No. 2 seed UTSA and No. 7 Stephen F. Austin kick begin the action at 11 a.m. No. 6 UT Arlington squares off with No. 3 Sam Houston State at 1:30 p.m. The third match features No. 1 Texas State and No. 8 Northwestern State at 4 p.m. 

The semifinals will be Saturday.

All matches will be streamed live by SLC-NOW and Sunday’s championship match will be televised on Southland TV.