Down two sets to one and 16-6 in the 4th frame, things looked bleak for Oral Roberts University on Thursday night. But the Golden Eagles found a way to rally past Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and defeat the Islanders, 3-2, at the Kenneth H. Cooper Aerobics Center. ORU scored 34 of the match's final 43 points to stun the visitors and secure a Southland Conference victory.
ORU (16-4, 8-2 Southland Conference) won the match by scores of 16-25, 23-25, 25-19, 25-20 and 15-5.
Sara Pope powered ORU to the victory with a season-high 20 kills, but standout performances abounded for the Golden Eagles on Thursday night. Bruna Silva led the defensive effort with 27 digs, while Laura Taylor posted a double-double with 12 digs and 47 assists.
Jessica Pancratz added a dozen kills to the offensive tally, while Sthephanie Mab chipped in 11 digs and Jovana Poljasevic set a career high with eight total blocks.
Brianna Brink led the Islanders (14-9, 9-3 Southland Conference) with 21 kills, while Shayla Maldonado finished with a team-high 18 digs and Logen Bourque collected 56 assists.
ORU outhit the Islanders, .264 to .158, and they posted a higher hitting percentage in each of the match's final four sets. The Golden Eagles also finished with 13 total blocks, while A&M-Corpus Christi had just eight.
The visitors did dominate the opening set, gaining control with a five-point rally, capped with a Maldonado ace, to take a 7-3 lead. The advantage grew to 21-13 on an Ashley Phelps kill, and the Islanders clinched the set at 25-16 with a block at set point.
The 2nd set looked to swing in ORU's favor, with an Islander attack error giving ORU a 20-17 lead. But A&M-Corpus Christi ended the set on an 8-3 run, with a Brink kill forcing a set point and an Ivy Baresh kill finishing the frame with the visitors winning, 25-23.
ORU was in trouble in the 3rd set, falling behind by a 19-17 count. But Sheera Sirola's team scored the final eight points of the set, including two Sadie Schaffner kills, to win the set, 25-19. The sophomore, seeing her first significant action since injuring her foot in early September, provided the clinching blast at set point.
But ORU's momentum didn't last, and they trailed the 4th set, 16-6, on another Brink kill. The situation was dire, before the entire match turned on a service error by Bourque.
The miscue started a five-point rally that cut the gap to 16-11. After the Islanders finally forced a side out, Baresh committed a service error of her own that kicked off another ORU run. The Golden Eagles scored nine straight points with Mab serving to turn the score upside down and take a 20-17 lead. The home team finished off the set, 25-20, with Pope supplying the kill at set point.
There was a 5th set still to play, but the outcome was never in doubt. Pope came through with consecutive aces and served ORU to a 6-0 lead, and the home team was never threatened. The final five points went to ORU, with Pope tallying her 20th kill at match point to give ORU a 15-5 win.
ORU hit .667 in the final set, with eight kills and no errors on 12 attempts.
The win is the third straight for ORU overall and also their third straight against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. The Golden Eagles moved ahead of the Islanders in conference play, though their 8-2 league record still ranks 4th behind Central Arkansas (10-0), Sam Houston State (10-1) and Northwestern State (9-1).
Schaffner finished with nine kills in the win, while Pancratz had six blocks. Pope added eight digs, one shy of a career best, and Kylie Johnson dug out seven balls.
The Golden Eagles continue Southland Conference action on Saturday, October 26, when they host Houston Baptist.