Tarleton falls to SFA in final contest of 13-game road swing
NACOGDOCHES – Tarleton threw an early scare into Stephen F. Austin on Saturday but was unable to extend its animation onward, as the Texans fell to the Ladyjacks in straight sets by scores of 25-23, 25-16 and 25-17.
Lauren Kersey tallied a match-high 15 kills on a .379 hitting percentage to pace Tarleton's attack. Eight of the senior's kills came in set one and had the Texans in position to steal an early lead from the host Ladyjacks.
The Norman, Oklahoma native laced home three straight points late in the period to pull Tarleton even for the first time in the frame at 20-20. Kersey again found a crease in the SFA block for the fourth time in six plays to move Tarleton within a point at 22-21.
Tarleton matched SFA's offensive output from the opening whistle despite a noticeable height advantage in favor of the Ladyjacks. The Texans never trailed by more than four points and had as many players land at least one kill.
Consecutive kills by Kersey and fellow outside hitter Amber Strange later stymied a quick 2-0 SFA spurt to again knot the scoreboard at 22-22. An attack error by SFA helped Tarleton stave off set point at 24-23 before SFA tucked in a kill on the right corner to send the match to set two.
Kersey's effort marked the eighth match in which she has hit above .300. She moved to eighth in school history in career kills (1,123) and entered the match ranked fifth in kills this season among all Western Athletic Conference players.
Joining Kersey atop the Texan attack was Hali'a Swartman-Hogan. The senior and former Oklahoma Sooner looked every part of a former Power Five conference player, as she racked up a season-high seven kills. Three of Swartman-Hogan's points came in the middle portion of the first set to keep Tarleton within striking distance of SFA.
Kayla Brannon led Tarleton in assists with 17 while libero Ana Costas posted a team-high 12 digs in her second game back from a three-week injury absence. Both players continue to rank near the top of the WAC statistical leaderboard with their respective performances. Costas sits fifth in digs per set at 4.53 while Brannon is sixth in assists per set (6.49).
SFA, however, found a second surge that proved decisive. The Ladyjacks tallied 31 kills over the final two sets and hit .356 for the match behind 46 assists.
Tarleton stayed within a point of SFA to begin set two at 5-4 but the Ladyjacks used a 16-7 extended scoring run to separate. The Texans then tied the Lady Jacks 9-9 in the third-and-final frame and forced SFA to burn a timeout. But SFA responded out of the break with three straight scores and Tarleton was unable to pull within more than three points the rest of the way.
The loss dipped Tarleton's record to 7-9 overall and 0-2 in conference play while SFA moved to 12-3 and 4-0. The teams conclude their regular season series on Nov. 4 when the Ladyjacks make the return trip to Stephenville.
Despite the defeat, Tarleton possesses a prime opportunity to right the ship.
Saturday's contest constituted as the conclusion of a 13-game road trip that spanned more than a month. The Texans have played just one home game this fall – a 3-2 win over Eastern Washington on Sept. 1.
That changes on Thursday when Tarleton welcomes conference newcomer Lamar (4-11) to Wisdom Gym for its WAC home-opener. First serve is slated for 6 p.m.
Thursday's tilt versus the Cardinals kickstarts a four-game homestand for Tarleton. The Texans then face UTRGV (9-6) at 1 p.m. on Saturday and later take on Prairie View A&M on Oct. 14 and Abilene Christian on Oct. 16.