Volleyball Begins Sun Belt Play in Arkansas
JONESBORO, Ark. - The Coastal Carolina volleyball team begins its journey to repeat as Sun Belt Conference champion -- and win its fourth consecutive conference championship -- this weekend as the Chanticleers begin league play in Arkansas with a pair of matches at A-State and Little Rock.
Coastal's first conference test on Friday is a rematch of the 2016 Sun Belt Championship that featured the top-seeded Red Wolves and second-seeded Chants. Both sides won their respective divisions in the 2016 regular season, and were picked to do so again in the 2017 Sun Belt preseason poll. A-State finished its nonconference slate 7-6 overall -- the second-best record in both the Sun Belt and the west division -- most recently winning two of three matches against Georgetown and Stephen F. Austin at the Rice Invitational.
A-State is the only Sun Belt team to have beaten Coastal since it joined the league prior to the 2016 season. The Red Wolves won in five sets at the HTC Center on Sept. 25, 2016. That loss was Coastal's last at home, and only the second home loss the Chants have suffered in the last two seasons. Coastal avenged that early-season loss with a four-set win in the 2016 Sun Belt Championship to even the all-time series at 1-1.
The all-time series against Little Rock is likewise a young one, with just one match played between the schools. The Chants swept the Trojans at home last season on Sept. 23. It was both the inaugural Sun Belt match and Sun Belt victory for Coastal.
Little Rock is 4-8 overall as conference play begins, having won one of three matches in each of its four nonconference tournaments.
Coastal enters its league schedule with the best hitting percentage in the Sun Belt, clocking in at .217. Senior middle blocker Leah Levert leads the Chants and the Sun Belt in the category with a .425 hitting percentage, which is also good for 17th in the nation.
Also at the top of the Sun Belt standings is senior outside hitter Leah Hardeman, who leads all conference players averaging 4.03 kills per set to rank 53rd in the nation. Hardeman's 13 kills in CCU's last match at #24 North Carolina brought her career total to 1,448, one short of tying Katie Knutson (1999-02) for fourth all-time in Coastal history. Hardeman has recorded double-doubles in six of Coastal's nine matches to date, and has twice been named the Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Week this season.
With the cancellation of the Coastal Carolina Classic earlier this month, the Chants make their home debut next weekend with contests against UTA (Sept. 29) and Texas State (Oct. 1) to kick off a five-match home stand at the HTC Center.