The Southwestern Assemblies of God University volleyball team rallied from a 2-0 deficit to pull out a 3-2 victory against Howard Payne University Saturday at the 16th annual Austin College Classic in Sherman.

The Lady Lions (22-26) came up just short, losing 25-22 and 25-23 in the first two sets. Head coach Hansford “Hank” Moore’s squad then came roaring back to take the next three 25-14, 25-19 and 15-11 in the pivotal fifth game.

SAGU’s final match in the two-day event was a 3-1 setback at the hands of Hardin-Simmons University,  23-25, 25-20, 21-25, 17-25. The Cowgirls went 4-0 at the tourney.

Southwestern showed its teeth during the third set against Howard Payne. The defense, a staple of Moore-coached teams, had six players with eight or more digs and four frontliners blocked five or more shots. Facing elimination, the Lions forced the Yellow Jackets to hit .294. In the fourth and fifth games, SAGU allowed them to hit only .143 and .097 as it staged three straight wins.

Laura Espinoza, who is second in the Red River Athletic Conference in digs (No. 30 nationally) per game at 5.1, bagged 25 in five games to lead the way.

Caitlyn Hudson, who is 10th in the league, had 16 digs. Devan Guynes and Jessica Sodich both had 14.

Krystal Cisneros had a huge match. The senior middle blocker hit .367 while making 15 kills. She was a tower inside with 11 blocks, three solo and eight assisted. Kassy Cox and Hudson hammered 11 kills apiece.

The Lady Lions, who utilized two setters on Saturday, were paced by Carleigh Dollar, who had 36 assists. Taylor Calverley added 10.

In the loss to Hardin-Simmons, SAGU outhit the Cowgirls, .100 to just .062. However, HSU managed to gain a 95-86 edge in points.

Sodich and Amanda Laney had nine kills apiece. Espinoza was credited with 20 digs, while Dollar and Guynes made 11 and 10 respectively. Dollar set up 20 kills while Calverley had 10 helpers. Dollar also served three aces.

The team will finish the first half of the regular season with three away games. It travels to Arkansas to play John Brown University on Friday and will face Oklahoma Wesleyan on Saturday.