STEPHENVILLE – Tarleton Volleyball capped off its inaugural NCAA Division I season on a winning note by defeating UTRGV 3-1 (25-14, 25-27, 25-16, 25-15) to sweep the season series.
Tuesday was the final game of the regular season for the Texans, who closed the year out with three straight wins. Tarleton is not eligible for the WAC or NCAA Tournaments during the transition years.
The Texans ended the season with a winning record, going 13-11 overall and placing fourth in the WAC with a 6-8 league record. The Texans played an entire Division I schedule this season and it was highlighted by a six-game winning streak and also sweeping Big 12 member TCU in a home-and-home series.
Tarleton honored a trio of seniors before the match: Amber Strange, Charlotte Bradshaw and Natalya Chatham. Due to injuries, Strange was the only senior able to play and she delivered with a match-leading 16 kills. Lauren Kersey equaled Strange with 16 kills on a match-high .500 hitting percentage.
The Texan defense limited UTRGV to a .032 hitting percentage and forced 30 errors. The Texans had 13 total blocks as a team and 73 digs, led by three Texans in double figures: Mattie Theurer (18 digs), Melina Maldonado (16) and Emma Halcomb (13). Tarleton hit .211 at a team and was led offensively by Kayla Brannon’s 42 assists to lead all players.
Tarleton raced out to a big lead in the opening set, using a 7-1 run to go up 13-7 with Lorin McNeil providing a pair of kills and a service ace during the stretch. McNeil totaled seven kills and also had a game-high seven blocks. The Texans used a 7-0 push to go up by double digits as Kersey poured in a pair of kills and a block of her own to cruise to a set one victory.
After UTRGV won a back-and-forth second set 27-25, the Texans came back strong the final two sets to clinch the win.
In set three, Tarleton doubled up UTRGV 14-7 on three straight attack errors by the Vaqueros. UTRGV cut the deficit to 17-13 after four straight points but Strange powered down four straight kills for the Texans as part of an 8-2 run to close out the set win and lead 2-1 in the match.
UTRGV battled early in the fourth set looking to stay alive with a 9-5 advantage. Tarleton snagged the momentum and never looked back with a 10-2 run where Strange, Kersey and Brianna Rhodes combined for six kills during the stretch. Leading 15-12, the Texans scored the next seven points to lead by 10, 22-12 and would clinch the win on a match-ending kill by Strange.
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