Tarleton cruises past PVAMU for first home sweep of the fall

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STEPHENVILLE – Tarleton volleyball was clad in purple t-shirts displaying the noun “warrior” when it took the court for warmups before a nonconference tilt vs. Prairie View A&M on Thursday. 

Below the primary text, the shirts bore the name of former assistant coach Molly Howard-Gerwig, who coached the Texans in 2019 and was diagnosed with a rare case of stage IV neuroendocrine cancer last year. 

Some 300 fans of a near-capacity crowd inside Wisdom Gym matched the players’ attire.  

The dress was the centerpiece of Tarleton’s ‘Spike Out Cancer’ match in support of Howard-Gerwig, who now coaches at Houston Baptist. Howard-Gerwig’s fight was on the minds of many in attendance, including eight Tarleton players she coached in 2019 

And on a night in which the match symbolized far more than the on-court trials, Tarleton’s play mirrored the verbiage branded across its pregame fit.  

The Texans turned in their most dominant effort of the 2021 campaign, routing the Panthers in straight sets by scores of 25-10, 25-15 and 25-19. 

The victory marked Tarleton’s first home sweep of the fall and third of the season. With the win, The Texans boosted their overall record to 9-10. Tarleton now has a chance to move back to .500 in the win-loss column when it rekindles an old Lone Star Conference rivalry vs. Abilene Christian on Saturday to cap a four-game homestand. 

Tarleton’s offensive stat sheet was littered with team and individual offensive statistical highs when the final whistle sounded.  

Collectively, the Texans landed 48 kills on 92 attacks against just seven errors for a season-high .446 hitting percentage. Tarleton posted 34 kills and hummed along to the tune of a .654 hitting percentage through the first two sets. 

Five players with as many kills hit above .440. Senior Lauren Kersey laced home a match-high 13 kills and 9.5 points to lead Tarleton in both categories for the seventh consecutive outing. Carmen Kinsey and Elise Smith were not far behind, as they finished with eight kills and seven kills, respectively.  

Kersey registered a season-high in hitting percentage (.545) as did Smith (.636). Smith, who transferred to Tarleton from Western Athletic Conference rival Sam Houston, now ranks third amongst her conference peers in individual hitting percentage (.356). 

Perhaps the most significant individual feat, though, belonged to Amber Strange. The fifth-year senior recorded six kills on eight attacks for a .750 percent clip, which was the highest individual single-game hitting percentage of any player with at least five kills this season.  

Rounding out the attack was middle blocker Loring McNeil, who added five kills along with three blocks. The senior continues to lead the WAC in total blocks with 75. 

Setters Kayla Brannon and Melina Maldonado teamed up to pace the Texan attack. Maldonado, who arrived in the Lone Star State by way of Carolina, Puerto Rico, led Tarleton in assists for the first time this season with 14 while Brannon added 13 of her own. 

Defensively, the Texans limited PVAMU to a .165 hitting percentage and 29 kills. 

Tarleton immediately jumped out to a double-digit edge to begin the match. The Texans’ tallied kills on 10 of their first 14 points to assume a 14-4 advantage. The hosts then capped an 8-0 run to boost their advantage to 18-4. Tarleton later took its largest lead of the set and match at 23-7 before kills from Kersey and Kinsey closed the door on the opening frame. 

An early 2-0 deficit in set two proved to be the lone instance in which Tarleton trailed by more than a point on the scoreboard. The Texans promptly doubled up the Panthers at 8-4 and used a 10-4 extended scoring spurt to wright control of the set to the tune of an 18-10 lead. Tarleton’s five ensuing points came via kills. A service ace from libero Ana Costas coupled with a Panthers attack error placed Tarleton in position for a sweep. 

The Texans used a final decisive run to make short work of the Panthers in the third frame. Following a 9-9 knot on the scoreboard, Tarleton scored on 10 of the next 12 plays to command a 19-11 lead. The Texans then earned match point following consecutive PVAMU errors. 

Tarleton has now won three straight matches over PVAMU and is 2-0 against the Panthers in 2021. The Texans swept PVAMU on Feb. 24 during the spring 2021 circuit as a part of a season-best five-game winning streak. 

The Texans moved to 3-1 in games played inside Wisdom Gym with the win. 

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