Starkville, Miss. - Senior Emma Ridley picked up where she left off last season as the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi volleyball team held on to take a 3-2 (25-17, 26-24, 21-25, 23-25, 15-8) win over the UALR Trojans to finish the opening day of the season. Ridley had a team-high 21 kills in the match, her second double-digit match of the season and the 27th of her Islander career. She now sits at 495 kills, and will become just the 10th player to reach the 500 kill mark in program history with five more kills.
The Islanders are now 1-1 on the season after losing by a 3-0 final to Montana in the first match of the day. UALR falls to 0-2 after day one of the Mississippi State Maroon Classic. It was also career win No. 325 for Graystone.
Freshman Isabella Arcidiacono also made a big impact in just the second match of her collegiate career as she recorded 16 kills to finish second on the team.
"Bella got off to a great start then they started making some changes on how they defended her," said Islanders head coach Tony Graystone. "They did a better job on her and it was a cat-and-mouse game the rest of the match.
"That is part of being a freshman, learning how to score points and make adjustments when they are focusing on you."
In the first set, the Islanders fell behind early by an 8-4 score before three kills by Arcidiacono and three UALR attack errors tied the match up at 10-10. Kills by Amanda Lowe and Ridley gave the team its first lead of the match at a 12-10 score. A flurry of five kills from Ridley, in addition to kills from Shannon Hullum and Brooke Alverson, stretched the lead to 20-14 in favor of the Islanders. Arcidiacono finished off the set with back-to-back kills to make it a 25-17 final in the first.
In the second set, three kills by Ridley gave the Islanders a 3-1 lead early on. The two teams battled to a 9-9 tie ahead of an Islander run sparked by a pair of Hullum service aces that gave the team a 13-9 advantage. It would grow to as many as seven points after back-to-back kills from Arcidiacono made it 20-13 in favor of the Islanders.
After a UALR timeout, the Trojans made a run that tied the match at 24-24 just before a kill by Ridley and a Trojan attack error gave the Islanders a 26-24 victory in the second set.
The Trojans fought back to win the next two sets by 25-21 and 25-23 to force a decisive fifth set.
"We played good in the first couple of sets," said Graystone. "They made a run on us at the end of the second game so we were fortunate to be up 2-0 early on.
"They really made a push on us in the third and fourth sets. It wasn't that we were playing bad, they just played that well."
In the fifth set, the Islanders started out strong, getting three kills from Ridley and a service ace from Logen Bourque to make it a 5-2 advantage. The Trojans came back with a run of their own to bring the score to within one at 9-8 before the Islanders closed out the match with six-straight points. Three attack errors and a bad set from UALR contributed to the run while a service ace by Micah Nolan and a kill by Ridley finished off the match at 15-8.
"A big moment we remember in the match is when Jordan Flemmer came in at the end of the fourth set," said Graystone. "She came in with fresh legs and, even though we lost the fourth set, you could tell she made a big difference."
Flemmer finished with four kills in seven chances for a .571 hitting percentage.
In addition to the kills from Ridley and Arcidiacono, Hullum added eight while also having a team-high five service aces. Ridley, Bourque and Nolan added one service ace each.
The Islanders had five players with double-digit digs, led by Nolan with 21. Freshmen Paige Hoffler and Bourque added 13 each, while senior Jessica Jennett had 12 and Ridley rounded out the group with 10. Bourque had 39 assists from the setter position while Brooke Alverson added five kills, one block solo and one block assist. Lowe led the team with two block solos and one block assist.
"We played great defense today in both matches," said Graystone. "Eventually our offense will catch up and we will be a really nice team, but right now we are leaning heavily on our defense."
The Islanders will play host Mississippi State at 12:30 p.m. tomorrow, followed by a 5:00 p.m. match against Austin Peay to end the tournament. Live stats and web streaming will be available by visiting www.MStateAthletics.com/volleyball.