EDINBURG — Following a loss to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Sunday, UTRGV head coach Todd Lowery looked at the “big picture” for his team — not that specific juncture.
Despite the 25-22, 25-19, 17-25, 25-23 setback, ending the Vaqueros’ modest three-match winning streak, Lowery said he was happy to see where his team was compared to when the season started.
“Take the scores and everything off the board, the wins and losses, and watch the quality of the matches played here compared to the quality we played at TCU or the first weekend in New Orleans,” he said. “We got two wins in New Orleans but didn’t play this quality of volleyball and by no means were we in rhythm, even in the sets we were winning at TCU — not like this weekend.
“People were having to do good things to score points against us last weekend against TCU. We never got rolling offensively — but if you purely look at the quality of volleyball played from Week 1 to Week 2 to Week 3, if we keep making those steps until we get to the WAC Tournament, we’ll lay it all on the line there.”
Trying to force a fourth set, Corpus Christi rallied from trailing 16-11 to taking a 22-20 lead. Down one, however teammates Sarah Cruz and Luis Silva Dos Santos came up with a massive block that sent excitement through the team and the UTRGV crowd. Cruz then held off match points at 24-22 with a thunderous kill and then rotated to serve down 24-23. Montez Uigaese, however, connected on a kill to end the comeback and the match. UTRGV fell to 5-4 on the season, but Lowery saw plenty of areas to be encouraged by.
“I think we are getting there and we can see what we need to adjust,” Santos said. “I think our connections are getting so much better, we play together better. Today we let is escape by two points.”
Santos finished the day with seven kills, a team-high three aces and one of two solo blocks. Cruz led the offense with 19 kills and had the other solo block. Veronika Jandova added 14 kills. The offense ran fairly smooth. The defense, however, struggled through the first two sets.
“We knew it would be tight and it would come down to serve and serve receive and whichever team would be on point was the team controlling match,” Lowery said. “They controlled it a lot in sets one and two and we really did a good job in set three and in four I thought we let them off the hook with a couple balls we call 50-50, a scramble play where the ball gets touched up and you have to make a play. I thought we stood on a couple of those plays and lost by two. You make two of those plays and you win by two.”
UTRGV also did some changes on the fly and changed its serve-receive just an hour before practice Thursday morning, right before the four-games-in-four-days stretch, during which the Vaqueros went 3-1.
“We’ll go back to work,” Lowery said. “We saw a lot of success this weekend. The offense was way smoother this weekend then last weekend. Now, we have to translate those things into offense and defense. We’re gonna be OK.
“We didn’t pass the ball well; too many balls outside the 10-foot line. We gave up three aces after they reached 20 and you can’t win a match when it’s tight doing those things. We’ll hit serve-receive hard next week.”
Freshman setter Luanna Emiliano and Cruz, a junior, were named to the All-UTRGV Tournament Team.
Emiliano earned tournament MVP honors. This is Emiliano’s third straight all-tournament team honor after being honored at the New Orleans Invitational and the Cowtown Classic during the past two weeks.
Emiliano averaged 10.67 assists and 3.47 digs, while recording three double-doubles in 15 sets across four matches.
Cruz averaged 4.92 kills on .291 hitting, 2.33 digs and 0.58 blocks, while recording two double-doubles in 12 sets across three matches.