In acknowledging the achievements of the University of Central Arkansas volleyball team, coach David McFatrich noted the luck factor.
On the way to a Southland Conference regular-season title, a tournament title and winning 30 games last season, McFatrich noted that the Sugar Bears turned their season around with a come-from-behind 20-25, 29-31, 26-24, 30-28, 15-12 victory on the road at Stephen F. Austin, previously unbeaten in league play.
"They (the Lady ‘Jacks) don’t like us," said McFatrich rather matter-of-factly as he described the situation in accepting the Conway Athletic Awards Commission’s Marvin Delph Award for Sportsman of the Year in 2012. "We beat them three times last year and to beat a good team three times, you have to have a little bit of luck."
That came at Nacogdoches after SFA won the first two sets and the Sugar Bears found themselves down, 19-12, in the third game.
"When you’re down like that in the third game, your odds of winning are below 5 percent," he said.
Teams are allowed 15 substitutions in a match. McFatrich had already used his allotments.
"I get a Sportsman of the Year Award and I run out of substitutes in a key match," he mused.
That left him no choice but to put 5-foot-6 Beth Rogers, a defensive player, at the net on a rotation.
She was already shaking at the prospect.
"Trust me," he said. "I’ll show you what to do."
The UCA bench was right behind the stands, where there was a large group of SFA fans.
During a timeout, he placed his assistant coaches on top of the UCA bench to block the fans’ view and gathered his team around him to block all views while he gave Rogers a visual tutorial of how he wanted her to fake and maneuver on a play at the net. He knew the SFA players would be coming at the perceived weak link. "I had to show her visually what I wanted her to do," he said.
She wasn’t getting the big picture.
"I mean, she can’t even touch the top of net and she’s freaking out to boot," McFatrich said.
McFatrich described how the play turned out as Rogers tried to fake one way and move another while her teammates maneuvered for support. "It was ugly and discombobulated," said McFatrich. "She runs into one of our players."
It also confused the Lady ‘Jacks and the Sugar Bears won the point. It was a big spark in them winning the game and later the match.
"It was weird," McFatrich said. "It worked. We all were break-dancing on the sideline. This is where luck played in."
Best-laid plans with the worst execution with the best result.
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 505-1235)