PRAIRIE VIEW – A collective business trip mentality has manifested itself for Tarleton volleyball on road trips midway through the program’s Division I debut season.
That mindset certainly traveled south to Prairie View A&M on Wednesday, as the Texans swept the Panthers in set scores of 25-18, 25-22 and 25-15 in the first-ever meeting between the two schools.
The victory was Tarleton’s third consecutive win away from home and fifth in its last six tries. The Texans are now 6-7 and have a chance to bring their record to .500 for the first time since the season began on Jan. 25 when TCU visits Wisdom Volleyball Gym on Thursday.
Tarleton never trailed by more than two points throughout the evening and built 11-point leads in the first and third sets. Lauren Kersey and Hali’a Swartman-Hogan each finished with a match-high 12 kills. Kayla Brannon again set the table for the Texan offense, posting 32 assists. Libero Ana Costas led all players with 17 digs while Brannon added 10 of her own.
Kersey blitzed the Panthers from the right side of the net in the first set to help Tarleton seize control of the match. Six of Tarleton’s first eight points came via kills from the Norman, Oklahoma native. Kersey landed eight of her kills in the first set as Tarleton used a 17-5 scoring run to build a 19-7 advantage late in the set.
Her eighth kill gave Tarleton a 24-11 advantage before Prairie View rattled off a 7-0 scoring spurt to prompt head coach Mary Schindler to burn a timeout. Setter Melina Maldonado then promptly pushed the ball over the net with two hands on an extended rally to secure match point.
Tarleton’s block immediately took the Panther offense out of rhythm. The Texans held Prairie View to a .000 hitting percentage in the first set and .047 for the match. Tarleton landed nine blocks to Prairie View’s three.
The Texans arguably absorbed Prairie View’s best shot in the second set. The teams largely alternated points with neither leading by more than two to the tune of a 15-15 tie. Tarleton then converted four Panther attack errors and a kill by Lorin McNeil into a 20-17 lead. After Prairie View pulled within one point at 22-21, Tarleton closed out the action with three straight points off two attack errors and a decisive kill from Amber Strange.
Strange and McNeil had eight and seven kills, respectively, while McNeil, a senior who arrived in Stephenville from Abilene Christian, led all players with six block attacks. Prairie View finished with 22 errors while Tarleton had 16.
The third and final set was never in question. Strange and Swartman-Hogan took control of the Texan attack, as the pair of outside hitters combined for seven kills early on to stake Tarleton to a 15-7 edge. Tarleton assumed its largest lead at 20-9 before Swartman-Hogan put things away with a trio of kills. Swartman-Hogan’s 12 kills matched her career high in Purple and White.
The Texans finished with 43 kills and 40 assists and hit above a .200 percent clip in all three sets.
First serve for Thursday’s game vs. the Horned Frogs is set for 6 p.m. The match will broadcast live on ESPN+ and marks the first time Tarleton has hosted a ‘Power Five’ conference opponent in any sport.