By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (October 25, 2017) — Technically, Angelo State is still defending champion in the Lone Star Conference.
But it was by overwhelming authority that No. 11 Tarleton State ended the No. 21 Rambelles’ reign Wednesday, even with matches still ahead.
It took only three sets for Tarleton All-Americans Hailey Roberts and Jordyn Keamo to all but grab the LSC Championship trophy and escape into the night with it hidden away as Roberts killed 18 balls dug seven and blocked three more while Keamo was good for 34 assists and six digs in a 25-22, 25-14, 25-17 blow out.
Tarleton retained its 3-match lead over Texas A&M-Commerce with six matches remaining while leaving ASU 5.5 matches back in fifth, startling for a club that early in the season ranked as high as fifth in the nation.
The TexAnns could potentially have their second LSC title locked up this weekend. They visit UT-Permian Basin Friday, beginning at 7 p.m., followed by West Texas A&M on Saturday at 2 p.m.
Typical of a Tarleton-ASU match in recent years, everything was tense early, enough so that the match began with service errors both ways, then an attack error by ASU. But once Tarleton got into a rhythm, ASU couldn’t handle the tempo, especially not with a jam-packed Wisdom Volleyball Gym exploding with every TexAnn point during the home team’s 14th straight victory, a school record since No. 13 last Saturday.
As good as the TexAnns have been, including their first road win over ASU in 11 years to begin the streak, no one imagined a 20-20 first-set tie would be the last time the Rambelles would reach 20 points all night.
An ASU attack error broke the tie before Keamo aced a serve for 22-20 Tarleton. Bailey Drum killed two of the nests three with Tarleton freshman Amber Strange killing one in between, leading to 23-2 before Adriana Darthuy, the first -year Tarleton junior from France who has added much to the TexAnn firepower, landed an offensive missile to bring it to set point. ASU erred its way out of the set, which ended with a 5-2 TexAnn push, giving them momentum that would not be relinquished.
The second was 11-6 but ASU closed it slightly to 15-11, the last glimmer of hope shown by the visiting team, which now sits two matches behind second-place TAMUC, 1 back of Texas A&M-Kingsville and half a match off the pace of West Texas A&M, a longtime top-tier power having its own struggles these past two seasons.
Tarleton slammed the door on any concerns of a late-season TexAnn collapse with a powerful 10-3 run over the back half of the second set, keyed by Keamo with two aces and a kill during the stretch.
Roberts killed two of the first three volleys to lift Tarleton to a 3-0 lead early in the third, which was never close and ended with back-to-back kills from the two-time All-American and 2016 Division II Conference Commissioner’s Association National Player of the Year.
Strange had seven kills and five blocks while libero Adrianna Knutson collected eight digs to lead a TexAnn defensive effort that limited ASU to 26 assists and 32 kills, paltry compared to 44 and 45, respectively by the home club. Tarleton hit a steady .281 while the ASU attack percentage of .131 came in .107 below its season average.
Notes: Roberts now has 2,210 career kills, 196 less than the LSC record of 2,404 set from the 1999-2002 seasons by Alma Brahimaj of past conference member Central Oklahoma….ASU maintains a 35-17 lead in the all-time series.