Sam Houston State’s volleyball postseason run ended in the first round of the Southland Conference tournament Friday evening in Corpus Christi as the Bearkats fell to Texas A&MCorpus Christi in four sets during the two ball clubs’ third matchup of the season.
Although the Bearkats couldn’t exploit the Islanders’ on both sides of the court, senior setter Tayler Gray believed they played well but couldn’t match TAMUCC’s fire.
“They had more offensive weapons than we did,” she said.
The tone was set to be close as both teams ended the season squaring off against each other.
Junior outside hitter Brianna Brink and junior right side hitter Ashley Phelps led the Islanders combining for 30 kills. Senior and sophomore outside hitters Sarah Sanchez and Ivy Baresh posted 13 and 10 kills, respectively.
For the Bearkats it was junior outside hitter Deveney Wells- Gibson that headed the charge. She tallied 27 kills for the match as she led all players in kills on the night. Senior outside hitter Haley Neisler added insurance with 13 kills for SHSU.
SHSU held a lead in the first set as they capitalized on two attack errors from the Islanders giving them an 11-8 lead. TAMU-CC answered with their own run, landing points off a kill from Sanchez and two Bearkat mistakes: one a hitting error and the other coming from a missed serve for a 13-14 score in the Islanders’ favor. SHSU then tied the score at 14 with a kill from Neisler. The two ball clubs traded points up until 19-19.
The Bearkats took the next four points behind the arms of Neisler and Wells-Gibson, leading the Islanders 23-19 and closing in on the first set victory, but momentum took a major shift in TAMU-CC’s favor.
They pulled off the next six points, using Bearkat hitting errors and kills from Brink to their advantage to take the first set victory.
The second set was similarly played, with the two teams tying the match at 11-11.
SHSU picked up four quick points after an Islander kill, leaving the score at 15-12.
After a TAMU-CC timeout to regroup, they controlled the next six straight points to halt the SHSU offense. The Islanders managed to give themselves a three-point lead behind their surge with an 18-15 lead.
The Bearkats later found themselves behind four points, the largest deficit of the set. At 18-22, SHSU’s defense sparked, frustrating the TAMU-CC front line and lifting themselves to a deadlock at 22-22.
After another Islander point, the Bearkats pulled together momentum to take five points, winning the second frame 27-25.
SHSU began to run out of gas as TAMU-CC took an early 10-7 lead in the third set. However, the Bearkats picked up energy mid-match as they later stole a quick three points, trailing the Islanders 17-18.
SHSU nipped at the heels of TAMU-CC, tying them twice at 21-21 and 22-22, but they couldn’t overtake the Islanders to get the win.
TAMU-CC took the set 25- 23, also gaining a two-game lead over the SHSU’s one game.
Energy started to swing in SHSU’s favor in the fourth frame as their play resembled that of the first two.
The Islanders led 16-14 in the heart of the frame before Neisler and Wells-Gibson connected on two Gray sets, and an Islander mistake put the Bearkats in the lead 17-16.
TAMU-CC matched SHSU’s energy with their own momentous five-point run, giving them a 21-18 lead.
SHSU again pulled within one point of TAMU-CC, 21-22, with a big defensive effort from senior outside hitter Lauren Bohlen and Neisler who put up a block against the Islander defense.
However, the Bearkats could not hold the Islanders off from the fourth set victory. TAMU-CC controlled the last three points of the match, winning 25-21.
Despite the postseason coming to a close before she wanted it to, Neisler said she is proud of their season and accomplishments.
“No one thought we could do it because of how young our team is,” she said. “But we really proved that we had the ability.”
Gray believes this season’s tough competition has laid the groundwork for next season, and she predicted success for the future.
“We held our own with such an inexperienced group,” she said. “Next year’s team should take the whole thing.”