By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (October 21, 2015) — Tarleton State is the real deal.
On Wednesday in front of a rowdy crowd of 746 at Wisdom Volleyball Gym, the TexAnns proved it.
They proved it with a stretch of nine straight points to seize control in the fourth set against conference co-leader Angelo State after each of the first three sets were determined by two points, two of them in extras.
In short, it was a match that lived up to its billing, and Tarleton is a team exceeding all expectations.
Tarleton (19-3, 9-1) defeated ASU (19-5, 8-2) in four – 25-23, 26-28, 28-26, 25-19 – to seize sole possession of first place in the Lone Star Conference and extend the longest win streak of its NCAA era to 11 matches including nine straight in league play.
Sophomore national kills leader Hailey Roberts landed the last kill of the nine-point run and smashed home her 24th kill on match point to give the TexAnns a win that many will look back and call the biggest in school history if they go on to win their first LSC regular season title.
Tarleton knew it would have to get production from players other than Roberts, who also had 12 digs, and indeed the TexAnns did.
Kenya Alexander racked up 12 kills and an impressive 10 total blocks, Xzache Mathis had 11 kills and Kelsey Raglin chipped in six to go with nine digs.
Chandler Gow was the facilitator again for Tarleton. The sophomore setter amassed 49 assists along with 11 digs, four kills and three blocks, giving Tarleton three double-double performances. Ayssa Garcia led the team with 14 digs.
ASU was paced by Brianna Sotello with 12 kills and nine digs while Abbie Lynn added 10 kills. Maggi Jo Keffury had 45 assists and Katie MacLeay registered 14 digs. ASU kills leader Mallory Blauser suffered what appeared to be a knee injury in the second set and did not return.
Tarleton took the lead in the match for good in the third set, which was tied seven times beginning at 15-15. ASU committed a lift penalty to give Tarleton the last advantage it would need before Roberts slammed home a kill for the winner.
ASU rallied from an 18-13 deficit to make Tarleton sweat in the opening set. The Rambelles tied it at 23-23 on a block by Lynn, but a kill by Roberts and a Rambelle attack error gave the TexAnns an early one set lead.
Raglin made five kills in the first set, and Roberts offset four errors with four kills and six digs. Alexander made three early blocks.
ASU evened the match with a second set really. Tarleton led 23-21 before a hitting error by Roberts and two straight kills by Lynn to make it 24-24. Tarleton held advantages twice more following an ASU service error and a Roberts kill right on the sideline, but Lynn tied it with a kill, Sotello gave the Rambelles the advantage with a block then Lynn aced a serve to finish it and send the teams to the intermission in a tie.
Tarleton breaks from LSC play and travels to Wichita, Kansas this weekend. They could match the all-time school record of 12 straight wins against Lubbock Christian and set a new mark against Newman. They play the Heartland Conference members at 1:30 and 4 p.m. Saturday.
TheFlashToday.com photos by RUSSELL HUFFMAN