For the first time in Southland Conference play this season, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi needed more than three sets to clinch the victory, but the Islanders rode a double-double from Brittany Gilpin to a hair-raising 25-22, 21-25, 25-17, 25-27, 15-10 win over Sam Houston State.
Gilpin was solid throughout in a match that saw numerous ups and downs for the Blue and Green, knocking down 16 kills and setting a new career-high with 17 digs. Perhaps most importantly, five of Gilpin's 16 kills came in the decisive set. The junior added a pair of blocks to score seven of the Islanders' 15 points in the fifth.
"Britt did great," said head coach Steve Greene. "She was steady all match. They were serving her tough and her passing was on point. She was solid on defense, put up a good block and was attacking consistently. I think start to finish, that's probably the best performance she's had all year. I think other players responded to that and in the fifth set, when we needed it, hey let's go to the big gun. Britt did a really good job of handling that pressure."
Following the match, Gilpin said she welcomed the pressure-packed moments of the fifth set.
"When I'm feeling it," said the junior outside, "I want Kristyn to keep setting me. I don't want to stray away from that once we have the momentum, I want to keep it going. So, I love getting those pressure sets to keep the momentum."
Defensively, Kate Klepetka matched Gilpin's complete-game performance by piling up 33 digs. The libero produced sets with eight, nine and 10 digs as part of her stellar day on the back row. Combined with Gilpin, the two Islanders dug up 50 Bearkat attacks, holding Sam Houston State to a .129 hitting percentage.
The Islanders (11-6, 6-0) and Bearkats (9-10, 3-3) traded sets all-day long as A&M-Corpus Christi struggled to find consistency against a pesky Sam Houston State.
After a error-filled first set saw the Islanders escape thanks to the defense holding Sam Houston to .000 hitting, the Bearkats responded by capitalizing on seven Islander errors in the second. The Blue and Green attack roared to life in the third, hitting .342, but was bitten by the error-bug again in the fourth.
The Islanders committed 30 attack errors on the day and another 10 service errors as the Bearkats applied the pressure throughout the match. Still, the Blue and Green was able to find its comfort zone when it mattered most, committing just a single error in the final set.
"The fifth set was great," said Greene. "The first four, Sam Houston played well. They did a lot of things to challenge us and force errors. It wasn't really all our doing. I think sometimes you start to look at errors and think it's your fault or your team's fault, but I think Sam Houston played really well. They challenged us throughout and luckily in the fifth set, we played what has typically been our brand of volleyball."
MORAN SETS NEW HIGH
After a slow start saw sophomore Mallory Moran with five kills and four errors through two sets, the outside found her groove after the break. In the next two sets, Moran floored 12 kills, hitting .310 for the remainder of the match.
The bonce back after the break sent Moran to a career-high 17 kills as she led all attackers in the match.
• Morgan Carlson notched 13 kills to give the Islanders three players in double-figures.
• Kristyn Nicholson just missed an eighth double-double, finishing with 52 assists and nine digs.
• Gilpin's double-double was her team-leading eighth of the season.
SOUTH TEXAS SHOWDOWN
The Islanders now face a short turnaround before traveling to Edinburg to face UTRGV Tuesday night in the South Texas Showdown presented by NavyArmy Community Credit Union.