CORPUS CHRISTI (ISLANDERS ATHLETICS) - Behind senior Morgan Carlson's first career double-double, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi extended its Southland Conference regular season winning streak to 25 matches with a 25-20, 18-25, 25-20, 25-22 win over Houston Baptist Thursday night.
"HBU played really well against us," said head coach Steve Greene. "They really came out, challenged our block and I thought we never really got our block together. I thought our defense picked it up a bit but that was a tough offense to play against.
"Our girls responded really well," Greene continued. "We really competed and that's something that has been missing these past few games, that competitive drive. We had been missing a little competitiveness and we brought it tonight."
The Islanders' right side and lone senior, Carlson piled up 13 kills and 15 digs to record her first double-double. The Reno, Nev. native overcame a slow start with three first-set errors to just four kills to produce a feat she had never accomplished before. After the sluggish opening, Carlson settled in to hit .272 with nine kills through the final three sets.
"First thing I was thinking was just get the ball up" said Carlson of her massive night on the back row. "Kate's really pushing me back there, telling me to go and it makes me go. The whole back row is telling me go and I just follow their lead."
With a strong performance in the first set, the Islanders (12-7, 7-0) raced out to the early lead behind a .400 hitting percentage. Brittany Gilpin was a major part of the fast start offensively, knocking down six of her team-high 18 kills in the opening set.
The offensive quieted in the second set as Houston Baptist (14-9, 5-2) leveled the match with a 25-18 final on the strength of six Bailey Banks kills. Banks finished with a match-high 19 terminations.
After the break, the Blue and Green brought a renewed focus and urgency into the third and fourth sets as the attack regained its pace. Five different Islanders scored in the third set, led by Carlson with six kills and Madi Fitzsimmons with five. Fitzsimmons was perfect on the set, finishing off all five of her swings en route to a 13-kill night.
"Fitzsimmons has been playing great," said Greene. "She's literally improving every match and tonight, to have no errors and hit .565, that's impressive and it doesn't happen often. She's been consistently hitting .300, .400 night-in and night-out. It's nice to have someone begging for the ball."
In the fourth, it was Gilpin, Fitzsimmons and freshman Claire Karsten who provided all but one of the Islanders' kills. The Blue and Green hit .308 in the frame, closing out the Huskies for a seventh-consecutive win over HBU.
Libero Kate Klepetka showed why she was the 2015 Southland Conference Libero of the Year. The junior dug up 25 Houston Baptist attacks to average 6.25 digs per set. The stellar night raised Klepetka's digs per set to 5.50 in conference play, tops in the league.
Defensive specialist Madison Woods also had a big day on the back row, racking up 15 digs herself. Her 15 saves mark a new career-best just two days after setting the bar at UTRGV.
Add in Carlson's 15, a career-high as well, and the Islanders finished with three players with 15-plus digs.
GILPIN ON THE GO
Junior outside Brittany Gilpin produced a massive day in attack, falling just two kills of her career-high. The Islanders' kill leader, Gilpin registered 18 points and hit .310 on the night. She is now hitting .303 in Southland matches, a mark that leads the league's outside hitters.
"She's one of the best athletes and on par with just about anyone in the country," said Greene. "Moving from middle to outside is something she's still playing with a bit mentally, finding out how aggressive she can be. When she lets go, she's really tough to stop. I've been lucky enough to coach for and against some of the best teams in the country in the past and players like her don't come around often.
"We're trying to bring that out in her a little bit more," continued Greene. "At times it's there. When it all comes, it's going to be fun. She's playing really well, but we're waiting for that next little step. She had a couple of kills where she went clean over the block tonight and that's impressive."
BACK ON SATURDAY
The Islanders return to the Dugan Wellness Center to face the Lamar Cardinals at 1 p.m. The Cardinals are coming off a five-set loss to Incarnate Word on Thursday night.