Edinburg - The Texas A&M-Corpus Christi volleyball team had its first edge-of-the-seat match of the season, pulling out a come-from-behind victory to win 3-2 (15-25, 25-22, 20-25, 25-22, 15-7) over the Texas-Pan American Lady Broncs on the road Tuesday night.
The Islanders improve to 3-1 on the young season on the backs of a gritty performance that saw them come back from six points down in the fourth set to force a fifth and deciding match. The Islanders dominated the final by a 15-7 score to take the hard fought victory.
"That was big for us and I was happy to see it," said head coach Tony Graystone. "We needed to show that we could fight back, overcome some things and start playing better when our backs were against the wall."
"You could see in the fifth game that when we just relaxed and were feeling good about ourselves, mistakes we were making earlier just went away."
With the score tied 3-3 in the final set, the Islanders reeled off five-straight points to take a commanding 8-3 lead behind four consecutive kills from Emma Ridley. TAMUCC continued to dominate after that point, outscoring the Lady Broncs 7-4 with Shannon Hullum contributing three kills and Jessica Korda finishing off the match with the clinching kill.
The fifth set was made possible by a rousing comeback in the fourth set. Down 16-10, a Meagan Luber kill sparked the first of four consecutive points to get the Islanders back in it at 16-14. With the score at 19-15, TAMUCC scored five-straight points to take a 20-19 lead off of kills by Hullum, Ariel Carlson and Korda. After the Lady Broncs tied it at 20-20, a pair of kills by Korda and one by Carlson put it at 23-20 in favor of TAMUCC while kills by Korda and Ridley finished off the match at 25-22.
In the early sets, the Islanders had a rough time getting into a rhythm, losing 25-15 in set one, winning 25-22 in set two and falling 25-20 in set three. TAMUCC fell behind early in each of the first three sets. They were down by as many as 10 at 18-8 in set one and seven at 19-12 in set three. The Islanders were down by as many as five points in set two but fought back to take a closely contested 25-22 decision.
Ridley finished with a match-high 16 kills while Korda was right behind her, adding 15 kills. Hullum was third-high with seven kills, Carlson and Luber had four each, Courtney Wypisznyski had three and Kandyce Nielson added one. Wypisznyski also set a new career-high in her young career with 37 assists in the match while Nielson led the team with 18 digs.
"Emma and Korda were pretty solid, the whole team was just up and down tonight with unforced errors that we need to stop making," said Graystone. "Shannon was big for us, she came off the bench from the second game on and helped balance out the offense."
The third win of the season has the Islanders off to a fast start and looking to continue improving on it. The victory at UTPA is the first road win for the Islanders since September 27, 2007 at Sam Houston State.
"I'm happy with 3-1, it seemed pretty realistic going into the season. It hasn't been easy but this team is showing some good things." said Graystone. "The key is to just keep getting better and better week-to-week to keep getting the results we are looking for."
The Islanders are next in action this weekend at the Hampton Inn Drake Invitational in Des Moines, Iowa. On Friday, they will take on Valparaiso at 1 PM and Centenary at 5:30 PM. Saturday has host Drake on tap at 1 PM and the Islanders close out against South Dakota at 5:30 PM.
"We need to work tomorrow on the things we saw tonight and then also put a little advanced scouting for the weekend," said Graystone. "Mostly the weekend is about just getting everybody in there and getting them ready to contribute."