No. 9 Texans split doubleheader to open Colorado Premier Challenge


DENVER, Co. – No. 9 Tarleton Volleyball opened the Colorado Premier Challenge with a split against No. 15 Southwest Minnesota State and Metro State.

The Texans (4-2) fell in five sets against AVCA-ranked Southwest Minnesota State and rebounded with a five-set thriller against host Metro State, who’s receiving votes in the AVCA poll.

Game 1: No. 9 Tarleton 2, No. 15 Southwest Minnesota State 3,
(25-22, 23-25, 26-28, 25-21, 11-15)

 Tarleton opened up with a top-15 team in the Colorado Premier Challenge, marking the fourth top-20 matchup in five games to start the season. In the opening set that Tarleton won, the Texans had to rally against the Mustangs after trailing 20-17 late in the set. Lauren Kersey, who had a team-leading 17 kills in the match, started the late charge for the Texans with a kill. Kersey had kills in three of the next five points to give the Texans a 22-21 lead. Tarleton closed the set on a 3-0 run behind blocks from Sofia Tonga and Tatyana Tuialii-Umi to take a 1-0 lead in the match.

SMSU took the next two sets 25-23 and 28-26 to jump ahead 2-1 in the match. In the second set, Tarleton and SMSU were tied at 23-23 before the Mustangs took the final two points. In the third set, the Texans led 26-25 before the Mustangs took the final three points.

Tarleton bounced back with a fourth-set win. The Texans led 14-10 midway through the set with kills from Adriana Darthuy, Natalya Chatham and Tuialii-Umi. After a 3-0 push by the Mustangs, the Texans answered back with a 3-0 run of their own with kills from Darthuy and Carmen Kinsey while Kinsey and Chatham delivered with blocks at the net. Darthuy had the final two points of the set for the Texans to even the match at 2-2.

In the fifth set, the two nationally-ranked teams were tied at 9-9 before the Mustangs converted on five straight points to go up 14-9. The Texans took the next two points, but SMSU landed a kill to win the match.

Tarleton had four players in double digits for kills, led by Lauren Kersey’s 17 on a .368 hitting percentage. Tatyana Tuialii-Umi followed with 16 kills, hitting .297. Adriana Darthuy added 12 kills and Carmen Kinsey posted 10. Kayla Brannon and Amari Franklin each dished out 26 assists to lead the team.

Defensively, Michaela Rodriguez led with 26 digs while Brannon posted a double-double with her 11 digs.

Game 2: No. 9 Tarleton 3, Metro State 2
(25-23, 25-23, 21-25, 18-25, 17-15)

 Tarleton was able to split the doubleheader by taking down tournament-host Metro State in the final game on Friday. It was a thrilling-five set win that appeared to be on path to be a Texan sweep after they won the first two sets before they ultimately had to come from behind late in the fifth set.

In the opening set, Metro State jumped out to an 11-6 advantage. The Texans took the next four points behind a pair of kills from Lauren Kersey, who posted a season-high 19 kills in the match. Metro State would pull back ahead 20-15 before the Texans changed gears and closed the set strong with a 10-3 run. Kersey had two straight kills to bring the Texans to within one at 20-19. Sofia Tonga’s kill tied the score at 21-21, the first time the Texans were tied since 5-5. After Metro State led 23-22, Amber Strange tied the score with a kill, while Tatyana Tuialii-Umi and Tonga’s block helped the Texans take the final two points and the opening-set win.

The second set was just as close, with teams trading point for point all the way to a 22-22 tie thanks to an Amber Strange kill to even the score. Tuialii-Umi and Tonga’s block put the Texans up by one before the Roadrunners countered with a block of their own to pull even at 23-all. Strange once again stepped up to the occasion and put the Texans up 24-23 with a kill. Freshman Emma Halcomb’s service ace was the game winner to go up 2-0 in the match.

Metro State took the next two sets 25-21 and 25-18 to force a fifth and deciding set.

In the fifth set, Metro State led 5-1 early before Tarleton bounced back with a 4-0 run. Kersey pounded three straight kills and Darthuy followed with a fourth to even the set at 5-5. The 4-0 run was the starting stages of a 9-1 push by the Texans. Kersey and Darthuy had kills in the 5-0 run that made the score 10-6. Metro State had a run of its own, scoring eight of the next nine points to force match point at 14-11. The Texans had one last push on them, with Carmen Kinsey kick-starting the offense with a pair of kills to even set at 14-14. Trailing 15-14, Tarleton scored the final three points on a kill from Tuialii-Umi to tie the score, a block by Sofia Tonga to take the lead and Kersey’s kill to win the come-from-behind match.

Kersey (19), Darthuy (17) and Tuialii-Umi (10) each had double-digit kills to lead the Texan offense. Kayla Brannon paced the offense with a team-leading 33 assists. Four Texans had double-digit digs on the defensive end, led by Michaela Rodriguez’s 26 digs. Darthuy had 19 digs for the double-double, while Amari Franklin also posted a double-double with 19 assists and 12 digs. Emma Halcomb was the fourth Texan with 10 digs.

No. 9 Tarleton moves to the silver bracket at Regis University and will play No. 12 Central Missouri at 12:30 p.m. and West Florida at 6 p.m. on Saturday.

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