LOS ANGELES â Texas A&M posted its second consecutive victory over a top-15 team and extended its win streak to five, defeating No. 13 San Diego, 25-22, 25-22, 16-25, 25-17, at Galen Center.
The Aggies, who upset sixth-ranked and previously undefeated Southern California yesterday in the Women of Troyâs home opener, improve to 7-1 overall and finish 2-0 at the USC Classic. USD falls to 5-3.
Junior middle blocker Shelby Sullivan and freshman opposite hitter Ashlie Reasor led A&M with 13 kills apiece, hitting a combined .460. Freshman setter Stephanie Aiple, who had a career-high eight kills while hitting at a .500 clip, dished out 43 assists while directing the A&M offense to a .304 hitting percentage.
Defensively, A&M sophomore libero Victoria Arenas scooped up a match-high 23 digs. Sullivan posted a career-high seven blocks, and sophomore middle blocker Jazzmin Babers added six to lead A&M to a 13-3 advantage in blocks.
The Aggies were quick out of the gate in the opening set, with Sullivan tallying three consecutive blocks during a 6-0 run that gave the Aggies a 12-9 lead. A&M would continue to increase its margin, equaling its biggest lead at 22-16 before USD began to gain the momentum. Two A&M errors and three consecutive USD kills put the Toreros within 22-21 before Sullivan ended the 5-0 rally with an off-speed shot on the slide attack. USD answered with a cross-court kill before Aiple got a dump kill to put the Aggies at set point. USDâs Alaysia Brown, who led all players with six kills in the set and 20 for the match, then sent her attack long to close out the 25-22 win for the Aggies.
A&M outblocked the Toreros, 7-0, in the frame, with Sullivan getting in on four blocks. A&M also outhit USD, .270 to .149, to take the early match lead.
The Toreros were within 13-9 in the second set when Babers pushed the ball to the open back corner for a kill, marking the start of a 4-0 rally that gave A&M its largest lead of the set, 17-9. USD, however, began to gain the momentum, chipping away to get within 21-18. Despite being outhit, .351 to .194, the Toreros stayed within three points at 23-20 before Babers and Reasor teamed for a block to put the Aggies at set point. USD stayed alive, however, as the Aggies served into the net. Sullivan was then charged with an attack error on the ensuing play after she was unable to corral an ill-placed set, putting the Toreros within 24-22. Undeterred, Aiple came back with a perfectly placed back set for Sullivan, who got the cross-court kill on the slide attack.
A&M held a narrow 12-10 lead in the third set when Brown began to find her rhythm. The Aggies were unable to contain the 6-2 senior middle hitter/outside hitter, who had four of her six kills in the set during an 11-0 run by the Toreros. Brown, who also had a solo block during the surge, led the Toreros to a .417 to .194 hitting advantage as USD rolled to a 25-16 victory to get within 2-1 in the match.
A&M never trailed in the fourth set, although USD kept things interesting, using a 3-0 spurt to get within 16-14. Sullivan and junior outside hitter Angela Lowak ended the rally with a block, but USD came back with a cross-court kill to stay within 17-15. Babers countered with a kill, and USD committed back-to-back attack errors as A&M went up, 20-15. The Toreros got a kill before Reasor buried back-to-back kills to go up 22-16. Sophomore A&Mâs Emily Hardesty then hit high off the USD block for a kill, and Reasor followed with an authoritative kill to put A&M at match point. USD ended the 4-0 run with a kill down the block before Hardesty registered her seventh kill to secure the A&M victory.
The match against USD is the second of four consecutive ranked opponents for the Aggies, who return home to Reed Arena for a two-match series against No. 7 Florida State on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 19-20.
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Post-Match Quotes: Texas A&M Head Coach Laurie Corbelli
On her feelings about the overall play against two top ranked teams…
âI would sum it up as just really strong team execution. Our blocking really got better. They understand it a little bit better now. I think our passing to our freshman setter [Stephanie Aiple] really allowed her to do the things she can do. The team just has a mindset right now that they are very together. They are really determined. They know how much talent they have. They trust their teammates. That’s just all kind of coming tougher. It’s a lot of fun to have that unity within the team.â
On serve receive confidence…
âThe passing is so critical to volleyball. I mention it all the time. Itâs important to make sure that we are in system as best we can be. It’s so much a mental part of the game. When we went to two passers, it really opened up some court for the ones that we want to have the ball the most, [Emily] Hardesty and [Victoria] Arenas. I think they don’t feel as crowded, and they can make the moves they need to make and they can get great position. I think when we do see there is a little bit of trouble, or a server that we can’t handle, then we can easily go into three, or four, or whatever else. I think that they are starting to see that itâs just up to them. There are always options, and it relaxes them a little bit.â
On bouncing back after giving up a 10-0 runâ¦
âAs coaches, we will be looking at why they happened in the first place. A 10-point run is not good, and a lot of it starts with our passing, and we start to get shaken up and we can’t get things going. But, I think they know that’s not really how we play, and they know what they are capable of. Once we get that passing and get over the hump of that really dead time where we are all just looking around with question marks on our faces, I think that’s when they really feel like they get their wheels going again. A lot of it is just composure and remembering what they’ve got to offer. We calm them down a little. We calm each other down a little. It’s a combination of a lot of things. But I’m glad honestly that we got to experience those things against some really top teams, on the road, and we’ve got that experience under our belt and we’ve just got to make sure we use it properly.â
Importance to SEC and the state of Texas to come out to California and beat two top-ranked teams…
âIt’s nice to go anywhere and beat top teams. Texas volleyball is really on the rise. Everyone is coming to Texas now and recruiting. The youth and the junior players are some of the best in the country, and I think they are figuring that out really quickly that they can stay closer to home and still have the same kind of experience. So from a recruiting standpoint, it’s really huge. But from our programs standpoint and college volleyball in Texas, it has gotten better and better every year we have been in Texas. We have seen all the schools rising to higher RPIs, higher rankings, and so I think we are getting bigger crowds and we are just happy to be a part of that and promoting the sport of volleyball and what a great sport it is.â
On facing No. 7 Florida State in two matches next weekend…
âIt’s going to be a very large challenge. They have great size. They have some great coaching. I know that they return quite a few starters. We are happy that we will have them at home, but at the same time it’s going to take a lot of really great scout report, great execution on our part. I think we will see that our serve receive has to be really sharp. But at this point in time, I think just having a group like that two weekends in a row, paying top teams is just going to really give us so much information about ourselves. That’s really what I’ve said all along. We are really fortunate to have had these teams to play right now so that we can show the world what we can do. We can show ourselves what we can do. You take a risk by coming out here and playing these types of teams, but it turned out to work real well for us. We couldn’t be happier.â
Story courtesy of Texas A&M Athletics
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