STEPHENVILLE – Despite a stellar showing by its Oklahoma trio, Tarleton’s first bid for a weekend Western Athletic Conference short on Saturday, as the Texans fell to UTRGV 3-1 in set scores of 23-25, 25-15, 22-25 and 18-25.
Kayla Brannon racked up 31 assists while Norman natives Lauren Kersey and Carmen Kinsey combined for 30 kills in the loss. Kersey led Tarleton in kills for the sixth consecutive match with 16. Kinsey laced home14 kills on 22 swings against just one error for a game and season-high .591 hitting percentage. The 5-11 senior’s hitting percentage was a single-game high for any player for Tarleton this fall.
As a team, 31 of Tarleton’s 53 kills came in the first two sets, including 15 in the second period. Tarleton built a 12-4 lead to hastily erase any lingering disappointment from the opening frame. Kinsey’s ninth kill of the match tripled up the Vaqueros to force the visitors into a timeout. UTRGV was unable to climb within eight points of the Texans the rest of the way. Tarleton later assumed its largest lead of the set and match at 23-12 before a kill by Hali’a Swartman-Hogan put the set away.
Missed opportunities to put the Vaqueros away in sets one and three loomed large, however. Tarleton erased a five-point UTRGV advantage in set one to assume a two-point lead twice at 16-14 and 17-15. Kills by Kersey and Kinsey, respectively, then knotted the score at 22-22 and 23-23. UTRGV, though, landed consecutive kills from the pin to take a 1-0 match lead.
In set three, Tarleton again clawed its way out of an early hole but was unable to put itself in position for set point. UTRGV used a 7-3 scoring run to break a 6-6 tie and command a 13-9 lead. Tarleton responded with kills on five straight scoring plays after the teams alternated points to the tune of a 16-13 Vaqueros edge to draw even at 18-18. Two straight kills by Amber Strange later kept the scoreboard level at 22-22 but UTRGV bookended a pair of kills with a Tarleton attack error out of a timeout to move in front 2-1.
A UTRGV scoring run proved decisive in the fourth-and-final frame. The Vaqueros went on an 8-1 surge following a 7-7 time to assume control of the set. Tarleton never got within more than three points of the Vaqueros the rest of the way.
The Texans enjoyed a slight edge over the Vaqueros in defensive statistical categories. Tarleton finished with 59 digs to UTRGV’s 59 and had a 9-7 advantage in blocks.
Tarleton is now 8-10 overall on the season and dropped to 1-3 in conference play with the loss. The Texans conclude a four-game homestand vs. Prairie View A&M on Thursday and Abilene Christian two days later.