CORPUS CHRISTI – The Texas A&M – Corpus Christi volleyball team snapped Towson's eight-match winning streak with a thrilling four-set victory in the opening match of the Holiday Inn Emerald Beach Islander Classic on Friday night. A raucous crowd of 863 filled the Dugan Wellness Center for the event.
The Islanders improved to 4-4 on the year while Towson moves to 9-2. Brooke Alverson and Brianna Brink each set career-highs in kills with 14 apiece. Brink also added 13 assists for a double-double while Logen Bourque had a team-high 45 assists and Micah Nolan collected a match-high 21 digs.
"This was a big win for the team, for the program and for the season," said Graystone. "Towson is a very good team; really physical. It was really nice for us to win two close 29-27 sets to get the crowd behind us and carry it to the fourth set. I'm really proud of the effort and how we kept it up as the match went on."
The Islanders and Tigers had a frenzied back-and-forth affair in the opening set. Texas A&M – Corpus Christi built an early 11-7 lead, but Towson called a timeout and rallied to trim the deficit to 12-10. Again, the Islanders mounted a rally, netting five straight points with Micah Nolan at the serve for a 17-10 advantage, but the Tigers chipped away to trim the lead to 21-18.
Consecutive attack errors by Karolina Sawaniewicz pushed the Islanders to a 23-18 edge, but with Stacey Niehoff's strong service, Towson was able to pull to 23-22. After an Isabella Arcidiacono kill pushed it to set point, the Tigers ran off three points in a row for a 25-24 lead and a set point of their own. A Towson service error kept the Islanders alive, and the two teams battled blow-for-blow to a 27-all score. Then the Islanders finished off the set when TU's I'ishah Keliikoa was errant on consecutive attacks to give the home squad a 29-27 win.
The second set had far less drama. The Tigers built up an early 8-6 lead, then jumped on the gas by scoring 10 of the next 12 points for an 18-8 lead. The Islanders mounted a brief rally to trim the deficit to 18-12, but that was as close as they would get, falling 25-17 after a Keliikoa kill completed the victory for the Tigers.
The third set more closely resembled the first. The two teams battled tooth-and-nail in the third, with the largest lead of the set being a 10-7 advantage for the Tigers. The tenuous affair carried all the way past 25-all for the second time in the match. The Islanders had a chance to win at 27-26, but Ashley Phelps misplayed a free ball to tie the match at 27 apiece. Phelps followed with redemption, though, delivering a thunderous kill on the very next play, and the Islanders finished off the set when Brink slammed home her 13th kill of the match for a 29-27 triumph.
In the fourth stanza, the Islanders opened up a 3-1 lead, but Towson responded with a four-point rally for a 5-3 edge. With Brink at the serve, the home squad ran off four straight points for a 7-5 advantage, they then pushed it to 11-7 before the Tigers delivered a run with Keliikoa at the serve. Five straight points gave the visitors a 12-11 lead. With the score knotted at 13 each, the Islanders rallied once again with Nolan on service, as three straight points made it 16-13.
From there, neither squad was able to mount much of a rally, with the Islanders pulling ahead 18-17. That's when the home squad posted a clutch rally. Alverson threw down a kill to start the rally, then took the serve to post five straight points for a 23-17 lead. The Tigers trimmed it to 23-19, but Bourque and Hullum had consecutive kills to finish off the match for the home team.
The Islanders will be back in action for the first match on Saturday, facing off against Texas – Pan American at 11 a.m. tomorrow morning. In the season-opening Sam Houston Invitational, Texas A&M – Corpus Christi won a 3-1 match for their second win of the year. The Islanders will close out tournament play at 7 p.m. on Saturday in a match against North Texas.