Nov. 16, 2011
By Randy McVay for UTAMavs.com
ARLINGTON, Tex. - UT Arlington enters the Southland Conference tournament as the No. 6 seed in what has been a rollercoaster season at times.
They started the season 2-9 after playing a brutal non-conference schedule, and at one point were battling for a spot in the tournament with a 5-7 Southland Conference record.
After a strong finish to the season, the Mavericks head to Conway, Arkansas to take on the No. 3 seed Sam Houston State Bearkats.
"I think we match up very well with Sam Houston. It's one that we can win," said head coach Diane Seymour. "If Eld-hah continues her offense, that will help tremendously. And I expect Tara and Amanda to play like they have all season. If you're able to score on both sides, that's going to make it difficult on Sam Houston State."
The Mavs (12-18, 8-8 SLC) split two games against the Bearkats (17-12, 11-5), with both teams taking a victory on their home court. However, home court advantage won't be a factor in this one.
"I don't think they're more physical than we are, and we're playing on a neutral court. So I think we might have an advantage," Seymour said. "Hopefully we're peaking at the right time and it's not too late to change this season from average to great."
Seymour said the team didn't play up to their potential for a good portion of the season. However, a 5-2 finish to end conference play showed what they were capable of. They avenged losses in rematches against Sam Houston State and Stephen F. Austin, and punched their ticket into the tournament with a 3-2 victory over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
"We got on a winning streak at the end of the season," said senior Amanda Aguilera. "We didn't just beat the teams we were supposed to, but we won games that could have gone either way. I think we're going in really strong"
"We just need to go out and be determined to win. We need to be really excited. We laugh about being so excited that we almost black out sometimes from screaming and stuff, but every time we're like that we win. We need a lot of excitement, and we need to go out there and get it done."
Aguilera is one of several talented seniors who have made a mark on UT Arlington history. Earlier this season she became the 12th player in UTA history to record 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs in a career, and senior Alicia Shaffer shattered UTA's all-time career digs record.
Individual achievements are great, but an SLC tournament championship would be icing on the cake.
"We're excited. There are always a lot of upsets, and lower seeds can often beat higher seeds," Aguilera said. ""It would feel awesome if we won it. Winning with this group of players would mean a lot to us and the coaches. It would feel great to end with a ring."
First serve is set for 1:30 p.m.