CORPUS CHRISTI – The Texas A&M – Corpus Christi Volleyball team won in dramatic fashion in the Southland Conference and home opener on Thursday, taking a 3-2 (27-25, 25-18, 19-25, 15-25, 15-13) final over Central Arkansas in the closest match of the year for either team. Central Arkansas came into the match undefeated and having lost only two sets all season before the 3-2 loss to the host Islanders.
Texas A&M – Corpus Christi is now 8-4 on the season and 1-0 in Southland Conference play. The preseason Southland favorite Sugar Bears move to 11-1 overall and start off 0-1 in the league. Despite Shannon Hullum being the only Islanders player with double-digit kills, the team picked up a tough victory behind the defensive front line. Tyger Holt and Brooke Alverson each had eight block assists to lead a team that had 32 total block assists and three block solos. Holt had one block solo while Alverson earned the other against UCA.
Micah Nolan had her fifth match with at least 20 digs, picking up 20 on the night while Ivy Baresh had 14 in the match and Shayla Maldonado finished with 13. Logen Bourque picked up a team high 32 assists from the setter position for the Islanders.
The win by Texas A&M – Corpus Christi was just the second in seven tries against UCA with both coming in Corpus Christi.
The opening set started out with the teams trading points to a 10-10 tie. After that point, the Islanders scored 5-of-7 points with help from kills by Alverson and Bourque to make it a 15-12 score. The biggest lead of the set came at 22-17 on a kill by Hullum, but UCA mounted a rally that saw them tie the score at 14-14. The teams traded points to 25-25 before Baresh put away a kill to bring up set point, and an attack error by the Sugar Bears ended the set at 27-25 to give the Islanders a 1-0 lead in the match.
Texas A&M – Corpus Christi held a slim margin early in the second set, but a barrage of blocks helped extend the Islanders lead. A combined block by Hullum and Holt, a kill by Baresh and another block assist by Baresh and Alverson made it an 11-7 lead.
Brianna Brink added a kill and Holt and Hullum blocked another UCA attack to extend the lead to 17-11 as the Islanders gained a firm hold on the set. The lead grew to as many as nine when Alverson and Bourque combined on a block to make it 23-14. Service errors by the Sugar Bears did them in, as one brought up set point and another gave Texas A&M – Corpus Christi a 25-18 final and 2-0 lead heading into the intermission.
The third and fourth sets saw a resurgent UCA team even the score with wins of 25-19 and 25-15 to bring on a decisive fifth set.
In the fifth set, the Islanders opened a 6-1 lead with three kills from Hullum, one from Baresh and a block assist from Alverson and Hullum to force a UCA timeout. The Sugar Bears cut the lead to 6-3 after the break before another Baresh kill made it 7-3. Three straight from UCA made it 7-6 before yet another Baresh kill gave the Islanders an 8-6 lead at the changeover.
After the teams switched sides, UCA evened the score on back-to-back kills by Jessica Hays. The Islanders answered with a block assist by Holt and Haley Satterwhite to make it another two-point advantage at 10-8. The match was squared at 12-12 when a bad set by Nolan gave the Sugar Bears their first lead of the set to force a Texas A&M – Corpus Christi timeout.
After the break, a kill by Hullum and combined block by Holt and Hullum brought up match point at 14-13, and a UCA attack error ended it at 15-13 for the 3-2 Islanders win.
Next up for Texas A&M – Corpus Christi will be a weekend match in Dugan when they take on Oral Roberts at 1 p.m. this Saturday. It will be the first meeting between the two teams in program history.
Live stats and video will be available for the game by visiting www.GoIslanders.com.
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