COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Texas A&M (17-5, 9-4 SEC) returns to Reed Arena this weekend for two of its final three home matches of the regular season. The Aggies, winners in each of their last two matches and tied for the lead in the Southeastern Conference Western Division, welcome Alabama (14-11, 3-10 SEC) Friday at 6:30 p.m. and Western Division co-leader Arkansas Sunday at 1 p.m.
It will be a “Reunion Weekend” with many former A&M volleyball players coming to town, including Arkansas assistant coach Carol Price-Torok, who played for A&M and coach Laurie Corbelli from 2000-03 and helped lead the Aggies to the NCAA tournament every year during her career.
The Aggies, who defeated both Alabama and Arkansas on the road during the first half of SEC play, have won their last two matches: a 3-1 victory at seven-time defending SEC Western champion LSU, and a 3-0 sweep at South Carolina.
Alabama has lost its last five matches, including a 3-2 setback at Arkansas last Friday and a 3-0 loss at Tennessee on Sunday. The Razorbacks carry a league-leading four-match winning streak into their contest at Auburn on Friday after hitting a season-high .407 in a sweep against Missouri on Sunday.
• The first 50 Junior Aggie Club Members at Friday’s match will receive a concession voucher for $3
• Parents of Junior Aggie Club Members can purchase match tickets for $3 each on Friday and Sunday
Individual match tickets are $9 for reserve seating, $7 for adult general admission and $4 for youth, high school age and under. A&M students without a sports pass also can purchase tickets for $4 each. Several convenient options are available to purchase the tickets: 1) online, 24 hours a day at tickets.12thmanfoundation.com; 2) by calling the ticket office at 979-845-2311 or toll free at 1-888-99-AGGIE; 3) in person at the ticket office located inside the Zone at the north end of Kyle Field during normal business hours; or 4) in person at Reed Arena beginning one hour before match time.
FOLLOW THE ACTION:
Live video and audio of both matches will be available on AggieAthletics.com to 12th Man premium subscribers. Live stats for both matches will be available free on AggieAthletics.com, and live updates and other information can be found by following @AggieVolleyball on Twitter.
The Aggies hit the road next weekend, playing at Auburn Friday at 7 p.m., and then facing Georgia in Athens, Sunday at 1 p.m. (CT) in a match that will be televised by Comcast/Cox. A&M defeated Auburn, 3-1, at Reed Arena on Sept. 16. The Aggies will be facing Georgia for the first time as a member of the SEC, as the teams did not meet during the first half of conference play.
SERIES HISTORY VS. ALABAMA:
• A&M is 3-0 all-time against Alabama, with all three victories coming with Laurie Corbelli as head coach of the Aggies.
• The teams met for the first time as SEC foes on Sept. 30 in Tuscaloosa. Seniors Alisia Kastmo and Lindsey Miller led A&M with nine kills apiece and junior setter Allie Sawatzky dished out 35 assists as A&M led in kills, 44-27 and outhit Alabama, .202 to .073, in a 25-22, 25-20, 25-20 victory at Foster Auditorium. A&M had three players reach double figures in digs, led by senior libero Megan Pendergast’s 15. Senior Tori Mellinger had 14 digs and Heather Reynolds finished with 11 digs as A&M led Alabama in digs, 57-31. Freshman Angela Lowak came off the bench and finished with career highs of six kills, three blocks -- including two solo blocks – and 8.5 points. Senior Kayla Fitterer led the Tide with 11 kills.
• The teams first met Sept. 24, 1993, at the Southern Premiere Tournament, hosted by Texas State in San Marcos. A&M won, 15-5, 15-13, 10-15, 15-3 en route to capturing the five-team tournament championship.
• A&M is 1-0 against the Tide in matches played in College Station. On Sept. 14, 1996, the Aggies defeated Alabama, 15-6, 15-8, 15-5, at G. Rollie White Coliseum to go 4-0 at the Post Oak Mall Lady Aggie Invitational.
SERIES HISTORY VS. ARKANSAS:
• This will be only the second meeting between the Aggies and the Razorbacks in volleyball. Arkansas did not sponsor the sport when the two schools were members of the Southwest Conference.
• The teams met for the first time on Oct. 12 in Fayetteville, where the Aggies escaped with a 21-25, 25-15, 25-16, 23-25, 15-3 victory at Barnhill Arena. Alisia Kastmo tied her career high with 21 kills while hitting .341, and Stephanie Minnerly had a career-high eight blocks, the most by an A&M player this season, to lead the Aggies to a season-high 15 for the match, while Arkansas had only six. Tori Mellinger had 11 kills and 11 digs and Allie Sawatzky also recorded a double-double with 48 assists and 10 digs. Megan Pendergast led all players with 19 digs, and Kelsey Kinley pitched in 12 digs. The Aggies also got key off-the-bench contributions from several freshmen, including Shelbi Vaughan, who sparked the Aggies with career highs of eight kills and three blocks, as well as Shelby Sullivan and Angela Lowak.
AGGIE QUICK HITS:
• Texas A&M is tied with Arkansas (9-4) for first place in the SEC West and is 6-0 in Western Division matches.
• A&M is No. 26 in this week’s Rating Percentage Index (RPI). Stanford is No. 1, and Penn State, Nebraska, Texas and UCLA round out the top five. At No. 11, Florida is the top-rated team representing the SEC, followed by No. 15 Kentucky, No. 19 Tennessee, No. 23 Arkansas and Texas A&M.
• The Aggies are receiving votes in the AVCA Top 25 Poll and are listed 31st.
• A&M is ranked 17th in the nation and leads the SEC with 14.40 kills per set for the full season. A&M also leads the league and is 22nd in the country with 13.34 assists per set. In addition, the Aggies lead the SEC with a .162 opponent hitting percentage for the full season.
• In SEC matches only, A&M leads the league in assists (13.31) and kills (14.23) per set.
• A&M won the first set in each of the first 14 matches of the season and in 18 of 22 matches overall. The Aggies are 16-2 when winning the first set and 1-3 when dropping the opening set. No. 5 USC and No. 11 Florida are the only teams that have come back to defeat the Aggies after dropping the opening set.
• A&M has registered seven aces -- one shy of the season high -- in each of the last two matches compared to one reception error in the two matches combined.
• Five A&M players who have appeared in more than 85 percent of the sets are averaging at least 2.15 points per set for the full season and in SEC matches only. Senior opposite Alisia Kastmo leads the team with 4.07 kills per set overall and 4.17 kills per set in SEC contests only.
• A&M has led its opponent in kills in 19 of 22 matches and is 17-2 when leading in kills. Kentucky and Florida are the only teams two teams to defeat A&M when trailing in kills, and both of those matches were decided in five sets.
• A&M is 16-0 when posting a higher hitting percentage than its opponent.
• A&M has used the same starting lineup in 20 of 22 matches with seniors Lindsey Miller and Stephanie Minnerly at middle blocker, senior Alisia Kastmo at opposite, senior Tori Mellinger on the outside, along with junior Heather Reynolds, and junior Allie Sawatzky at setter. Senior Megan Pendergast has started out every match as the team’s designated libero. Kelsey Kinley started two matches -- the first two starts of her career -- in place of Reynolds in the back row.
• Texas A&M head coach Laurie Corbelli celebrated the 500th win of her 26-year head coaching career and her 400th victory in her 20th season at the helm of the Aggies in A&M’s season-opening victory against Texas State on Aug. 24 at Reed Arena. She is now 516-305 for her career and 416-199 at A&M.
• Corbelli returns 10 letterwinners – including four starters plus the libero -- from last year’s team that went 23-8 and reached the second round of the NCAA tournament. She also welcomes one transfer and seven highly touted freshmen who represent the 20th-ranked recruiting class in the nation.
• Twelve of A&M’s 29 regular season matches are against teams that appeared in the 2011 NCAA tournament. A&M is currently 5-5 against 2011 NCAA tournament teams.
• In their inaugural season in the SEC, the Aggies have been picked to finish second in the SEC West behind seven-time defending west champion LSU. Tennessee is projected to win the East Division and the overall SEC title. A&M finished third in the Big 12 with an 11-5 record in 2011.
• Senior middle blocker Lindsey Miller Is hitting .488 over the last four matches and has posted double figures in kills in each of the last three matches
• Lindsey Miller and junior setter Allie Sawatzky have started every match of their careers. Miller has started 114 consecutive matches. Sawatzky has started all 83 matches throughout her career.
• Libero Megan Pendergast became the first A&M player to receive an SEC weekly honor when she was named SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Week on Oct. 1. The senior leads A&M and is seventh in the league with 3.94 digs per set in conference matches only. She is ninth in the SEC with 3.87 digs per set for the full season. Pendergast has posted double-figure digs in 16 of 22 matches, including four matches in which she had 20 or more digs.
• Lindsey Miller, who has tied or led the team in blocks in 15 of 22 matches this season, leads A&M and is eighth in the SEC with 1.08 blocks per set for the full season. Miller has led the team in both total blocks and blocks per set, as well as hitting percentage, in the season final stats every year during her career, and she ranks fifth in the A&M career records with 372 block assists and 1,166 points, and she is seventh in the career annals with 423 total blocks.
• Showing the balance of the team, each of A&M’s starters was named to at least one all-tournament team in the three tournaments A&M played this year. Senior opposite Alisia Kastmo, the MVP of the Delaware Invitational, and Allie Sawatzky appeared on two all-tournament teams. Senior middle blocker Stephanie Minnerly, the MVP of the Yale Classic, senior outside hitter Tori Mellinger, junior outside hitter Heather Reynolds and Lindsey Miller and have each appeared on one all-tournament team.
• Tori Mellinger is second on the team with 2.73 kills and 3.23 digs per set and is third on the squad with 3.13 points per set. She currently has 1,363 career digs and needs only four more to move into fifth in the A&M career records and 11 more to climb into fourth place.
• Alisia Kastmo has had double-figure kills in a team-leading 15 matches this season, including three 20-plus kill performances. She leads A&M and ranks ninth in the SEC with 3.57 kills per set for the full season. She is seventh in the league in SEC matches only with 3.68 kills per set. In addition, Kastmo is eighth with 4.07 points per set for the full season and seventh with 4.17 points per set in SEC contests only. In addition, she is sixth in the SEC with 0.28 aces per set in conference matches.
• Allie Sawatzky ranks seventh in the A&M career records with 3,016 assists. She needs 83 more to move into sixth place.
• Alisia Kastmo and Stephanie Minnerly both have graduated with bachelor’s degrees and are continuing their education as they complete their athletic eligibility. Kastmo graduated in August with a degree in finance and is pursuing a master’s degree in real estate. Minnerly, a fifth-year senior, graduated in December 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in university studies. She is pursuing a second degree, a bachelor’s of science in agricultural leadership and development, and is scheduled to graduate in May 2013.
• Alabama (14-11, 3-10), in sixth place in the SEC Western Division, is looking to snap a season-high five-match losing skid.
• Senior outside hitter Kayla Fitterer needs 10 kills to move into 10th in the Alabama career records with 1,247. She leads the Tide and is fifth in the SEC with 3.78 kills per set in league matches. She is ninth in the league with 4.07 points per set in SEC contests.
• The Crimson Tide is second in the SEC with 1.32 aces per set for the full season. Freshman Kryssi Daniels leads the league with 42 aces overall and a 0.47 ace average in all matches.
• Alabama is outhitting its opponents. 235 to .211 in all matches but is being outhit, .272 to .205 in SEC play.
• The Razorbacks enter a Friday contest at Auburn having won their last four matches, including a 3-0 victory at Kentucky, which is 2-0 against the Aggies.
• Most recently, the Razorbacks swept Missouri after hitting a season-high .407.
• Arkansas ranks second behind Texas A&M in the SEC with 14.12 kills per set for the full season.
• Senior outside hitter Jasmine Norton ranks in the top 18 in the SEC in kills (3.66), digs (3.15) and points (4.16) per set in all matches.
• Arkansas was picked to finish third behind Texas A&M in the SEC Western Division, according to a preseason poll of the league coaches.
• Robert Pulliza (Ball State, 1996) is in his fifth season as head coach of the Razorbacks.