EDINBURG — An ace is a powerful tool in sports, rendering an opponent defenseless as the attack is too powerful and placed too perfectly to overcome. It instantaneously ends runs, games and matches.
The ace was one of the UTRGV volleyball team’s best friends on Friday. Behind a season-best tying 10 aces, five from junior Samaret Caraballo, UTRGV rolled to a 25-15, 25-15, 25-23 over Texas Southern University at the UTRGV Fieldhouse.
In the second match of the day during the UTRGV tournament, UTRGV pushed Pac-12 foe Washington State to four sets, dropping the final four points after being tied in the fourth set at 21. Washington St., which is receiving votes in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll, claimed a 25-15, 25-16, 23-25, 25-21 victory to improve to 11-1.
Junior Paulina Ramirez and sophomore Sarah Cruz each served up a pair of aces and freshman Ioanna Charitonidi added another. Caraballo ended the first and final sets with an ace.
“(Samaret) is more than capable of putting aces up on about anybody in the country,” fifth-year head coach Todd Lowery said. “She did it against (Texas) A&M and against Texas State and we have some kids who serve it pretty well. Paulina (Ramirez) has done it for four year and has served us back into matches several times, especially after 25. If there’s somebody I want serving after 25, it’s probably Paulina. She has been great about it for a stretch of time.
“We wanted to serve to zone 1 tough and slow down some of the things they did on their right side with their best attackers. Overall we kept them out of their system.”
With the win, UTRGV improved to 6-6 on the season while Texas Southern fell to 1-6. With the split, UTRGV is now 6-7 and plays it final match of the tournament at 1 p.m. today against Houston Baptist.
UTRGV jumped out early, taking leads of 6-0 and 9-1 in the first set behind kills from Cruz, senior McAllen Memorial alum Draik Banks and Silva. UTRGV extended its lead to 14-4 before TSU went on a 9-1 run to pull within 16-13. UTRGV went on a 9-2 run of its own to end the set.
“We came out and did some of the things we talked about this week like reorganizing the defense and covering up some of the holes that got exposed Tuesday,” Lowery said. “I thought they were locked in for the most part even though for a while we had a little difficult time sustaining that, but that happens. Still, we challenged them with something new and thought they responded well.”
Texas Southern attacked more in the third set — or UTRGV attacked less — as the scored stayed tight throughout. McAllen High alum Carter Helmcamp, who Lowery referred to as “instant offense” from her setter position, took two different second balls and slipped them over the net into TSU’s weak spot to keep the third set score tight and throw TSU off guard.
UTRGV trailed 11-10 when a Charitonidi kill and back-to-back aces by Caraballo put UTRGV up 14-11. A 23-23, Silva’s sixth kill of the game and Caraballo’s fifth ace completed the sweep for UTRGV.
In the nightcap, UTRGV was playing its fourth-ever match against a Pac-12 opponent and second at home, having previously been swept by Oregon twice and USC once.
UTRGV’s third-set victory snaps WSU’s 18-set winning streak. UTRGV is just the third team to take a set from WSU, which has lost only five sets all seasons.
Silva led UTRGV with 19 kills and three blocks. Cruz recorded 13 kills and seven digs. Jandova finished with seven kills and four blocks. Junior Debora Nazario dished out 33 assists with eight digs and three blocks. Caraballo posted 24 digs with nine assists and one ace.