BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – For the first time since moving up to NCAA Division I, Texas A&M University-Commerce knocked off a Power Five conference team with the Lion Volleyball taking a five-set win over Alabama on Friday afternoon at Bartow Arena. Earlier in the day, the Lions fell in three sets to Tarleton.
“Coming into today, I wanted our team to get back to competing and making strides on the court. We did that against Tarleton even though we came up short,” said coach Joe Morales. “We played a good match and just fell short to a little more experienced team. I was happy with our performance.”
“Moving into the second match, I wanted to continue the run, what a roller coaster! We played well in the first two sets and then completely went downwards in the third. However, I saw the team fight and that is all I ask them to do. I was thrilled with our persistence and winning in five. We had players step up and make us better. Couldn’t be more proud, not just of the win, but our restless effort, never giving up or in.”
The Lions fell behind 2-1 to the Crimson Tide, but took the next two, including a 15-9 fifth set win for their third match win of the season and handing Alabama its first loss of the season. A&M-Commerce is now 2-0 in fifth set matches this season.
This is the first win over a SEC opponent in the regular season for any sport at A&M-Commerce.
It is also the first win for a Southland Conference school over an SEC team since the McNeese softball and Nicholls baseball teams defeated LSU last spring. It is also the first win for the conference over a Power Five opponent since McNeese softball’s win in the NCAA Regional over Washington.
MATCH TWO: A&M-COMMERCE 3, ALABAMA 2
The Lions jumped out to a 6-1 lead in the first set with Deja Benjamin (Pearland – Shadows Creek) and Peyton Roper (Converse – Judson) collecting two blocks each during the run.
A 6-0 run by Alabama gave the Crimson Tide their first lead, but the Lions took four of the next five, including back-to-back kills by Reese Fetty (Farmersville), to lead once again. Another 3-0 run by Alabama tied at 14, but the Lions separated themselves with a 5-0 run.
After Alabama pulled to 21-20, the Lions won the next four, which included two aces by Jade Smith (Houston – Mayde Creek) to win the first set, 25-20.
Both teams exchanged scoring runs early in the second set, until Alabama scored six of seven to lead 13-8. The closest the Lions got in the rest of the set was three points and Alabama took the last four to win the second set, 25-18.
Fetty delivered a kill to tie the third set at four, but the Crimson Tide rolled by allowing just six more points the rest of the set, winning 25-10.
A&M-Commerce bounced back from the tough third set quickly by winning the first eight points of the fourth set and did not trail in the set. The Lions were near-perfect in the fourth set, hitting .484 percent with just one error.
The Lions once again had a strong start in the fifth. Alabama led 2-1, but the Lions took the next 10 points to take control of the set and the match. Millie Allgood (Sherwood, Ark.) had three aces in the run.
Alabama pulled to within five twice, but a service error opened the first match point for Lions, which the Crimson Tide fought off. Fetty tallied her 15th kill of the night to seal the historic win for the Lions.
Kitana Tuufuli (St. Hedwig – Steele) picked up 19 kills to lead the team, while Fetty had seven digs and a block to go along with her 15 kills. Peyton Plant (Littleton, Colo.) had 24 assists and Breann Connally (Coolidge – Groesbeck) had 13.
Avery Wilks (Mont Belviue – Barber Hills), Benjamin, and Roper recorded three blocks each. Smith had four aces, while Allgood had three and Wilks had two.
Defensively, Smith led the way with 15 digs, Taylor Borden (Gregory-Portland) had 10, Allgood had eight, and both Plant and Fetty had seven.
For Alabama, Kendyl Reaugh had a double-double, tallying 18 kills and 13 digs.