FORT WORTH – The Texas A&M – Corpus Christi Volleyball team picked up a 3-0 (25-23, 25-12, 25-17) sweep of Army on Friday afternoon in the TCU Nike Invitational, marking the best start in the tenure of head coach Tony Graystone with the fourth straight victory after a season-opening loss against Baylor. Next up for the team will be a 12:30 p.m. match against host TCU on Saturday, and then a 4:30 p.m. contest against SMU to finish tourney play.
The Islanders move to 4-1 on the year with the win, while the Black Knights are now 2-2 this season. Brianna Brink led the team with nine kills in the match, while Brooke Alverson and Shannon Hullum collected eight each and Ivy Baresh finished with seven. Libero Micah Nolan had 20 digs, marking the fourth straight match where she has had at least 20 digs in the contest. Logen Bourque finished with 30 assists to lead Texas A&M – Corpus Christi.
"Army is a good team," said Graystone. "They are one of the best in the Patriot League and they made to their conference championship a year ago. They know how to win and are an established program."
The first set started out slow for the Islanders as they fell behind 4-1, but a slow rally behind a kill from Baresh and a pair from Hullum got the match within one when a bad set from Army tied the score at 6-6. From that point on it was a nailbiter, with the largest lead for either team being three points when Texas A&M – Corpus Christi trailed 19-16 late in the set.
Instead of calling a timeout, Graystone let his team work through the adversity, and they responded with three straight to knot the set at 19-19. After trading points to 21-21, the Islanders scored two consecutive points to make it a 23-21 score. Army got within one at set point, but a Knights attack error finished the scoring at 25-23 in favor of the Islanders for a 1-0 lead.
"This is a big win for us," said Graystone. "The first game was tight, but it was because our outside hitters were making some errors didn't have during the other sets of the match. They figured it out, and did a really good job at starting to put away kills."
The second set was a complete turnaround from the first, with Texas A&M – Corpus Christi taking a commanding lead early on. Three kills from Brink, two from Hullum and a Hullum and Tyger Holt block assist staked their team to a 12-3 lead over Army. A kill by Hullum stretched the lead to 10 points at 15-5, and the Islanders held a strong advantage throughout for a 25-12 win in the set. Brink and Hullum each finished with four kills in the set to put Texas A&M – Corpus Christi at a two-set advantage.
Early on, the final set was a return to form of the opening frame, with both teams battling for the slimmest of margins early on. After three points by the Islanders to open the set, the Knights responded with three of their own to even the score. Playing to a 9-9 tie, a pair of service aces by Nolan wrapped around a kill by Alverson made it a 12-9 lead, forcing an Army timeout.
An attack error by the Knights and kills from Baresh and Hullum extended the lead by three until Army was able to break the streak on a service error that made it a 15-10 lead. After the brief reprieve, a block assist by Alverson and Hullum followed by a Hullum service ace and an Alverson kill made it an 18-10 score. The Knights would respond however, scoring four consecutive points to make it an 18-14 score and forcing an Islanders timeout.
Following the break, Baresh opened with a kill to make it 19-14 and Texas A&M – Corpus Christi poured it on. Kills by Alverson and Brink, as well as a block assist by Alverson and Bourque helped make it a 23-15 score. After two points from the Knights, kills by Ashley Phelps and Holt finished it off at 25-17 to give the Islanders the win.
"We've been saying all along, any win at the start of the schedule good wins with all the road matches," said Graystone. "We are thrilled to be where at now, but it will get even tougher tomorrow. I'm pretty happy with how we've been getting better and better every time out. The players have shown a lot character and are having a lot of fun right now."
For the 12:30 p.m. match on Saturday against TCU, live video will be available, while both the TCU and SMU matches on Saturday will have live stats.
The team will try to improve on the best start under Graystone against TCU, with the Islanders playing the second match against a BCS conference opponent this season, as well as looking for the first win in school history against a team from the Big 12.
"You can tell there is just different feel about the team this year," said Graystone. "There is more confidence in the returners now, whereas we struggled in past. They committed to improving and making big changes; it is a completely different group feeling right now.
"They are really enjoying it and having a great time, hopefully we can keep it rolling and try to get better every time we step out there."