COMMERCE — A slow start hurt top-seeded Texas A&M University-Commerce in a five-set loss to ninth seed Texas Woman’s University in the Lone Star Conference volleyball tournament on Thursday.

Texas Woman’s won 25-21, 25-15, 18-25, 19-25, 15-8 at the A&M-Commerce Field House to advance to the semifinals to play Tarleton State, a 25-17, 28-26, 15-25, 24-26, 15-13 winner over West Texas A&M.

A&M-Commerce dropped to 24-6 for the season and must wait until Monday to find out if its season will continue with a berth in the NCAA Division II South Central regional tournament.

“Both offensively and defensively, TWU outplayed us in those first two sets,” said Lions coach Craig Case. “We just could never get anything going. We started to play better defense in the third and fourth set. We didn’t have enough fight and urgency in those first two sets. You have to give TWU all the credit in the world. They had it and they took that match from us. I tip my hat to TWU. They outplayed us and earned the win tonight.”

The Pioneers, who’d lost twice this season to the Lions, improved their record to 17-14.

Tabitha Spray led the victors with 13 kills, while Trixie Oche put away 11 and Caroline Noel finished with nine.

Oche was also big at the net for TWU with seven blocks and Noel finished with five.

Katy Ranes set for a team-high 23 assists and Bailey Wozniak finished with 17.

Bailey French led the Pioneers’ defense with 25 digs.

Sydney Anderson, the 6-3 junior from Placenta, Calif, had a big match for the Lions with 24 kills. Nicki Gonelli and Keziah Williams both put away eight kills.

Celeste Vela handled most of the sets for the Lions, finishing with 44 assists to go with 17 digs. Riley Davidson managed 16 digs and libero Savannah Rutledge finished with 14.

A boisterous Lion crowd tried its best to lift the Lions after they trailed 2-0 in sets.

“It was incredible,” said Case. “This is my 10th season, and this is the last match of the decade at the Field House for me. When I took this job 10 years ago, that was the type of crowd support that I envisioned we could accomplish. It was really good to see that. It felt like every match throughout the year, the home crowd got better and better. It was great to see everyone out here.

“We had incredible support from a lot of the other teams on campus and had great community support. That’s why you fight so hard to host, so you can have that type of crowd in your corner in a tough conference tournament. When we used it in the third and fourth sets, it was great. But we didn’t do enough to get the crowd involved early. And TWU played well enough to keep our crowd out of it.”

The tournament wraps up at the Field House with the championship match set for 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.

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