Islanders down Cardinals in five-set thriller

CORPUS CHRISTI - The Texas A&M - Corpus Christi volleyball team picked up a huge Southland Conference victory by a 3-2 (22-25, 25-20, 25-14, 16-25, 16-14) final over Lamar. The win was just the second in program history for the Islanders over the Cardinals.

A&M - Corpus Christi is now 8-11 on the year and 2-4 in Southland matches. Lamar is now 8-9 on the year and 4-2 in league play. The Cardinals came into the contest on a four-match win streak over conference opponents.

"That was a huge win for our team, for our season and for our program," said head coach Tony Graystone. "It was so nice to see our team overcome being in that situation.

"They had failed at it a couple of times earlier in the year, so seeing them go through it again and win the match was just huge for us. We have a confident and happy team in the locker room right now, so hopefully it will be something we can carry through the rest of the season."

The star of the day came on the defensive end as Jordan Flemmer tied a school record with six block solos in the match. She also added three block assists and four kills to help the Islanders to a big win for the program. Emma Ridley led the offensive effort with 18 kills while Shannon Hullum added double-digit kills as well with 10 on the day.

"Jordan was huge today," said Graystone. "I was really concerned going into the match that we wouldn't be able to contain their middle blockers.

"They still got 30 kills, but we did get a lot of blocks on them as well and held them to a reasonable hitting percentage."

The Islanders fell behind early in the opening set but came back to take a 7-6 lead. The two teams battled back-and-forth to a 9-9 tie before the Cardinals scored five-of-six to take a 14-10 lead. Kills from Logen Bourque and Isabella Arcidiacono and a Ridley service ace brought the set back to level at 15-15. A&M - Corpus Christi was unable to keep the momentum, trailing by as many as five points at 21-16 before eventually falling 25-22 in the set.

The two teams battled throughout, with six tie scores and four lead changes in the second set. The Islanders led most of the way with the largest lead coming at 13-9 on a Brooke Alverson kill. Lamar came back to tie it and then take the lead at 17-16. With the score at 19-17 in favor of the Cardinals, kills by Arcidiacono and Bourque evened the match at 19-19. After Lamar scored the next point for a 20-19 lead, A&M - Corpus Christi reeled off six-straight points on a kill from Alverson, a service ace from Jessica Jennett and a pair of kills from Ridley, including the clinching shot to make it 25-20 and even the match at 1-1.

The Islanders kept the momentum in the third set, taking a 7-2 lead early on and keeping enough distance between themselves and the Cardinals to go ahead in the match. With the score at 17-14 in favor of A&M - Corpus Christi, Flemmer started the run to end the set with a kill, followed by a Bourque service ace. After a Lamar timeout, Flemmer came out on fire as the team scored the next six points on a kill from Hullum, a service ace from Bourque and three-of-four points on block solos from Flemmer as the Islanders closed out the set.

In the fourth set, the Cardinals were determined to work their way back into the match. Tied at 9-9, Lamar scored eight-of-nine points to take a 17-10 lead. The Islanders tried to work their way back into it, but were unsuccessful as they eventually fell by a 25-16 score.

With the match tied at 2-2, the fifth and final set saw eight ties and four lead changes despite having to just play to 15 points. The intense set started with four-straight points from the Islanders to take a 4-0 lead. Lamar called a timeout and was able to get back into the set, tying the score at 7-7. The Cardinals took their first lead at 9-8 before a kill from Arcidiacono and an attack error gave A&M - Corpus Christi the lead back at 10-9. With the set knotted up at 14-14, a kill from Arcidiacono gave the Islanders match point and a kill from Ridley sealed the victory at 16-14.

"We were up big in the fifth set and they called their timeout then came back and were up 11-9," said Graystone. "Then it just became a side-out war and a battle of wills.

"Fortunately for us we got the last swing and made something out of it."

Ridley led the Islanders with 13 digs while Jennett (11), Bourque (10) and Micah Nolan (10) each added double-digit digs in the match. Bourque also led the team with 38 assists and five block assists on the afternoon. Arcidiacono and Hullum each added a block solo for a team total of eight against Lamar.

A&M - Corpus Christi returns to the court against Nicholls in Thibodaux, La. next Friday, Oct. 15 before playing Southeastern La. in Hammond, La. on the next day.