STONY BROOK – Tarleton capped its stay on Long Island by splitting a Saturday doubleheader to conclude the Stony Brook Invitational.
The Texans rode their most efficient offensive performance of the season to sweep St. Thomas (MN) in set scores of 25-9, 25-19 and 25-17 before falling to Yale 3-1 (25-17, 22-25, 18-25, 21-25).
Tarleton 3, St. Thomas 0
In a battle of NCAA Division I transition schools, it was the team from the Lone Star State that emerged victorious.
Tarleton laced home 45 kills on just 95 total attacks for a season-best .400 hitting percentage en route to its first sweep of the season. The Texans never trailed by more than two points throughout the morning match.
Lauren Kersey finished with a match-high 13 kills and 13 points on the strength of a .391 hitting percentage.
Four other players with at least five attacks hit above a .400 percent clip. Brianna Rhodes and Hali’a Sweartman-Hogan both connected at a .667 hitting percentage. Rhodes delivered six kills in her third consecutive start while Swartman-Hogan spread out four over the course of the match. Rounding out the attack were Trinity Vinzant and Lorin McNeil, who finished with eight and six kills, respectively, and hitting percentages of .421 and .455.
For Vinzant, the effort was a part of another well-rounded performance just eight games into her collegiate career. The Decatur, Texas native also finished with eight digs, three block solos and a service ace for 12.5 points.
37 of Tarleton’s assists were split between two players – Kayla Brannon (21) and Melina Maldonado (16). Brannon again led Tarleton in assists and finished with at least 20 as she has in every game this season. For Maldonado, the performance marked the third match in which she assisted on 10-or-more kills.
The offensive flurry was fueled by ball control and stout defense. The Texans committed a season-low seven errors and assisted on 42 kills. On the other side of the net, Tarleton finished with 50 digs and eight total blocks while limiting St. Thomas to 24 kills and a .059 hitting percentage and forcing 18 errors.
A key cog in Tarleton’s defensive prowess was Emma Halcomb. The third-year junior earned her second start of the season and later filled in as the Texans libero. She dug out a season and game-high 18 attacks to stymie the Tommies throughout the tilt.
After inching out to a 6-5 lead to begin the first frame, Tarleton blitzed the Tommies with an 11-1 scoring fury to assume control of the match. The Texans then tallied seven straight points following a St. Thomas score to force match point at 24-7. A kill by senior middle blocker McNeil then wrapped things up three plays later.
In set two, the Texans quickly doubled up the Tommies and later assumed a 9-4 edge behind back-to-back kills from Swartman-Hogan and Vinzant with both assists going to Maldonado. Tarleton maintained a three-point edge to the tune of an 18-15 score before Kersey put things away with three kills over the final seven plays of the set.
Tarleton then left nothing to chance in the third and final set of the morning.
The Texans closed the match and the set on a 13-5 extended scoring run after St. Thomas knotted the scoreboard at 12. A trio of kills by Swartman-Hogan, McNeil and Kersey along with an attack error swelled the score to 16-12 in favor of the team from the Lone Star State. The Texans then closed the show with three straight kills from Rhodes and a spike down the middle by McNeil.
Yale 3, Tarleton 1
Tarleton’s early morning offensive momentum carried over to the afternoon affair but stout play from the Bulldogs’ outside hitters proved to be too much in sets two-through-four.
The Texans took full advantage of the tournament schedule layout to cruise to a swift set one victory. Tarleton opened up a 17-9 lead over the Bulldogs, who played on two hours rest after concluding a match against Stony Brook. An 8-4 run then sealed the deal following a quick 4-0 Bulldogs scoring spurt.
Kersey landed seven of her game-high 14 kills in the set. As a team, Tarleton racked up 14 kills against three errors on 32 swings for a .344 hitting percentage while limiting Yale to a .100 clip.
Tarleton stayed within two points of the Bulldogs for the majority of the second set and tied things at 21 before Yale closed on a 4-0 run. The Texans arguably turned in their best offensive set of the frame and tournament despite dropping the set. The team landed 15 kills against just two errors and finished with a match-best .433 hitting percentage.
In set three, a pair of kills from Swartman-Hogan staked the Texans to an 8-4 advantage. Tarleton then maintained its lead at 13-11 but the Bulldogs wrestled control of the set with an 8-1 run.
The two teams jockeyed for the lead throughout the entirety of the fourth and final set. After trailing 7-5, Tarleton regained the advantage at 9-7. The Texans then later erased another two-point Yale lead to swing the score from 13-11 to 18-16 in favor of the team from the Western Athletic Conference. Tarleton stayed ahead on the scoreboard at 20-19 but Yale ended the set and match on a 6-1 surge to break a 21-21 tie and earn match point.
McNeil blocked a match and season-high six shots while Halcomb, who started at libero, dug out a season and career-best 18 attacks. Brannon led Tarleton in assists with 29.
Tarleton will now return to the state of Texas for the remainder of the season, beginning with its final non conference tournament of the season Sept. 18-19 in Corpus Christi. The Texans open up against Texas State on Sept. 18 before playing a twin bill the following day vs. UTEP and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.