Flash Staff Report
(November 30, 2017) – Disappointed. Stunned. Eliminated.
All three aptly describe the Tarleton State volleyball team in the wake of four-set loss by the Lone Star Conference champion and second-seeded TexAnns (29-6) to seventh-seeded West Texas A&M (22-13) in the opening round of the South Central Region Championship at Regis Field House in Denver.
Disappointed because the TexAnns were the favorites, many believed, to reach their first regional final and possibly win the school’s first regional championship in the sport. Tarleton has won just one NCAA tourney match in volleyball since joining the association in 1995.
Stunned because they swept WTAMU in the semifinals of the Lone Star Conference Championship tournament just 13 days prior and had dominated the conference by three games, with the Lady Buffs six behind them in fifth place.
Eliminated because that’s it. One upset in the NCAA’s and you’re finished. Conference champs or not, there is no room for error come playoff time.
Hailey Roberts, who in the days leading up to the regional was named South Central Region Player of the Year by both the American Volleyball Coaches Association and the Division II Conference Commissioner’s Association, finished 16 kills short of the LSC Career mark of 2,405, only adding to the disappointment as her career averages show a statistical probability of her breaking the record with just one more match.
Roberts had 21 kills, but needed 37 to match the record. The reigning D2CCA National Player of the Year finished with 2,389 career kills. She also had 17 digs, ending her career with a strong double-double plus 3 blocks and an ace.
But it wasn’t enough. Not even close.
The Lady Buffs outscored Tarleton 99-77 overall to win 25-11, 25-21, 24-26, 25-19. They came close to sweeping Tarleton, leading the fourth 22-18 before a 8-2 TexAnn run to stay alive.
But for only one more set.
The Lady Buffs completed the upset with as much authority as they began it, scoring the final six points to win a fourth set that was tied at 19. They punched their ticket to meet No. 3 seed Metro State in a regional semifinal on Friday.
Courtesy Tarleton Sports Network/Tarleton Athletic Communications
WTAMU sprinted out to a 19-8 lead in the opening set and Tarleton never recovered, committing 30 errors to 20 by the Lady Buffs and being outhit .215 to .103 for a deficit in kills of 57-49. Tarleton struggled against WTAMU’s service game, allowing seven aces. They returned the favor just twice with aces of their own, and also could not keep up in blocks with WTAMU stuffing 11 shots and Tarleton seven.
The Lady Buffs were balanced – 15 kills by Taylor Kress and 10 each from Destiny Jones and Erin Clark. Jones added six blocks and Kress doubled up with 11 digs. Selena Batiste was solid running the show with 39 assists and 11 digs. Crystal Thomas anchored the middle with five blocks and Batiste only added to her memorable day with four.
Also completing their Tarleton careers were Chandler Gow and All-American and All-Region setter Jordyn Keamo. The second-ever two-time LSC Setter of the Year, Keamo was outstanding again with 41 assists and had 25 digs. Adriana Darthuy had 14 kills while Amber Strange recorded seven blocks and six kills.
The loss ended a seven-match Tarleton win streak, six of those victories coming in straight sets. Tarleton had won 22 of its previous 23, beginning with a school-record 15-match win streak that carried the TexAnns through the heart of conference play.
Fittingly, it was WT that ended that streak, too, when the TexAnns lost at The Box in Canyon. Tarleton swept the Lady Buffs in the regular season in Stephenville just as they went on to do again in the conference tournament, part of a perfect 17-0 home mark.