Des Moines, Iowa - The Texas A&M-Corpus Christi volleyball team dropped and early match and won its late match on the first day of the Hampton Inn Drake Invitational being held on the home court of the Drake Bulldogs. TAMUCC lost the first match by a 3-1 (25-22, 25-19, 22-25, 25-16) to Valparaiso before rallying to take a 3-1 (25-18, 25-19, 9-25, 25-13) victory of their own over Centenary in the evening.
The split moves the Islanders to 4-2 on the season, matching their win total from the previous season and continuing the winning ways brought on by new head coach Tony Graystone and his coaching staff. Valparaiso moves to 1-2 on the year while Centenary falls to 1-5 on the season.
"We were able to block better in the second match of the day," said Graystone. "Overall we had a more complete effort and were able to start to get it together in the second match."
In that match, the Islanders fell behind early in the first set, going down 3-0 from the opening serve. They were able to keep within striking distance but unable to even the score until a kill by Ariel Carlson, followed by two attack errors from Centenary knotted the set at 17-17. Emma Ridley then recorded three straight kills for the Islanders to go along with two opponent errors to push the tie to a 23-17 Islander advantage. At set point, Courtney Wypisznyski notched a service ace to give TAMUCC the 1-0 set lead.
In the second set, the Islanders were more in control of a tightly played battle, trailing for only three points the entire set. Ridley dominated, adding seven kills to her total in just the second set. Jessica Korda added four while Meagan Luber contributed a pair of kills. The largest lead for either team was at the final margin, with the Islanders winning 25-19, fittingly enough, on a Ridley kill.
The team relaxed too much in the third set and struggled mightily before falling 25-9 to put the match at a 2-1 score. In the fourth and final set, the Islanders righted the ship and cruised to a 25-13 win to close out the teams' fourth victory of the season. Wypisznyski was the leading scorer in the set, recording four kills as well as 10 assists to lead the team to victory. Ridley, Korda and Shannon Hullum each added three kills to the effort while Luber finished with two more. After a 1-1 tie very early on, the Islanders never again failed to hold a lead, going as many as 10 points twice, at 20-10 and 23-13 before taking the last two points to win 25-13.
Ridley led all attackers with 18 kills on the night while Korda had 11, Wypisznyski had six, Luber had five, Hullum had three, Carlson had two and Sheridan Paulus had one. Wypisznyski also had an astonishing .857 hitting percentage on the night to go along with a match-high 35 assists. Kandyce Nielson led all players on the night with 15 digs.
"Courtney really played well tonight and put a good ball in the air for our hitters to get," said Graystone. "She blocked better tonight and scored some points for us. She is having a really good weekend."
In the early match, Wypisznyski was a bright spot as well, adding a career-high 41 assists to the stat sheet as the Islanders played tough but were unable to finish the sets against Valparaiso.
"Valparaiso is a very good team," said Graystone. "We played competitive but their experience separated them from us in the tight sets."
TAMUCC kept it close but were unable to take control in the first set, as they never trailed by more than two points but had the lead for just one point the entire time at 17-16 before falling by a 25-22 final.
The second set was more of the same, as it was too close to call until the experience of the pressure packed situation played in favor of the Crusaders. The set was tied as late as 18-18 and was 20-19 before Valpo reeled off five-straight points to take a 2-0 lead.
They would not go quietly however, as the Islanders came back to take the third set by a 25-22 margin on the back of eight Ridley kills. The final set was back-and-forth, with the lead changing hands several times with a total of eight ties. With the score at 9-9, the Crusaders rolled up five-straight points to take a 14-9 lead and never looked back. The final was 25-16 to give Valpo a 3-1 match win.
Ridley led players with 22 kills while Korda also added double digits at 14. Hullum had five, Wypisznyski had three and Carlson had two to round out the scoring. Nielson added 16 digs to once again be tops in the category.
The Islanders are back in action on Saturday afternoon as they follow the same time schedule as today. They play host team Drake at 1 PM while they close out the tournament with South Dakota at 5:30 PM.