Thursday, February 4, 2021

From the Sideline: SFA 3, Texas A&M - Corpus Christi 2 [Match Summary]

 Corpus Christi - Ladyjack Volleyball got a wild win on the Island tonight knocking off Southland Conference foe Texas A&M - Corpus Christi in five sets (25-19, 14-25, 32-34, 25-18, 15-9).  The win puts SFA at 13-4 overall on the extended 2020-2021 season while the Islanders drop to 2-1.  The match was the conference opener for each team.  The 'Jacks fought off a vicious offensive attack by Texas A&M - Corpus Christi as the home blues saw three players chip in 50 kills out of the 71 total that found the floor.  SFA had a tough time containing middle blocker Rachel Young, who throughout her tenure on the Island has been known for her efficiency.  Young killed 17 balls on just 30 swings to post a .367 attack percentage with  many of her winners off the slide on the right pin.  Senior outside hitter Chloe Simon wasn't to be outdone by Young as she tallied a match-high 19 kills while hitting an impressive .375.

SFA's offense was more balanced being led by freshman outside hitter Leah Powell with 14 kills.  Taya Mitchell had an around top-shelf performance as she posted 11 kills, 4 blocks and 4 aces.  Two of the aces came at very critical points in the match.  SFA rounded out their offense with Ariana Pagan falling one kill shy of double-double (9 kills, 11 digs, two aces),  Ielan Bradley chipped in 8 terminations and fellow freshman Ashley Procious had 6 as did sophomore right side hitter Payton Cerny.  All-in-all, the 'Jacks were out killed by the Islanders 71-59, but SFA was slightly more efficient holding the attack percentage advantage .279 to .242.

SFA returned to having a quality defensive match on the net after briefly struggling in that department last weekend.  SFA posted 12 team blocks compared to only three for Texas A&M - Corpus Christi.  Procious racked up 7 total blocks, with three of them being of the solo variety.  Cerny had a season high five block assists.  The battle of what might be the top liberos in the conference, Maddie Miller posted 19 digs and her counterpart  Carissa Barnes scooped up 24. 

In the first set, the 'Jacks fell behind 4-1, but then quickly righted the ship by going on a7-2 to run to gain the lead. The Islanders would tie it at 8 all, but then four straight points by SFA featuring kills from Pagan, Bradley and Procious and one of the aforementioned aces by Mitchell put the Ladyjacks up for good.  SFA stretched the lead to six and held on to win the first set by that margin at 25-19.

Set 2 saw the 'Jacks offense that had hit .273 in the prior frame struggle to run efficiently as strong serving by the Islanders and poor passing by the SFA back row allowed Texas A&M - Corpus Christi to make quick work of the set by a score of 25-14.  SFA came out flat in the set with the Islanders scoring the first six points to force an SFA timeout.  The break temporarily worked as SFA then scored four straight to draw close, but in the middle of the set Islander libero completely took over at the service stripe.  With her club up 9-7, Barnes proceeded to serve eight times and ace the Ladyjacks three times in a monstrous run that saw the Islanders push their lead all the way out to 17-7.  The aces picked on three separate SFA players which were credited with return errors:  Pagan, Miller and sophomore Kennedy Wright who made a brief appearance during the onslaught.  From there, Texas A&M - Corpus Christi continued to roll - leading by as many as a dozen at 22-10 late in the set.

Set 3 was one for the ages.  Easily the most competitive set, neither team could gain much of an advantage, but the Islanders held slim leads for the majority of the early phases.  A Kaylee Payne service error got SFA tied at 15 and from there the teams began slugging out points back and forth.  The set was tied consecutively at 19, then 20, then 21 before finally SFA gained the lead at 23-21.  After a Young kill, Islander setter Faith Panhans was called for double contact giving SFA their first set point.  From there on, the set got completely wild.  A Simon kill and another Barnes ace knotted the match at 24.  The see-saw battle went on and on with the score tied at 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 and 32.  At one point in the chaos, freshman outside hitter Coco Gillett made a sprawling pancake dig that sent the SFA bench and the 'Jacks COVID-limited fan base into full furry. Another Simon winner and then a block by Islanders middle blocker Sam Dumity coupled with Panhans assisting ended the rambunctious set 34-32 in favor of the home team.  SFA had six set points thwarted by the Islanders during the energetic set.

Down two sets to one at that point, the young Ladyjacks then turned the tables on the Islanders and ran out to a huge early lead in Set 4.  As uncompetitive as Set 2 was in favor of Texas A&M - Corpus Christi, the same was true in Set 4 concerning the SFA dominance.  The Ladyjacks raced out to a 12-3 start featuring a long service hold by Taya Mitchell which included two consecutive aces.  The Islanders went on a mini 4-1 run near the end of the set to close to 20-13 forcing a Debbie Humphreys timeout.  From there, the teams traded points with SFA closing it out 25-18 - SFA getting their last three points of the set off of Islander service errors.

In the decisive fifth, SFA jumped out to a 6-3 behind three quick kills from Powell and two more from Mitchell.  Freshman defensive specialist Bryli Contreras then served five times to stretch the 'Jacks lead out to a whopping mark of 10-3.  Simon tried to bring her club back by tallying four kills in five rallies to close the Islanders to within four at 11-7.  A kill by Pagan, a service ace by 'Jacks freshman Maddy Bourque and two Islanders errors sealed the set 15-9 for SFA and completed the 2 hour and 15 minute marathon.

SFA travels to San Antonio on Friday for practice and then will face off with the Cardinals of Incarnate Word on Saturday with first serve scheduled for 1:30 PM.  The match will be carried live here at SFA VolleyBlog Radio.