Southland supremacy at stake in Corpus Christi as Ladyjacks battle Islanders for first place

Southland supremacy at stake in Corpus Christi as Ladyjacks battle Islanders for first place

• One of the two squads that still do not possess a league setback in 2016 will have one at the end of the night on Thursday as Stephen F. Austin (11-6, 4-0 Southland) travels south in an attempt to halt Texas A&M-Corpus Christi's (9-6, 4-0 Southland) 22-match regular season Southland Conference winning streak in an early-season battle for first place in the league standings. 
• Thursday evening's clash in Corpus Christi signifies the first true road match for the Ladyjacks in almost one month. The last time SFA mixed it up on the road, it fell 3-1 at Texas Tech on Friday, September 9. Since that tilt, the Ladyjacks have played seven of the following eight matches inside the walls of their home facility - Shelton Gym - and compiled wins in six of those seven showdowns. A win on Thursday evening would serve as SFA's first in a road tilt this season as the Ladyjacks hold an 0-3 record in matches of that configuration this season.
• Since the Southland Conference began to sponsor volleyball in 1982, 18 of the league's regular season titles have gone to teams that have produced an undefeated record in conference play. Stephen F. Austin (18-0, 2014) and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (18-0, 2015) were the last two teams to accomplish the feat and have a combined to produce nine of the league's 36 regular season titles - more than the other 11 current Southland Conference programs combined.
• Those unable to make the trek to Corpus Christi can follow every point of the battle between the Ladyjacks and Islanders thanks to live statistical coverage as well as a live video stream of the match made possible by the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi athletic communications department.

• Record vs. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi | 11-5
• In Nacogdoches, Texas | 6-3
• In Corpus Christi, Texas | 5-3
• At neutral sites | 0-0
• Humphreys vs. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi | 11-5
• By boosting their regular season winning streak against Southland Conference opponents to 22 matches with 3-0 triumphs over Northwestern State and Central Arkansas on the road last week, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi is now one of seven NCAA Division I volleyball teams that have not dropped a single set in conference play through the 2016 campaign. 
• Mirroring the Ladyjacks' offensive style, the Islanders possess a number of potent attacking options - none more integral to their efforts than junior Brittany Gilpin. The outside hitter has taken roughly 26-percent (519) of the Islanders' 1,991 total swings and has a kills per set average of 3.24 that ranks fifth among all Southland Conference players. In addition to Gilpin, Morgan Carlson adds 2.69 kills per set to the Islanders' efforts while Mallory Moran (1.83 kills/set) and Madi Fitzsimmons (1.79 kills/set) round out Texas A&M-Corpus Christi's top four options.
• Anything but one-dimensional, setter Kristyn Nicholson has proven her worth as a valuable six-rotation player for the Islanders. She leads the team with 8.50 assists per set and is a menace from the service line, too, as her Southland Conference-leading clip of 0.46 aces per set would indicate. Defensively, her 2.37 digs per set rank second on the team only to reigning SLC Libero of the Year Kate Klepetka's mark of 4.84. Nicholson also averages 1.13 kills per set and 0.39 blocks per set.
• One of the most important things an opponent needs to do in order to win a volleyball match - generate kills - has been one of the toughest things to do against the Islanders thus far in 2016. Foes of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi are hitting only .170 against the Islanders and in Southland Conference play they are limiting the opposition to an attacking clip of just .089. Aiding the Islanders' defensive efforts is a front line which leads the league with 2.39 blocks per set. Madi Fitzsimmons leads that effort by posting 1.14 rejections per frame-  the third-highest average among all Southland Conference players.

• By punching down a team-best 15 kills on the strength of a .452 hitting percentage, senior middle blocker Justice Walker extended her streak of 10+ kill matches to four and helped the Ladyjacks shake off a slow start to obtain a 3-1 triumph over Nicholls last Saturday afternoon.
• Walker also added eight block assists through the four-set Southland Conference battle, helping the Ladyjacks earn a 10.0-7.0 blocking advantage in the tilt. Blocking was one of two statistical categories the Ladyjacks bettered the Colonels in through the match, the other being service aces where SFA got a pair of them from Haley Coleman to outpace the visitors 4-3.
• Freshman setter Ann Hollas continued to impress, submitting her third double-double in the last three matches by establishing new career highs with 43 assists and 14 digs. With that, she elevated her assists per set number to 7.11 - the eighth-highest among all Southland Conference players.
• Saturday afternoon's match signaled only the second time this season in which the Ladyjacks won a match despite finishing with a lower attack percentage than their opponents. SFA is 2-6 in such matches and for the second time in 2016 the Ladyjacks totaled more than 50 kills. They are 2-0 when they rack up more than 50 winners in a match this season. 
• All in all, five Ladyjacks scooped up 13 or more digs in the four-set victory. Lexus Cain led the way with 20 of them while Corin Evans and Haley Coleman each reset their career high with 17 and 18 respectively. In addition to Hollas' 14, Peyton Redmond totaled 13 to mark the first time since the Ladyjacks' five-set loss to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi that an SFA team has had five players finish with 10 or more digs in a match.

• Aside from a pedestrian (by her recent standards) six-kill performance against Incarnate Word in the Ladyjacks' Southland Conference opener, senior middle blocker Justice Walkerhas been the most lethal offensive player on SFA's roster in SLC play.
• Through her last four matches, she has registered 10 or more kills and elevated her attack percentage to a Southland Conference-leading mark of .318. In terms of blocking, she ranks second in the league with 1.20 rejections per set
• In Southland Conference action, Walker's numbers are even better. The Fort Worth, Texas, product is hitting a league-leading .451 in conference matches, striking for 3.46 kills per set and has committed only four errors in 13 sets - just 0.3 per frame.

• Freshman middle blocker Danae Daron has wasted no time in becoming one of the Ladyjacks' go-to players both on offense and on defense. The Crosby, Texas, product is hitting .284 with an average of 1.58 kills per set while adding 1.02 blocks per set.
• Daron ranks fifth among all SLC players in hitting percentage and seventh in terms of blocks per set. In a 3-0 SFA win over McNeese on September 29, Daron racked up nine blocks (two solo, seven assists) which represents an individual season-high by an SFA player and stands as the 15th-most blocks in a three-set match by an NCAA Division I volleyball player this season. It's also tied for the most blocks in a three-set match by and SLC player in 2016.
• In a 3-0 win over North Texas on September 16, Daron slapped down eight kills on 10 swings, bringing her attack percentage for the match to an impressive .800. That ranks as the sixth-highest single-match attack percentage in SFA history and the 22nd-best single-match hitting percentage by a player with 10-14 attack attempts in all of NCAA Division I volleyball this season.

• From Corpus Christi, SFA will make a 143-mile trip northeast to San Antonio for its fourth-ever meeting with Incarnate Word in the Alamo City. The two Southland Conference combatants are set to oppose one another at 11:00 a.m. inside the McDermott Convocation Center with SFA seeking its second regular season sweep over the Cardinals in the last three seasons.