SAN ANTONIO – The historic Alamo City served as an apt backdrop for a significant Tarleton volleyball milestone on Wednesday.
Indeed, senior Kayla Brannon became the third player in program history to record 2,500 career assists to help stake the Texans to a 3-1 match win at Incarnate Word.
With her fourth assist of the evening, Brannon entered rarefied air. She is just the second player to have touched down in Stephenville with 2,500 assists to play alongside a hitter with 1,000 kills. Brannon and 1,000-kill teammates Lauren Kersey and Amber Strange now join Danielle Barker and Stacie Murrah atop the Texan record books.
The Brannon-Kersey connection reaped rewards for Tarleton throughout the nonconference tilt. Brannon, from Moore, Oklahoma, dished out 22 assists on 51 total sets for a match-high .431 assist percentage. The fellow Oklahoman Kersey led Tarleton with 14 kills and connected at a .391 clip to lead all players.
Accompanying Kinsey in double-digit kills were middle blockers Lorin McNeil and Trinity Vinzant, who each landed 10 kills. McNeil, who leads the Western Athletic Conference in total blocks (53), added five rejections at the net. Vinzant, a freshman, delivered another all-around performance in her debut season in Purple and White. She dug out nine balls, had two assists and added a service ace to pair with her offensive output. Fellow senior Carmen Kinsey was not far behind, as she landed nine kills. Kinsey, who was named to the Islanders Classic All-Tournament team following the Texans’ win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Saturday, has laced home 33 kills over Tarleton’s last three matches.
Efficient offense engineered an early lead for Tarleton. The Texans landed a combined 10 kills and service aces over their final 12 points in set one to earn a 26-24 victory. Tarleton fell behind 13-9 in the frame but evened the score at 15-15 before enjoying its offensive surge to put away the Cardinals.
Set two then saw the Texans at their most dominant. Tarleton hit .500 as a team to the tune of 16 kills en route to a 25-14 set win and 2-0 match lead. The set was never in doubt, as Tarleton quickly doubled up UIW at 8-4, upped its advantage to 17-8 and led by as many as 12 points at 21-9.
Tarleton was particularly efficient in the period. The team had just one error. Both Brannon and sophomore Melina Maldonado spearheaded the Texan attack. Maldonado’s 16 assists in the match marked her sixth consecutive performance with 10-or-more assists.
The Texans also put the clamps down defensively to build their two-set edge. UIW hit under .200 in both frames. Emma Halcomb, who has suited up as the team’s libero over the last five games, posted a match-high 19 digs while Brannon notched her third double-double in the last four games with a 10-dig effort.
The Cardinals refused to go quietly on their home floor. UIW extended the match to a fourth frame with a 25-13 set victory in set three.
Tarleton then had its moxie tested throughout set four. The Cardinals took an 11-8 lead, regained a two-point advantage after Tarleton climbed back in front at 16-15 and appeared poised to earn set point at 23-21.
The Texans, however, had other ideas. Consecutive kills by Kersey knotted things at 24-24. A UIW attack error then set Tarleton up with match point. McNeil’s fourth service ace – a match-high – promptly closed the books.
Tarleton earned its second consecutive win with the victory and is now 6-7 on the season. The Texans and Cardinals are scheduled to square off again on Oct. 26 in Stephenville.
The team’s 13-game extended road trip continues on Thursday, as Tarleton heads to Houston to face Texas Southern. First serve is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. inside H&PE Arena.