Sugar Bears rally to advance in SLC tournament


After dropping the opening set in ugly fashion, the University of Central Arkansas volleyball team raised its intensity and took the final three sets over the Lamar Cardinals including a 25-11 victory in the fourth and final set of the night.

The Sugar Bears advance to a semifinal match against No. 1-seeded Texas State at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Farris Center. The Lady Bobcats defeated Northwestern State in four sets. Earlier in the season, they defeated UCA 3-1.

"I think the intensity followed some adjustments we made. Sometimes the intensity doesn’t come first," UCA coach David McFatrich said. "They (Lamar) played a great first game and were hitting on all cylinders. We made a couple of adjustments to their attack and serve and once we got some stops our intensity rose." 

UCA used a very balanced attack to pull out the win. Three different players finished with 10 or more kills and Taylor Hammonds added another eight. Freshman Scout Brooks led the way with 15 kills, Jessica Nagy added 14 and Alicia Dittrich pitched in 10 kills. 

"We got pretty good production distribution tonight," McFatrich said. "Normally, it’s one or two players that carry us, but today I felt like we had four attackers that did really well. It was great production from four players and we need that type of distribution."

The Sugar Bears outhit the Cardinals .224 to .175. UCA converted just .067 percent of their attacks in the first set but finished with marks of .282, .243 and .286 in the final three sets. Meanwhile, Lamar’s hitting effort saw a very opposite trend. The Cardinals struck for a .333 hitting percentage in the first set before dipping to .281, .205 and -.107 the rest of the way. 

"I thought we had all the momentum after Game 1 and 2, but then we just slowly let it get away from us in the third," Lamar coach Justin Gilbert said. "There was a point we had three service errors in a row and after that, we just didn’t fight hard enough for it."

Fighting hard didn’t appear to be an issue for the Sugar Bears and the effort seemed to be led by senior libero Cristin Curl who was sacrificing her body all over the floor to dig up many Lamar attacks. Curl finished with 15 digs and two service aces in the match. 

Marissa Collins, who was named to the All-Southland Conference Second Team this week, gave a double-double effort with a game-high 43 assists and 10 digs. Shelbee Berringer also reached 10-plus digs, finishing with 13.

Hendrix teams split in Garrison Classic

Hendrix basketball teams split with Greenville College in men’s and women’s games Friday night at the Cliff Garrison Classic at the Hendrix Wellness and Athletic Center.

The Hendrix women (1-1) won 80-70. They led 37-29 at the half and held steady. The Warrior hit on a school-record 13 3-point attempts.

Avery Roller scored a career-high 19 points to lead the Warriors. Jamie Tate had nine rebounds.

Greenville shot 58.8 percent from the field on the way to a 79-60 win in men’s action. Hendrix shot 38.7 percent.

Chris Goodman and Colton Primm had 16 points for the Warriors. Primm added 15 rebounds.

Hendrix committed 20 turnovers.

UCA sets playoff selection watch party


The University of Central Arkansas Bears will learn their postseason fate Sunday morning during a watch party at the Farris Center. 

Fans and boosters, faculty and staff are invited to join the UCA players and coaches at the Farris Center at 8:45 a.m. Sunday to watch the Football Championship Subdivision playoff selection show on the videoboard. All fans are asked to use the west stands only (parking lot side) for the viewing party. Light snacks and coffee will be served. 

The Bears, who finished the regular season last Saturday with an 8-3 record and a seven-game winning streak, are expected to be one of two teams selected from the Southland Conference for the 20-team playoff field. League champion Sam Houston State is the automatic qualifier to the playoffs, while UCA is expected to receive one of 10 at-large bids to the 34th NCAA Division I Football Championship. 

The Bears are in their second season of postseason eligibility since moving to NCAA Division I FCS in 2006. UCA’s lone losses this season are to undefeated and No. 2 Sam Houston and FBS schools Louisiana Tech (in overtime) and Arkansas State. All three games were on the road.

Banham resigns as UCA soccer coach


University of Central Arkansas women’s soccer coach Tina Banham has stepped down after 11 years at the school.

"Coach Banham has resigned, effective immediately, to pursue other options and interests," UCA athletic director Brad Teague said. "We appreciate her dedication to UCA for more than a decade. She was one of our longest-tenured head coaches and we appreciate her service to the university and our women’s soccer program."

Teague said a search for a new head coach will begin immediately. He said the school will be accepting applications through the beginning of 2012. He said he hopes to have a coach in place by Feb. 1.

Banham leaves UCA after 11 seasons as head coach, compiling an 82-97-12 overall record. After going 2-13 in 2001, she guided the Bears to a 43-26-2 (.620) record from 2002-2005 and in 2002 was named the Gulf South Conference Coach of the Year and had UCA ranked No. 5 in the NCAA Division II South Region. In 2004, UCA climbed as high as No. 4 in the regional poll and the Bears scored their first win over a top-25 opponent. The following year the Bears won a school-record 12 games, finishing 12-4-1.     

The move to Division I proved more difficult for the program. After recording a winning season (8-7-2) in 2006 in the first year of D-I play and following it up with an 8-9 season in 2007, the Bears struggled through consecutive seasons of double-digit losses — going a combined 10-23-2 in 2008-09. In the last four years, the Bears have gone just 21-42-8 (.347) and have yet to qualify for a Southland Conference tournament. This season, UCA was 1-7-1 in conference play.     

Banham exits having coached 11 of the 14 seasons in the program’s existence. She came to UCA after a three-year stint as head coach at Lambuth University, twice taking the Lady Eagles to the Mid-South Conference tournament semifinals. Prior to Lambuth, she spent two seasons as an assistant soccer coach and head women’s tennis coach at her alma mater of Coker College in Hartsville, S.C.