Sports
Lions earn co-divisional championship after sweeping UT Tyler on Senior Day
By Texas A&M University-Commerce
Nov 17, 2019
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Commerce, Texas -- The Texas A&M University-Commerce volleyball team earned a sweep over UT Tyler on Saturday afternoon in the final match of the regular season. The set scores were 25-23, 25-22, and 25-20.

The win brings the Lions to 24-5 on the season and they end the regular season with a 16-2 record in the Lone Star Conference and a 9-1 record in their division. With their 9-1 division record, the Lions are co-division champions alongside Arkansas-Fort Smith, who split the season series with A&M-Commerce. The Patriots fall to 10-16 on the year, 5-13 in LSC play and 2-8 in the division.

The Lions return to action next week in the Lone Star Conference Tournament, which will be held at the gym of the highest seed in the LSC rankings. Official tournament seeding and host site will be determined and announced by the conference office in their official release on Sunday.

INSIDE THE BOX SCORE

- Prior to the match, the Lions celebrated their senior class, which consists of Shelley Chapron (Houston - St. Pius X), Daniela Santos (Caracas, Venezuela), Payton McMillan (Denton), Bina Njikam (Keller), and Savannah Rutledge (The Woodlands - College Park).

- 11 different Lions had at least one kill in the match. Sydney Andersen (Placentia, Calif.) led the team with eight kills.

- Chapron and Njikam each had five kills, along with Nicki Gonelli (Round Rock - Stony Point).

- Celeste Vela (Guadalajara, Mexico) led the team with 19 assists, while Natalie Sarbeck (Cypress - Cy-Fair) added 10 assists.

- Rutledge led the team with 13 digs in the match. Chapron led the team with five blocks, while Andersen and Njikam each added four blocks.

- With the win, the Lions are co-divisional champions along with Arkansas-Fort Smith. The teams each earned a road win in the season series.

HEAD COACH CRAIG CASE AFTER THE MATCH (link)

- On sweeping two tightly contested matches with UT Tyler: "They are a good team. There really is no team that you look forward to playing in our league. It was two tough days of volleyball. Nobody has watched more film on us than UT Tyler, because they are our travel partner. Tight sets are what playoff volleyball is all about. I thought it was fun to be in that situation. We enjoy tight matches because I think it brings out the best in our team.

- On the impact of the senior class: "Our program has come a long way in the last three years, and that progress does not happen without them. I could not be more thankful to them for where they have helped push our program. To have a great crowd is fitting. And for Savannah to get the last dig of the match and for Shelley to get the last kill, that's how it should have ended. And Bina basically took over that third set. I was really proud and thankful that our seniors showed up big. And the energy and the support that they have gotten here, they will remember that for the rest of their lives. It was a very fitting senior day in a lot of ways."

- On the potential to host the LSC Tournament next week: "Our first goal this year was to be champions of our division. We were able to tie with Fort Smith on that, so we are co-divisional champions. And they are one of the best teams we have played all year. For both of us to take a match from the other on their home court, that really showed the parity between us. We are excited because winning our division will give us a more favorable seed in the conference tournament. We like where we are going into the conference tournament. We are excited for it. We don't quite know what the seedings are. We will find that out tomorrow. But no matter what happens, we have to be ready for it and have to be excited for it. I think our players obviously enjoyed the conference tournament last year and are looking forward to that opportunity again to see what we are made of."

HOW IT HAPPENED

The Lions got off to a blazing start, scoring the first seven points of the match. Njikam and Andersen each had a pair of points in the set. UT Tyler settled in and battled back, cutting the Lion lead to 9-8. The Lions went on an 8-3 run to push their lead back to six points before UT Tyler battled back again, eventually taking the lead at 20-19. The Lions persevered and with grit, won the set 25-23.

After the Lions got off to a4-2 lead in the second set, UT Tyler went on a run, scoring seven points in a row to take a lead. The Lions responded with a run of their own, including a pair of kills from Vela and a pair of aces from Chapron, taking 10 of the next 13 points to recapture the lead. After a UT Tyler run gave them the lead back, the Lions finished the set strong, taking the final three points to win the set 25-22.

The teams traded mini runs in the third set to begin, as A&M-Commerce held a slim 13-12 lead at the midway mark of the set. The Lions then began to surge, taking six of the next nine points to take a four-point lead. On senior day, a dig from Rutledge led to an emphatic kill from Chapron to end the set and the match, with the Lions winning the final set 25-20.