GEORGETOWN, Texas – The Southwestern University Pirates volleyball team took the 20th-ranked UT-Tyler Patriots the distance, winning the first two sets before falling in five (25-21, 25-22, 24-26, 24-26, 12-15).
Southwestern's young hitters alternated between flashes of brilliance and rookie mistakes balanced by the steady presence of seniors Brandi Campos and Jamison Duck to overcome slow starts and take the first two sets.
Campos finished with a match-high 27 digs, taking some of the Patriots' most vicious attacks and turning them into opportunities for the Pirates; withstanding UT-Tyler's runs long enough to counter.
"I felt we dug a lot of balls in some situations that frustrated them," Southwestern Head Coach Don Flora said. "They gave us the ball in easier situations and we stayed aggressive offensively."
Freshman Alyssa Dooley was the main beneficiary, capitalizing by leading all teams with a career-high 24 kills—making it her second consecutive match with more than 20. That it took 71 attacks with 10 errors is a sign of her inexperience.
Dooley showcased some devastating punch, bringing the ball down before defenders could react with a series of powerful spikes. The next step is harnessing that talent by figuring out when and where to attack to improve her efficiency past the .197 attack percentage.
"Seventy-one attempts is a big load to carry for a freshman," Flora said. "She was competing and not going down without taking a swing at it."
Duck finished second on the team with 17 kills on 53 attacks with six errors for a .208 hitting percentage and two block assists while Makenzie Mendez finished with 55 assists.
Kyana Alvarez and Loren Guerra led UT-Tyler with 16 kills each in a balanced attack that featured four hitters finishing with double-digit kills.
The Patriots seemed to gain momentum as the match went on, increasing their attack efficiency in each set, moving from .098 with eight attack errors in the first set to a .250 percentage with three attack errors in the fifth and final set.
"They're one of the best teams in the region," Flora said. "When you're up 2-0 on a really good team, that's the time you want to make the right decisions. That's where we'll grow.
"We had the opportunity to put them away and it's just one or two transition swings or decisions. But I really felt we stayed the course. Our passers were keeping us in it, playing point-to-point by playing every point as a fresh one."
With the loss, the Pirates drop to 8-8 on the season while UT-Tyler improves to 15-1 after picking up its 10th consecutive win.
Things don't get any easier for the Pirates, who host 12-6 UT-Dallas coming off a 3-0 win over East Texas Baptist to improve to 7-1 in their conference on Friday, and No. 25-ranked Mary Hardin-Baylor on Saturday for senior day.
"Tonight was some of the best volleyball we played in a long time," Campos said. "We need to improve starting strong, limiting our attack and communication errors. Once we do that, you're going to see us be an unstoppable team. We're going to grow from this and be ready."