The Texas A&M-Corpus Christi volleyball team lost a nail biter on Thursday night to the Sam Houston Bearkats on "Dig Pink" night in front of a capacity crowd at Moody Fieldhouse. 750 fans saw the Islanders battle to the end before falling 3-2 (25-21, 25-19, 18-25, 22-25, 15-12) in five sets.
TAMUCC goes to 7-12 on the year and 0-4 in Southland Conference play. The Bearkats improved to 12-10 overall and 4-1 in Southland matches.
Junior Emma Ridley led the Islanders on the night as she tied a school record with 27 kills in the match. It was also a new career-high for Ridley and the fourth time this year she has surpassed 20 kills in a match.
In the first set, the Islanders took an early lead and held the advantage for most of the set. After leading Sam Houston by as many as five at 14-9, the Bearkats were able to mount a comeback and eventually tie the match up at 19-19. After that point, SHSU outscored TAMUCC by a 6-2 margin to close out the first set with a 1-0 advantage.
In the following set, TAMUCC once again battled hard but were never able to quite catch the Bearkats as Sam Houston eventually took a 25-19 win to go up 2-0 in the match and on the brink of a win.
The Islanders would not go quietly however, as they mounted a ferocious comeback to push the match to five sets.
"We wanted to see a little bit of fight from them and they made a nice run after the intermission," said head coach Tony Graystone. "I'm proud of that, if we continue to fight like this we are going to be ok."
In set three, they would lead from the outset and go wire-to-wire with the advantage to win 25-18. The set was highlighted by five kills from Ridley and three from Ariel Carlson. Tamara Wostal came up with seven digs in the period to lead the Islanders In the category. With the team leading 22-18, consecutive kills be Jessica Korda, Ridley and Carlson sealed the set victory for TAMUCC at 25-18 to put the match at 2-1.
In set four, TAMUCC fell behind early by a 3-0 margin but were able to square the set at 4-4 before taking the lead. With the Islanders leading 11-10, SHSU notched five-straight points to take a 15-11 advantage. Seemingly on the verge of the set getting out of hand with the match at 19-15, the team fought its way back to even and then took the lead at 22-19 by scoring seven consecutive points. Korda added the finishing touch on the comeback as she made the final kill of the set to put it at 25-22 and tie the match at 2-2.
The fifth and deciding set was a back-and-forth affair with the Bearkats taking the early lead and the Islanders clawing back into a tie at 9-9 before briefly taking a lead at 10-9. It was not meant to be however, as the Bearkats scored 6-of-8 points to close out the match.
In addition to Ridley's 27 kills, Korda added eight, Courtney Wypisznyski had five, Carlson had three and Shannon Hullum and Meagan Luber each added two. Wypisznyski led the team with 36 assists while Wostal paced the team with 18 digs. Jessica Jennett had 12 and Whitney Wehring contributed 11 as they also reached double figures in the category.
It was a tough loss for a team that is trying to get its first conference win while they continue to transform the program into a winner.
"There have been ups and downs, highs and lows so far," said Graystone. "We are a better team than we were six weeks ago."
The Islanders now turn their attention to Saturday as they face another tough conference foe when Lamar comes to town for a SLC match. The Lady Cardinals come to Moody Fieldhouse on Oct. 10 in a 4 PM match against TAMUCC as the try to rebound from an emotional loss.
"We need to get this kind of effort every night," said Graystone. "We are putting ourselves in a position to win and we will eventually get there."