ORU Opens SLC Tournament on Friday
The winner of Friday’s match will face either No. 2 Northwestern State or No. 7 McNeese State on Saturday at 11 am CT in the semifinal round, while the Championship Match will take place on Sunday at 2 pm CT.
All four of Friday’s quarterfinal matches will be streamed live and free of charge through the Southland Digital Network, which can be accessed at Southland.org. Sunday’s championship match will be streamed live on ESPN3.
ORU (22-6, 14-4 SLC) enters the tournament on a three-match winning streak after turning back Stephen F. Austin, Southeastern Louisiana and New Orleans last week. ORU finished tied with Sam Houston State for the third spot in the league standings but earned the No. 3 seed by beating the Bearkats in their lone regular season meeting.
Defending champion Central Arkansas went 18-0 in SLC regular season play to claim the tournament’s top seed.
Three ORU student-athletes were honored on Wednesday for their fine regular season efforts. Junior Sara Pope was named Southland Conference Newcomer of the Year, and senior Bruna Silva joined Pope on the All-SLC 1st Team. Senior Jessica Pancratz was an All-SLC 2nd Team selection.
Pope ranks 3rd in the SLC with 3.68 kills per set, while Silva is 2nd in digs at 5.16 per set. Pancratz leads the league in hitting percentage, at .333.
Senior Laura Taylor enters the tournament in range of ORU’s career assist mark. The Broken Arrow native has accumulated 3,926 career assists and needs just 17 more to become the school’s all-time career leader in the category.
Houston Baptist enters the Southland Conference Tournament with a 14-17 record and a 9-9 mark in their first season as SLC members. Houston Baptist is 3-6 against teams that qualified for the Southland Conference Tournament.
The Huskies won their season finale, 3-0, over Lamar on November 16. Jessica Wooten led HBU with 14 kills in the win, while Caiti Wenger added 11.
Madeline Gaffney leads the Huskies with 2.88 kills per set while posting a .304 hitting percentage. On the defensive end, Haley Hoffman paces the Huskies with 3.78 digs per set, while Wenger averages a team-best 0.89 blocks per set.
ORU is 3-0 all-time against Houston Baptist, including victories in 1987 and 2008. The Golden Eagles downed HBU on October 26 at the Aerobics Center, 3-0. McKenna Qualls led ORU with 14 kills in the win, while Pope and Sadie Schaffner added 10 kills each. Gaffney paced the Huskies with 10 kills, but HBU hit just .113 as a team.
This is ORU’s second appearance at the Southland Conference Tournament after going 2-1 at the 2012 tournament and advancing to the Championship Match. Oral Roberts was the No. 6 seed in the tournament and swept second-seeded Sam Houston State and third-seeded Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the first two rounds.
ORU was the lowest seed to ever advance to the SLC Championship Match before they fell to top seed and host school Central Arkansas, 3-1, in the finals. Silva and Sheina Fernandes were All-Tournament Team selections.
Oral Roberts was a seven-time champion of the Summit League (formerly Mid-Continent Conference) Tournament. The Golden Eagles won the event every season from 1997-2002 and again in 2006.
ORU has never been beaten in their first match at a conference tournament, going 13-0 in tournament openers.
With one more victory, ORU would secure their 23rd victory of the season, which would be the second-highest total of the Sirola Era. The Golden Eagles won 26 matches in 2006, the most victories by a Sheera Sirola-lead team.