The Horned Frogs went 1-1 this weekend, scoring their first victory in the Mountain West Conference over Air Force on Friday in four games 30-22, 28-30, 30-18 and 30-15. On Saturday, the team suffered a three-games-to-two loss to New Mexico 29-31, 23-30, 31-29, 30-25 and 12-15, at the University Recreation Center.In both matches, TCU struggled passing in the opening two games.
In game one against Air Force on Friday, the Horned Frogs grabbed an early 9-3 lead, but a series of errors allowed the Falcons to go on a 6-point run to tie the game at 9 points.
Sophomore outside hitter Talaya Whitfield helped the team to a 13-9 lead with two of the seven aces that she would serve in the match, tying a team record.
Head coach Prentice Lewis said the Frogs made 17 errors in game one, but junior outside hitter Calli Corley contributed one of her six aces in the match to take the Horned Frogs to game point and an eventual 30-22 victory.
In game two, errors once again hurt the Frogs and handed Air Force a 4-1 lead. Although aggressive play, including 20 total kills, allowed TCU to tie the game on four separate occasions, the 20 errors committed by the Horned Frogs left them unable to maintain any consistency, Lewis said.
The Falcons took the game 30-28 and tied the match at one.
Whitfield said the team’s poor play in the first two games was due to an inability to stay focused by the Horned Frogs and a stronger attack than expected by Air Force.
“They came out like they wanted to beat us,” Whitfield said. “We came out kind of unfocused. We knew we needed to gain our respect in the Mountain West.”
After heading to the locker room at the end of game two, TCU returned to the court with a stronger winning mentality for games three and four.
TCU took control with an early 10-3 advantage, led by three consecutive aces by Corley. The Horned Frogs continued their dominance, punctuated by two 12-point leads to end the game at 29-17 and 30-18. The team also maintained its composure following an argument by Air Force coach Penny Lucas-White that delayed the game for more than five minutes and resulted in a red card and ejection for the remainder of the game.
The Horned Frogs won the first three points of game four when Vaughn executed a kill and Whitfield served two aces. Despite a late four point run by the Falcons late in the final game, Air Force never established themselves. TCU finished the game by going on their own 4-point run and captured their first MWC victory.
Head coach Prentice Lewis said improving from game to game is an essential that she emphasizes in every match.
“They’ve got to get better from the first play to the very last play,” Lewis said. “It was good we played well in the first game. We played very rocky in the second game, and then they came out knowing what they needed to do in games three and four. It was a positive.”
Despite gaining confidence through their first conference win the night before, the Horned Frogs experienced another slow start Saturday against New Mexico with 23 errors in the opening game, Lewis said.
The team used a similar strategy to combat the errors, racking up aces and kills. Sophomore setter Loren Barry had three aces. Vaughn, who had 22 kills in the match and senior middle blocker Erin Estep tallied nine of the Frogs’ 15 kills.
Despite strong serving by TCU, Lewis said, the team’s 18 errors let New Mexico gain an easy victory in game two, 30-24 in the second game.
In games three and four, the Horned Frogs came out firing, staging a two-game rally to square the match. In game three, Vaughn and Estep combined for 16 kills. The Frogs closed the gap to one game. Three kills by Vaughn and kills by sophomore middle blocker gave TCU a 16-10 advantage in game four. Two kills by senior middle blocker Hayley Harmon brought the Horned Frogs to a 9-point lead at 23-14. Harmon’s final kill led the Horned Frogs to victory, 30-25.
After being down by as many as four, the Horned Frogs went ahead 12-11 in the deciding game. TCU lost by permitting six kills to New Mexico and committing three errors.
Sophomore middle blocker LeMeita Smith said she believes the team needs to work on finishing plays.
“(We need to) start at the beginning of the game and work all the way through,” she said.
Head coach Prentice Lewis said errors cost the team in the first two games.
“It would (have been) extremely difficult to win either of those games, but it’s disappointing because we were so close in game one,” Lewis said. “However, we did battle; we decided we were going to come back and play hard.”
The Horned Frogs will host Wyoming tonight at 7 p.m.