KINGSVILLE, Texas - Led a by a 21-kill performance from junior Melanie Casteel (Dallas, Texas), which stands as new season-high for the Javelinas, the Texas A&M-Kingsville women's volleyball team pulled out a 25-11, 25-14, 23-25, 20-25, 17-15 nail-biter over the Western New Mexico Mustangs on Friday evening in Lone Star Conference action at the Steinke Physical Education Center.
Casteel's 21 smashes are the most by a Blue-and-Gold student-athlete since Shelby Sheets rang up 25 against West Texas A&M on Nov. 4th of last season. Casteel also logged a game-high .273 attack percentage.
Setting was once again a tandem effort for TAMUK. Senior Madison Brabham (Kingwood, Texas) sent up 24 helpers, a total that was matched by freshman Emily North (Red Oak, Texas). For Brabham, this represented her second consecutive foray into 20 assist territory, while North has been there seven times.
Senior Haley Hutchinson (Georgetown, Texas) provided the Javelinas (6-3, 1-0) with a defensive force around the net, collecting 10 blocks, her highest total since Oct. 21st of last year, when the Javs also faced the Mustangs (3-6, 0-1). Four Javelinas piled up 10 or more digs, led by junior Sarah Miller (Long Beach, Calif.) and her 18, a new season-high.
A pair of aces from freshman Nicole Murff (San Antonio, Texas) got the Javelinas off to a 4-1 start, but the Mustangs were able to close within 5-4 before the Blue and Gold rattled off seven straight. Before long the home team led by double-digits and they sailed to 1-0 edge, a rocket from Hutchinson sealing the deal. TAMUK's attacks were on the mark to tune of a .387 hit percentage in this frame.
Another lengthy run helped the Javs put the second set into their column. With the sides even at four, they raced away to the tune of 13 of the next 17 points and, ahead 19-12, added five-in-a-row. Hutchinson contributed two blocks and a kill during the latter stretch and once again was on the spot to score game's final point.
After posting kill rate of .000 in the second, Western New Mexico found life in the third, transforming a 3-1 deficit into a 6-3 lead. In a stanza that would feature nine ties, the Javelinas continued to battle back and neither squad could get more than three points away from the other. The Mustangs moved in front for good at 20-19 and took four of the next six. On their third set point, a block Deyzha Samuelu and Erin Moss put the visitors back in the match.
The Javs started the fourth frame as though they were ready to settle the issue, moving ahead 15-9 following consecutive finishers by Casteel. The momentum changed after a Western New Mexico timeout. They scored six straight and eight of nine, taking an 18-16 lead they would not relinquish. After TAMUK got within 21-20, the last four points went to the Mustangs, includingd a ball handling error by North that put the teams level at 2-2.
The tiebreaking set began with each side passing the lead back-and-forth. A 3-1 TAMUK edge became a 7-4 advantage for WNMU, only for the Javelinas to leapfrog into the lead at 8-7. There were three more lead changes before the Mustangs earned a precarious match-point at 14-13. Consecutive kills by Brabham flipped the Javs into a match-point situation before an attack error by the senior put the match on even terms again. Successful attacks by Hutchinson and Murff finally allowed to Javelinas to move the contest into the win column.
Coach Tanya Allen and her team don't get much time to rest, as they'll return to the SPEC on Saturday at 2 p.m. to host UT Permian Basin. Complete coverage, including live stats and video, as well as a postgame recap will be available on Javelinaathletics.com. To keep up with everything related to Javelina volleyball all season long, follow @JavelinaVB on Twitter and @javelinasports on Instagram, like Javelina Volleyball on Facebook and visit Javelinasports.com.