Islanders lose heartbreaker to UT Arlington

CORPUS CHRISTI - The Texas A&M - Corpus Christi volleyball team lost a tough match on Saturday afternoon by a 3-2 (25-21, 14-25, 26-24, 23-25, 11-15) score to UT Arlington at the Dugan Wellness Center.

The Islanders are now 6-9 on the season and fall to 0-2 in Southland Conference play. The Mavericks improved to 7-9 on the year and evened their record to 1-1 in league play.

"It's tough, we played outstanding defense," said head coach Tony Graystone. "We showed that when we are playing that hard and working that way, we are going to be competitive with the best in the conference.

"That's an encouraging thought. The trick now is to figure out how to finish those games off, get those wins and take this level of play on the road."

Emma Ridley led her team in an emotional match that saw the Islanders go to five sets for the just the second time this season. Ridley had a match-high 29 digs while adding 20 kills for the first 20-20 match of her Islanders career. It was also her first time surpassing the 20 dig mark in a match. Jessica Korda had a match-high 22 kills, a season high and one shy of her career best.

The first set had the Islanders falling behind early and trailing by as many as five points at 14-9 in favor of UTA. The Islanders got back into it by outscoring the Mavericks 10-5 over the next 15 points to knot the score at 19-19. A&M-Corpus Christi would go on to outscore UTA 6-2 to finish the set with a 25-21 win after a Logen Bourque service ace gave the Islanders their first lead of the match and a Ridley kill stretched it to 21-19.

In set two, the Mavericks stormed back, taking a 16-point lead at 20-4 before the Islanders were able to get into a rhythm on the court. Despite outscoring UTA 10-5 over the next 15 points, the Mavs took a 25-14 final to even the match at one set apiece.

After the intermission, A&M-Corpus Christi came back firing, taking an early lead and holding the advantage until UTA took the lead at 16-15 midway through the set. The home team quickly grabbed the lead back on a kill from Ridley and a UTA attack error for a 17-16 score. The Mavs were able to tie the set several times, including as late as 24-24, but the Islanders prevailed to take a 26-24 set victory to go up 2-1 in the match.

Set four was another nail biter with the two teams totaling six tie scores and two lead changes. With the score even at 12-12, the Islanders used three kills from Korda and a kill from Ridley to build a 19-15 advantage. The Mavs fought back hard however, tying the set at 19-19 on four-straight points. After UTA took the lead, the Islanders came back to tie it at 23-23, but were unable to come all the way back for the win as UTA ended the fourth set with a service ace.

In the fifth set, UTA took an early lead and withstood five tie scores while never falling behind to win a 15-11 set and take the match by a 3-2 final.

"We won a two-point game, dropped another one and those things just kind of come down to the last five points," said Graystone. "The fourth game was the one I thought we had a chance to close out.

"We were up 19-15 and they made a nice run. In the fifth game Arlington just played lights out. Their defense was great and they took everything we threw at them."

Even though his team lost a tough match, Graystone sees marked improvement with his squad.

"A lot of it is just staying in the moment, not let it get too big and just play each point on its own," said Graystone. "There's not much left to do, we just have to find that confidence and figure out how to do it. Once we do that we will never forget how."

Bourque had a career-high 46 assists to lead the team while Micah Nolan contributed the second-best dig total of her career with 25 in the match. Brooke Alverson had a match-high two block solos and added two block assists. Amanda Lowe had a team-high four block assists and the only other block solo of the match for the Islanders. Shannon Hullum added six kills, five digs and three block assists on the day. Bourque (10) and Paige Hoffler (11) also reached double-digit digs in the match.

Next up for the Islanders will be the Sam Houston State Bearkats. They travel to take on the Bearkats at 7:00 p.m. on Sept. 30 in Huntsville. The Islanders lost an earlier meeting between the two teams by a 3-0 score at the Islanders Classic.