EDINBURG, Texas — After playing three-straight two-point sets and falling behind 1-2, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) Vaqueros volleyball team rallied back to beat the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders 3-2 (25-23, 24-26, 31-33, 25-17, 15-9) as part of the South Texas Showdown, presented by Navy Army Community Credit Union, in front of the second-largest crowd in program history, 1,937 fans, at the home opener on Tuesday at the UTRGV Fieldhouse.
The third set was the highest scoring in program history, breaking the record of 31-29 set at Stephen F. Austin on Oct. 30, 2021.
The match featured 16 lead changes and 40 ties.
Senior Sarah Cruz led the Vaqueros (3-1) with a career-high 30 kills, the fifth-highest single-match total in program history, on .393 hitting, 18 digs, three blocks and two aces for her third double-double. This was the program's first individual 30-kill performance since Sept. 20, 2003, when Hall of Famer Jaclyn Muszynski recorded 30 kills against Dillard.
Sophomore Luanna Emiliano posted her fourth-straight double-double with a career-high 72 assists, the fourth-highest single-match total in program history, 17 digs, two aces and two kills. This was the most assists for an individual since Karen Lyons dished out a program record 79 assists against UT Arlington on Sept. 10, 2005.
As a team, the Vaqueros had 73 assists, tied for the fifth-highest single-match total in program history and the most since dishing out a program record 90 against UT Arlington on Sept. 10, 2005.
Junior Luisa Silva Dos Santos recorded a career-high 17 kills on .500 hitting with four blocks and five digs. Sophomore Ingridy Foltran recorded 14 kills and four digs. Graduate student Sydney Schoen finished with 24 digs.
Kyndal Payne led the Islanders (0-4) with 16 kills and 17 digs. Leah Stolfus also had 16 kills, doing so on .533 hitting. Tayah Little recorded 15 kills on .414 hitting. Nadia Chwialkowski posted 12 kills on .312 hitting. Faith Panhans finished with 58 assists, 12 digs and eight kills. Carissa Barnes recorded a match-high 30 digs with nine assists.
The Vaqueros jumped out to an 8-2 first set lead. After a Foltran kill made the score 9-3, the Islanders scored six-straight points to tie the set. The Islanders went on to take a 13-12 lead before three-straight Cruz kills put the Vaqueros back on top 15-13. The Islanders regained the lead at 18-16 and still led at 21-20, but Cruz came up with kills on four of the next seven serves to spark the Vaqueros to victory.
A pair of kills by junior Maria Eduarda Rodrigues helped the Vaqueros jump out to a 4-0 lead in the second set. The Islanders scored the next three points and the set stayed tight the rest of the way. The Vaqueros tied the set at 23 and 24 errors before the Islanders won the final two serves to tie the match.
The Vaqueros led by as much as five in the third set, going up 17-12 on a Cruz kill. The Islanders answered with a 6-2 run to pull within 18-19. After the Islanders tied the set at 21. The Vaqueros went up 23-21 on a Foltran kill. The Islanders got to set point at 24-23 before a kill by sophomore Margherita Giani tied the set at 24. The Vaqueros reached set point at 25-24 on an error, 26-25 on a Cruz kill, 28-27 on a Santos kill, 30-29 on a kill by sophomore Ada Bulgur, and 31-30 on an error before the Islanders won the final three serves to take a 2-1 lead in the match.
The fourth set was tight early, but with the score tied at 8, Santos came up with back-to-back kills to give the Vaqueros the lead. Then, with the set tied at 12, kills by Bulgur and Foltran sparked a 5-1 run to put the Vaqueros up 17-13. The Islanders got as close as 16-18 before Cruz came up with two kills and an ace to power a 7-1 run to end the set.
The Vaqueros went up 6-3 in the fifth set on back-to-back Foltran kills before the Islanders scored three-straight points to tie the set. The set was still close at 9-8 when kills by Santos and Cruz sparked a 6-1 run to end the match.
The Vaqueros open the Sawyer Camillo Memorial Classic, hosted by Louisiana, on Friday at 12 p.m. against UTSA.