BEAUMONT – The most successful 2021 year for any of Tarleton’s intercollegiate athletic programs came to a triumphant end on Saturday in south Texas.
Playing its final match of the fall 2021 season, Tarleton volleyball swept Lamar in set scores of 25-11, 25-21 and 25-18 to conclude its second season at NCAA Division I with a 15-14 record.
By picking up the Western Athletic Conference victory, the program became the first in Tarleton’s WAC and D1 era to post consecutive winning seasons. The Texans have now finished with winning records in 13 straight seasons and 14 overall under head coach Mary Schindler.
Overall, Tarleton concluded the fall slate with a 15-14 record and 6-6 mark in conference play. The Texans finished third the WAC Southwest Division. Including the 2020 campaign, which was moved to the spring due to COVID-19, Tarleton went 28-25 with all of its wins coming over D1 foes.
Saturday’s result was the exclamation point on a strong close to the season for the Texans. Tarleton was the victor in eight of its last 13 outings. Five of the wins came in straight sets.
Tarleton cruised to a four-set win against Lamar (25-15, 25-19, 21-25, 25-20) on Oct. 7 in Stephenville to kick off its surge. The Texans made quicker haste in their victory over Lamar the second time around.
Outside of a 4-3 hole in set two, Tarleton never trailed. The Texans doubled up the Cardinals in sets one and three and led by double digits in both frames.
The Texans connected at a .400 percent hitting clip – their highest figure in a WAC match in school history. Nine players landed at least one kill. Tarleton also blocked 10 shots while having none of its own rejected.
Elise Smith led Tarleton’s offensive onslaught with a career-best 13 kills on a mind-boggling .765 hitting percentage. The Napoleonville, Louisiana native spread 11 of her kills over the final two sets. The junior concluded her first season in Purple and White with the second-highest hitting percentage (.363) among all players in the WAC.
Outgoing senior Lauren Kersey capped a decorated four-year career with an eight-kill effort. She exits Tarleton ranked fifth in program history in career kills with 1,3116. Class and position-mate Carmen Kinsey turned in five kills while fellow seniors Hali’a Swartman-Hogan, Lorin McNeil and Amari Franklin each had three.
Kayla Brannon, who ranks third in school history in career assists (2,858) turned in one final 20-plus assist effort, as the senior dished out 22 dimes.
Strong serve and receive and a bevy of miscues by the hosts enabled Tarleton to cruise to a 1-0 match lead. Lamar committed 13 attack errors in set one as Tarleton stymied the Cardinals’ offensive sets with seven blocks. The Texans hit .429 in the opening frame.
Seven of the Cardinals’ errors came in the match’s first 13 plays as Tarleton built a 10-3 lead. The advantage then swelled to 14-4 as Tarleton upped its blocks count to five and later reached a dozen points at 22-10.
Lamar kept it competitive in set two. Tarleton never led by more than four points. The Cardinals were within a point of the Texans as late as 17-16 in the set.
But as the Cardinals cut down on their self-inflicted errors, Tarleton ratcheted up its offensive efficiency. The Texans found the floor 16 times on attacks and threw in a trio of service aces to tighten their stranglehold on the set and match. Tarleton scored on four of the ensuing five plays following the Cardinals’ rally and landed the final two points of the frame to close the books.
The third-and-final set of the afternoon and Tarleton’s season was never in doubt. The Texans quickly assumed a 14-4 edge and kept Lamar doubled up at 18-9. Lamar used an 8-1 run to crawl within two points of Tarleton but the Texans answered five straight points of their own to set up match point.
Saturday’s match was Tarleton’s last in 2021. The program is not eligible for the postseason until 2024.
Despite graduating eight seniors, Tarleton will return as many as 10 letter winners in 2022.