Tarleton was the best team in the Lone Star Conference all season long. Now they are the best team in the South Central Region.
For the first time in program history, Tarleton has won the NCAA South Central Regional Championship with a four-set win over rival Texas A&M-Commerce in front of a standing-room-only crowd in Wisdom Gym.
"What an incredible feeling," said head coach Mary Schindler. "This is a blessing and I honestly believe it's because of this team and their commitment for each other that we were able to accomplish this. It's a special group and I felt that way from the very beginning of the season. I couldn't be prouder as their coach."
"Everyone on the team knew this wasn't going to be our last game and it sure as heck wasn't going to be someone else's championship," said senior libero Adrianna Knutson. "Especially as a senior, there was no way my last game in Wisdom Gym I was going to a loser or a failure - I was going to be a winner and a champion for my team and we did it together."
The TexAnns (32-4) will head to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for the NCAA Division II Volleyball Championship on Nov. 29-Dec. 1 at the A.J. Palumbo Center on the campus of Duquesne University. The eight regional champions will be reseeded for the final tournament. Stay tuned for updates regarding game time, opponent, tickets and more on TarletonSports.com.
Adrianna Knutson, Adriana Darthuy, Lauren Kersey, and Elizabeth Muliaga were named to the NCAA Regional All-Tournament team. Darthuy led all players with 14 kills in the championship match, while Kersey had 10 kills, Muliaga added seven kills with five blocks and Knutson had 16 digs to lead the defense.
"Our team has so much chemistry," said senior middle blocker Hannah McManus. "I've never been on a team like this and I truly believe that's why we've gotten this far. We're a talented team but we want to do everything for each other to be successful."
The match was destined to be a classic, as it was the fourth meeting this season between the two Lone Star Conference rivals. Tarleton swept the regular season series with the Lions, winning in five sets at home and four sets on the road. However, the Lions took revenge in the LSC Tournament Championship, winning in four sets.
It was the rematch the TexAnns were waiting for in the regional final. On their home court, for a trip to the NCAA Championship and end their rival's season.
The opening set was a stretch of runs by both teams. Tarleton led 5-0 out of the gate, but A&M-Commerce rallied to tie the score at 8-8. The Lions used a 6-0 run to go up 20-18 that forced a TexAnn timeout. The timeout worked, as the TexAnns scored the next six points behind a pair of kills and blocks from Muliaga to go up 24-20. Tatyana Tuialii-Umi, who had 10 kills in the match, delievered the final shot to take the opening set, 25-21.
The Lions took the second set, 25-23, to even the match at 1-1. The Lions led 23-18, but Tarleton pushed to make it a 24-23 game before ultimately dropping the set.
Despite dropping the set, the late momentum for Tarleton carried over into the third set. The TexAnns led 10-3 to start as Darthuy and Amber Strange had kills offensively and the TexAnns had four straight blocks from McManus, Kersey, Muliaga and Strange to control the net. The Lions would fight to within 13-1, but Tarleton used a 7-0 run to go up 20-11. McManus had the final two points for the TexAnns to win the set, 25-16, and go up 2-1 in the match.
In the fourth set, the two rivals went back and forth with 17 ties and 17 lead changes. The Lions went up 24-22 before the TexAnns even the score with a block from McManus and Darthuy and a Lion attack error. Down 25-24, Kersey, a freshman, responded with two straight kills to regain the lead 26-25. Kersey's kill gave the TexAnns a 27-26 lead and a Lion attack error at the net was called that gave the TexAnns the regional title.