HUNTSVILLE - The Texas A&M - Corpus Christi volleyball team was unable to find a rhythm early on Thursday night as they lost a hard-fought match to the Sam Houston State Bearkats by a 3-2 (25-16, 26-24, 21-25, 17-25, 15-13) final in their first Southland Conference road match.
After getting behind 2-0 in sets, the Islanders won the next two before falling by a 15-13 final in the match-deciding fifth set. The Islanders are now 6-10 on the season and 0-3 in Southland matches. The Bearkats improved to 7-11 on the year, 1-2 in league play.
"They are starting to show an awful lot of character," said head coach Tony Graystone. "We are getting better, and we just have to get over that hump.
"They are playing hard and fighting for points. We know they are going to get it and that has to be what we take from this."
Emma Ridley led the Islanders in kills on the night with 26, a season high and her second-straight 20-plus kill match after totaling 20 against UT Arlington on Saturday. She also added 18 digs for her seventh double-double of the season. Isabella Arcidiacono was back in the lineup after missing last match and was the only other Islanders player in double-digits kills with 11.
In the opening set, the Islanders fell behind early and were never able to recover as the Bearkats won the set 25-16 to take a 1-0 lead.
In the second set, the two teams played closer, with neither team leading by more than four points. The Bearkats held a 23-20 advantage late in the set. A&M-Corpus Christi scored four-of-five points on a kill from Brooke Alverson, a service ace by Jessica Jennett and back-to-back kills from Ridley to even the set at 24-24. They were unable to complete the comeback as Sam Houston scored the next two points to take a 26-24 victory and a 2-0 match lead.
The third set saw the Islanders take an early lead before the Bearkats tied the score at 7-7. Sam Houston gained the advantage at 14-10, the visitors scored four-of-five points to knot the set at 15-15. The Bearkats then scored the next two points to retake the lead at 17-15. A string of Bearkats errors and kills from Ridley, Jordan Flemmer and Arcidiacono allowed the Islanders back into the set to take a 25-21 win.
Set four began with A&M-Corpus Christi taking an early 3-1 lead and keeping the advantage by answering points back immediately. The Bearkats closed to within 10-9 before Ridley picked up her 19th kill of the night to push the lead back to 11-9 over SHSU. Back-to-back kills from Arcidiacono netter her double-digit kills on the night and stretched the lead to 16-11, the largest of the set. With the score at 21-17, the Islanders scored four-straight points on three kills from Ridley and a kill by Shannon Hullum to put the match into a fifth and deciding set.
In set five, the Bearkats scored the first two points before the Islanders scored two-straight on a Ridley kill and an attack error to tie the set. An attack error from Ridley gave the Bearkats the lead at 3-2 before a block assist from Ridley and Flemmer tied the set once again. The two teams traded points to 6-6 before SHSU scored five-of-six points to take an 11-7 advantage.
"The big thing is that we are getting out here on the road and really fighting," said Graystone. "That is all I can ask of them.
"We are getting close to figuring it out. All we can ask is that they keep fighting and battling and eventually we are going to get there."
A pair of kills from Ridley and one from Flemmer helped the Islanders close to within one point at 12-11 late in the deciding set. The set was tied as late as 13-13 before Sam Houston scored the final two points of the night for a 15-13 set win and a 3-2 match victory.
Logen Bourque led the Islanders in assists with 47, besting her previous career-high of 46 set last match against UT Arlington. Micah Nolan led the Islanders with 22 digs on the night while Flemmer had a match-high eight block assists while Shannon Hullum added seven in the contest.
Next up for Texas A&M-Corpus Christi is a Saturday afternoon match against Stephen F. Austin. The Islanders and the Ladyjacks will play at 1:00 p.m. with live stats available by visiting www.sfajacks.com.