South Alabama wins 2021 Sun Belt Volleyball Tournament Championship

Published 10:08 am Monday, November 22, 2021

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The season of firsts for South Alabama volleyball continued on Sunday.

The Jaguars claimed the program’s first-ever Sun Belt Conference Volleyball Tournament Championship at the Foley Event Center with a 3-0 (25-19, 25-23, 25-13) win against three-time defending tournament champion Texas State. South Alabama, which also won the 2021 Sun Belt regular-season championship, earns the Sun Belt’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, which will mark the first NCAA Tournament appearance in school history.

“Congratulations to South Alabama, winning the Sun Belt Tournament Championship in Coach Ortiz’s first year,” said Sun Belt Commissioner Keith Gill said. “It has been quite a turnaround and for it to include a conference championship is remarkable.”

South Alabama’s (25-6) standout setter Kailey Keeble, a first-team All-Sun Belt Conference selection in 2021, was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. Her teammate Niki Capizzi also was named to the All-Tournament Team. The Jaguars captured the tournament title by defeating Georgia State (3-0), UTA (3-1) and Texas State (3-0) this week, dropping just a single set in three matches.

“It is an amazing day for us,” South Alabama head coach Jesse Ortiz said. “It was a lot of work all season. I think back to the beginning of the year and just where we started. It just felt like the whole experience of coming to South, finding this group of girls – it is an extreme blessing and I am honored to be part of this team with them. They are up for the competition and willing to go fight for it.”

Texas State (20-12), which had won the event on four previous occasions, including the last three years, finished first in the Sun Belt West Division this season. The Bobcats placed Caitlan Buettner and Jada Gardner on the All-Tournament Team.

Hannah Maddux and Maddie Soboleski each registered 10 kills to lead the way offensively for the Jaguars. Libero Rachel Hickey charted a match-high 17 digs and a match-high four service aces, while Maddux recorded a match-high nine blocks. Keeble dished out 29 assists, came up with seven digs and served up two aces.

South Alabama was dominant on the block holding a 14-5 advantage. The Jaguars hit .274 in the match, while limiting Texas State to just .103 hitting. South Alabama held a 48-46 edge in digs. The Jaguars served seven aces in the match.

Texas State (20-12) was led by Gardner’s 10 kills and nine put-downs by Tyeranee Scott, who hit .368. Libero Kayla Granado recorded 12 digs, while setter Emily DeWalt, the 2021 Sun Belt Player of the Year, dished out 29 assists.

This marked the second consecutive year that the event has been held in Foley, Ala. The Sun Belt Conference is in the midst of a long-term agreement with the Foley Sports Tourism Complex to keep the event’s home in Foley.

“Our long-term partnership with the Foley Sports Tourism Complex and the city of Foley has created a terrific competitive environment for our volleyball student-athletes, coaches and fans from all 12 programs,” Gill said.

The 2021 NCAA Division I Volleyball Selection Show is slated for Sunday, November 28. The show will air at 7:30 p.m. CT on ESPNU.

“We’re excited for the opportunity,” Ortiz said. “We love the fact that we get to live on another day and get more time to practice. We’re truly blessed and absolutely pumped about being Jaguars and bringing home a trophy for South Alabama.”

2021 Sun Belt Volleyball All-Tournament Team
Most Outstanding Player – Kailey Keeble, South Alabama
Niki Capizzi, South Alabama
Caitlan Buettner, Texas State
Jada Gardner, Texas State
Alli Wells, UTA
Cheyenne Jones, Coastal Carolina

2021 Sun Belt Volleyball Tournament (Foley, Ala.)

Thursday, November 18, 2021
Match 1 – (3E) Georgia Southern 3, (6W) ULM 1
Match 2 – (5E) Georgia State 3, (4W) Arkansas State 1
Match 3 – (3W) Louisiana 3, (6E) App State 0
Match 4 – (4E) Troy 3, (5W) Little Rock 1

Friday, November 19, 2021
Match 5 – (2W) UTA 3, (3E) Georgia Southern 2
Match 6 – (1E) South Alabama 3, (5E) Georgia State 0
Match 7 – (2E) Coastal Carolina 3, (3W) Louisiana 0
Match 8 – (1W) Texas State 3, (4E) Troy 0

Saturday, November 20, 2021
Match 9 – (1E) South Alabama 3, (2W) UTA 1
Match 10 – (1W) Texas State 3, (2E) Coastal Carolina 0

Sunday, November 21, 2021 (Championship)
Match 11 – (1E) South Alabama 3,  (1W) Texas State 0

All-Time Sun Belt Volleyball Tournament Champions
1983 – Jacksonville
1984 – VCU
1985 – VCU
1986 – South Florida
1987 – South Florida
1988 – South Florida
1989 – South Florida
1990 – UAB
1991 – Arkansas State
1992 – Arkansas State
1993 – Lamar
1994 – Arkansas State
1995 – Arkansas State
1996 – Little Rock
1997 – Little Rock
1998 – Little Rock
1999 – Arkansas State
2000 – Little Rock
2001 – FIU
2002 – Western Kentucky
2003 – New Mexico State
2004 – New Mexico State
2005 – Western Kentucky
2006 – Middle Tennessee
2007 – Middle Tennessee
2008 – Western Kentucky
2009 – Middle Tennessee
2010 – Middle Tennessee
2011 – Western Kentucky
2012 – Western Kentucky
2013 – Texas State
2014 – Little Rock
2015 – Arkansas State
2016 – Coastal Carolina
2017 – Coastal Carolina
2018 – Texas State
2019  – Texas State
2020 – Texas State
2021 – South Alabama

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