CONWAY, Ark. – The Texas A&M – Corpus Christi Volleyball team saw its season come to a close on Friday afternoon in a 3-0 (25-20, 25-16, 25-18) loss to Oral Roberts in the quarterfinal round of the Southland Conference Tournament. The team finished with school records in overall wins (21) and Southland wins (12) while finishing the season in third place of the league standings, also another best in program history.
The Islanders (21-11) looked like they were going to take the first set, but Oral Roberts (16-14) stole the momentum on the way to the 3-0 win in the opening round of the league tourney. Texas A&M – Corpus Christi finishes the year with a 1-2 record against a team that started slow but came on strong late in the season, including handing the eventual Southland Champions, Central Arkansas, one of just three league losses.
Shannon Hullum finished her career on a high note, playing well in the final match of her Islanders career. She totaled six kills, one block solo and one service ace against ORU while Brooke Alverson led the team with eight kills in the match. Ivy Baresh finished with a team high of 11 digs in the contest, while Logen Bourque had 24 assists on the day.
The opening set saw the teams battle back-and-forth throughout, with Texas A&M – Corpus Christi getting the first lead of more than two points came when Brianna Brink put away a kill to make it 9-6 and force a ORU timeout. The biggest lead of the set for the Islanders came on a Baresh kill to make it 15-10 and looked to put the team in control. It was not meant to be, however, as the Islanders were leading 20-17 when the Golden Eagles reeled off eight straight points to take a 25-20 final and a 1-0 lead in the match.
"There was one point we were up 20-17 and it was a long rally where we really should've won the point and we just kind of messed it up," said head coach Tony Graystone. "You go to being up 20-18 instead of 21-17, and then from there they started that run and never looked back.
"They did a great job and did what they normally do. They are a great defense-to-offense transition team and they just kind of counterpunch you like crazy. We were kind of caught on our heels; they got better as the match went on and we just really struggled to keep up with them."
The second set continued the run from the end of the first and ORU took a 7-0 lead before the Islanders got on the board with a Hullum kill to make it 7-1. Texas A&M – Corpus Christi fell behind by too much, as they tried to rally late but came up short at 25-16.
In the third set, the two teams played close early on, with the score knotted at 12-12 before ORU went on a 10-1 run to make it a 22-13 lead to gain control of the final set. The team rallied to within six points, culminating in back-to-back block assists by Tyger Holt and Ashley Phelps to cut it to a 23-17 deficit and force an ORU timeout. The team fought hard all the way until the end, but the Golden Eagles finished out the match with a 25-18 final to clinch a berth into the second round.
Although not the result the Islanders hoped for at the start of the tournament, the fact that the team earned the No. 3 seed after being picked to finish seventh at the start of the season by both the coaches and sports information directors shows how much the team has improved from when Graystone took over the program before the 2009 campaign.
"This loss isn't going to take anything away from the season," said Graystone. "We had a great year. I'm proud of the team and everything that they've done this year.
"We sent Shannon out on a good note this year and she played well in her last match. We're going to use this as a springboard to next season and make sure we get even better."
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