The No. 2 seeded WTAMU volleyball team won their ninth straight game on Friday night with a 25-22, 25-12 and 25-21 sweep of the No. 3 seed Tarleton State TexAnns in the Lone Star Conference Tournament. With the win, the Lady Buffs (29-4) advance to their seventh straight conference final and their 15th appearance in the title game. The Lady Buffs will play Angelo State today at 2 p.m. at the Junell Center in San Angelo.
The first set saw both teams start with emotion and the two sides traded points until Tarleton took a small 13-11 lead. The Lady Buffs battled back and a kill by junior middle blocker Laura Iwuchukwu gave the Lady Buffs the lead for good in the set at 20-18.
In the second set, the Lady Buffs came out firing, building a quick 14-6 forcing TSU head coach Mary Schindler to call a timeout. The Lady Buffs continued to carry the momentum through the rest of the set, winning 25-12.
“We had some momentum and we just rolled with it,” junior outside hitter Ashley Davis said, referring to the lopsided second set. Davis finished the night with nine kills. “We all got really excited and we knew they weren’t gonna give in at all, so we just had to push harder. Somehow we came out and played amazing.”
The third and final set started much like the first set with neither team able to grab the upper hand. The Lady Buffs finally snagged the advantage heading into a TSU timeout with WT leading 19-16.
“We won playing a team that, in my opinion played very well,” said Head Coach Jason Skoch. “We played against one against a team that brought a good game. You know, wins are fun, but they’re more fun when a team plays like Tarleton played.”
WT was led offensively by junior outside hitter Halie Harton for the second straight night with 13 kills. Harton hit .323 for the match and also posted eight digs. Senior middle blocker Erin Dougherty posted 11 kills out of 23 attempts for a .435 hitting percentage.
The offense kept rolling through the setting of senior Lacy Hayes, who put up 40 of WT’s 45 assists on the night.
The Lady Buffs put up a defensive showcase on the night, finishing with eight total blocks and holding the TexAnns to .121 hitting on the night. Leading the defense for the Lady Buffs was senior libero Lauren Beville, posting 22 digs on the night. Beville, the all-time career digs leader in WT history, extended her total to 2,331 digs. Two other Lady Buffs had double-digit digs on the night, senior Stormi Lancaster with 14 and Hayes with 12. The double-double is Hayes’ fifteenth of the season.
For Tarleton, they were led by senior outside hitter Nikki McNorton with nine kills for a .185 hitting percentage. The TexAnns also had three players in double-digit digs with junior libero Emily Klein leading the way with 22. Klein was followed by sophomore outside hitter Katie Covell with 11 and freshman outside hitter Kelsey Raglin with 10.
The win for the Lady Buffs lifts WT to 37-2 all-time against Tarleton and a perfect 5-0 in the LSC Tournament. As soon as the 75th Lady Buff point was scored, many players on the Tarleton sideline left the court in tears.
“It’s crazy to know, like, that you’re ending other people’s seasons,” said Hayes. “We just ended Tarleton’s season. Nikki [McNorton] will never play another game again.”
The Lady Buffs will try for their 10th straight win of the season on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. against the Angelo State Rambelles. The Belles moved into their third consecutive championship match appearance after a dramatic five-set victory over the Texas Woman’s Pioneers. The Lady Buffs are heading into the hostile environment of the host Angelo State, with the Rambelles using their home court to go undefeated at home this season.