HOUSTON – The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) Vaqueros volleyball team earned a 3-0 sweep (25-22, 26-24, 25-9) over the Prairie View A&M (PVAMU) Panthers Saturday to wrap up the Molly Howard-Gerwig Memorial Tournament at Sharp Gym.
UTRGV (3-3) junior right side Perris Key continued her impressive day, leading all hitters with 12 kills on .429 hitting with four digs. Junior setter Luanna Emiliano racked up 37 assists as she spread the ball around, allowing the middles to have a big day. Junior Margherita Giani had 10 kills with a whopping .714 hitting percentage and senior Luisa Silva Dos Santos hit .500 with nine kills. Junior outside hitter Claudia Lupescu had six kills and junior libero Kiaraliz Perez tallied 12 digs.
PVAMU (2-4) ran through Kylee Owens, who racked up 11 kills and seven digs.
The first set was fairly even, with both teams attacking often. UTRGV used an early 4-0 run anchored by an ace and a kill from Emiliano to force a timeout with the 13-7 lead. The Panthers made good use of their timeouts in the opening frame, not only bringing UTRGV scoring runs to an end but coming out eager to score themselves. PVAMU closed the gap to three points after its first timeout, then after the Vaqueros went up 20-14, the Panthers came out of a second timeout to rack up four unanswered points, trimming the deficit to two points and forcing a UTRGV timeout.
Lupescu put down a pair of kills in crunch time, and after the Panthers fought off two set points, junior outside hitter Ilana De Assis put the set away with a kill, 25-22.
The match stayed tight as the second set got underway, with neither team able to gain much momentum as they exchanged scores to a 6-6 tie. Tough serving, capped by aces from freshman outside hitter Nadine Zech and Santos, gave the Vaqueros a little bit of cushion, and they rode the energy to a 14-8 lead as Key and Giani threw down a pair of kills each.
Lupescu got the Vaqueros to 20 first, up by two, but the Panthers stuck around and earned the first set point, leading 24-23 after an Owens kill. Zech came up with a kill to tie things at 24-24, then sophomore setter and Sharyland Pioneer alum Natalie Reyes came off the bench to serve up a clutch ace. A ball handling error committed by the Panthers put UTRGV up 2-0 after coming back to take the second frame, 26-24.
Giani had a big presence to start the third, notching five kills and one block (with Key) to push the Vaqueros to a 10-3 lead. UTRGV dominated the final frame, securing the victory after taking the third set 25-9. Reyes tabbed two more aces in the set and sparked a big scoring run with her solid serving, putting the Vaqueros comfortably on top, 19-5. Freshman outside hitter Jasmine Allen made her collegiate debut late in the match and immediately recorded a block with Santos and notched her first kill to increase the advantage to 21-7.
Key produced the final four points, recording three kills in a row, to clinch the sweep and wrap up a solid weekend for the junior.
UTRGV will make its home debut Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in a South Texas Showdown presented by Rally Credit Union match against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at the UTRGV Fieldhouse. The first 300 fans will receive a free #BeatCorpus t-shirt and the first 250 students will get a free meal voucher.
Fans can purchase tickets by contacting the UTRGV Ticket Sales and Operations team of Ryela Rodriguez (956-665-3747) or Eddie Galvan (956-665-3415) over the phone or through email at email@example.com.