Senior Send-off to Volleyball Netters
UT-Brownsville Sweeps SAGU in Home Finale, 3-0
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- They were as good as advertised. The #2 ranked University of Texas at Brownsville women's volleyball team took out Southwestern Assemblies of God University before a good home crowd tonight, three games to none. The Scorpions had already clinched the Red River Athletic Conference regular season championship for a second straight season and were preparing for post-season play.
UTB, now 30-1, won the first two games in quick fashion as their power at the net combined with a very effective service game won by scores of 25-9 and 25-8. The third set was close until the Stingers closed with a 12-4 run to win, 25-16. The loss dropped SAGU to 16-15 for the season.
The visitors upped their RRAC mark to 13-0 while the Lady Lions slipped to 7-5.
Last Home Appearance for Briggs, Toole
An appreciative crowd showered SAGU's two seniors with praise while Hank Moore and the coaching staff presented by Jordan Briggs (Maypearl, Tx / Maypearl HS) and Brittani Toole (Whitehouse, Tx / Whitehouse HS) with farewell expressions.
SAGU ends season with pair of road tilts
Both teams have two matches remaining. Southwestern will be in East Texas on Saturday for an 11:00am clash in Tyler against Texas College (5-26 record). After lunch they will take on Wiley College (17-8) in Marshall. The 3:00pm match will likely determine third place in the conference. The Lady Lions defeated Wiley last month in Sheaffer Full Life Center, 3-2. In recent years they have competed very well in Marshall against a talented team that has become a friendly rival.
UT-Brownsville will play Bacone College in Muskogee, Oklahoma on Friday night. They will tangle with 20th ranked Oklahoma Baptist University (24-8) on Saturday in Oklahoma City.
Hands Full with Scorpions
The Lady Lions are the only team in the Red River who have reached or surpassed the 20-win plateau the previous five seasons. Thursday, however, they had their hands full with UTB, a squad loaded with 10 international players. As a team, the Purple Pride hit for a season low 12 kills in 85 swings. The only match in which they had less than 23 (which was against Southern Nazarene; 21-13 record) was 18, also against the Scorpions. They have held conference foes to an average of .050 this season.
SAGU's team hitting percentage this year is a solid .178, which trails only Wiley (.278) and UTB (.258).
The Scorpions hit .333, making good on 39 of 84 attempts. It was the 14th time they have hit for a composite .300 or better. They served a blistering 10 aces.
Even against the premier opponent, Coach Moore played 10 players in at least two of the games, while Brownsville stuck with their primary rotation, keeping their bench players on the bench.
Tied in the early going at 2-2, the orange-and-blue clad guests quickly established their 5-2 attack, utilizing both of their setters for a 10-2 advantage. SAGU's first strike came, not surprisingly, from the right arm of Toole. She spanked a Taylor Calverley (Mansfield, Tx / Grace Prep) set. She followed that up with the team's lone ace, handcuffing the center of their back row.
Krystal Cisneros (El Paso, Tx / Del Valle HS) and Kassy Cox (Lufkin, Tx / Lufkin HS) teamed up for a block that drew an enormous cheer from the Lions Pride. Sophomore hitter Caitlyn Hudson (Mansfield, Tx / Legacy HS) unloaded on a crosscourt blast that went untouched, slicing the deficit to 17-7. The Scorpions went on to win, 25-9.
Team Lioness started with a solo rejection by Cisneros. She has now had at least two blocks in 21 of the team's 31 matches, and has a minimum of one in 29 of the 31. She has become a force to be reckoned with and should be considered for All-RRAC in this, her junior season.
Trailing 11-2, Coach Moore brought in Brittany Briggs (Maypearl, Tx / Maypearl HS), allowing her to play side-by-side with her sister, Jordan. A classy move. Moments later her inserted Beka Dollar (Weatherford, Tx / Brock HS) into the action. Both players were tested and made plays against the national power.
A block on the left side by Toole was another defensive highlight by Moore's troops, who known for their blue-collar work ethic.
Hudson, who had the best statistical night of the team, hammered a Calverley offering for SAGU's seventh point. Then provided an impressive encore with an identical smash, this one sent thundering through an attempted double-team block. UTB closed out the set to claim a 25-8 triumph.
Determined to join Texas Wesleyan and Our Lady of the Lake as the only conference foes to win a single game from UTB, the Lady Lions came out firing. Calverley scored a kill on a Hudson assist, then set Toole. The powerhouse from Whitehouse (Tx) uncorked a deep shot down the left sideline for a 2-1 lead.
The Lions continued to attack, forcing errors for a 5-3 lead. When Cox, a 6'0 defender, sent a shot back to sender, the lead remained at two, 6-4. The squads battled for each point and were knotted at 10-10 when Calverley tipped a Hudson pass into the center-midcourt area for an effective kill. Those two paired again, reversing roles. Calverley lifted a well-placed set that Hudson pounded, much to the delight of the home faithful. SAGU trailed 13-11.
By the time Toole ripped a shot down the right line, they were behind 18-13, but contesting everything. Team Purp drew to within 20-16 with Toole serving for the last time in the FLC. UTB finished off the set and match with five unanswered tallies to win, 25-16.
Lady Lions' Cat Stats
Hudson hit for a team best .158, swatting five kills. She also had a block. Toole finished with four kills, one block, and one ace. To put her statistics in perspective, her 14 swings were her second lowest since she had only 12 against winless Huston-Tillotson University. The middle hitter has been in double-figures in kills in 25 matches. Cisneros accounted for three blocks. Cox, fourth best on the club in kills in her freshman campaign, added two blocks.
Jordan Briggs shined the court with numerous dives on the defensive end, racked up 10 digs. She had been in double-digits in 19 matches this year. She was the team's best passer, making 12 of 13 attempts. Junior tri-captain Tina Brown (Seguin, Tx / Lifegate Christian) served for three points and was 12-of-14 in passing. Laura Espinoza (Duncanville, Tx / Duncanville HS) had five digs, while Dollar had three and was 5-of-6 passing.
Calverley had an active night, leading both teams in set attempts with 64. That she only had nine assists, a season-low, spoke more of the Scorpions' defensive front wall. She had opened her career by reaching double-figs in assists in her first 28 matches as a freshman. Calverley has made made 30 or more sets fifteen times. She also had three kills and four digs.
UTB head coach Todd Lowery, 64-4 in his second season in the Rio Grande Valley, said his team continues to improve. "We are better than we were a month ago," he said afterwards. "I doubt if we are as talented as last year's team, but we're better as a team. We play well together." He added that his squad has shown the most improvement on defense.
"We used to give up more points to the opposition," he added. "But we're working harder on defense."
When asked what his team was prepared to counter on the SAGU attack he said, "We have gotten to the point where we don't often try to focus on their key players, other than who we match-up against their best hitters. Rather, if we stick to our game plan and do our part, opponents have to respond to us."
Coach Moore, who just two years ago swept the Scorpions, said: "They are a very good team. They did as we expected. But our girls are battlers and they never backed down. We fought well and held our own. I love our team!"
Of particular angst to home fans was a number of questionable calls in the second and third games. Plays that clearly appeared to be SAGU points were disallowed, prompting the first boos from the normally kind home fans. As one photographer was heard to say, "UTB doesn't need any help."
Next Week: Red River Tournament in Ft. Worth
The top six teams in the conference qualify for the annual tournament, hosted again by Texas Wesleyan. The event will be held on Friday and Saturday, November 12-13.
As it looks today, the Lady Lions (16-15, 7-5 in RRAC) will face the Wesleyan Lady Rams (14-17, 6-6), whom they have split with this season. That best-of-five match would open the tourney on Friday at 12 noon. Wiley College (17-8, 8-4) would taken on Texas College (5-26, 3-9) at 2:30pm.
Should SAGU best TWU, they would advance to the semi-finals against UT-Brownsville (30-1, 13-0) at 5:00pm on Friday. Second place Our Lady (12-4, 10-3) would play the winner of the Wiley-Texas College quarterfinal at 7:30pm. The championship will held on Saturday, with the winner heading to the NAIA national tourney.
These match-ups could change depending on the outcome of this weekend's schedule.