HOUSTON -- The Texas A&M volleyball team was impressive in its spring season opener as the Aggies won all three matches in straight sets today at the Rice Spring Play Day at the Fox Gymnasium.
“We are really pleased,” said A&M coach Laurie Corbelli, who is entering her 16th season at the helm of the Aggies. “This was a great opportunity to bring on all of our returners and see if we could start up where we finished last season.
“Overall there was good chemistry on the court, and I also was very pleased with our new players, Kelsey Black, Chelsea Ringel and Dylan Faulkner. All three new players just did a fantastic job.”
Each match consisted of two sets, and teams used the recently adopted scoring rule that will take affect in upcoming season, reducing the points needed to win a set from 30 to 25.
A&M defeated Sam Houston State, 25-17, 25-12, in the opener. In the first set, the Bearkats held a 5-3 lead when A&M went on a five-point scoring run to take the lead for good. Leading 22-17, Jenny Banse got a kill for the Aggies and then teamed with Jillian Phillips for a block to put A&M at game point. Phillips then teamed with Mary Batis for another block to give the Aggies the win.
A&M used a 10-point scoring run to pull away for a 25-12 victory in the second set to complete the sweep against the Bearkats.
With additional time remaining before the next match, the coaches agreed to play a set to 15 points. A&M fought off two set points at 14-12 and 15-14, and scored three consecutive points to regain the lead and close out the set and match.
“Having so many of these juniors-to-be having started two years already in their career, they have learned a lot about poise,” Corbelli said. “They are not so quick to lose faith. The resiliency is definitely there, and I expect that will really help us a lot in the future.”
The Aggies then took on Houston Baptist. Leading 19-16, A&M setter Jola Kelner got a solo block which sparked a six-point run to end the set. A&M also used a late rally to pull away in the second set. Leading 18-17, the Aggies reeled off seven consecutive points to end the set and the match.
A&M closed out the tournament against Rice, coached by former Aggie standout Genny (Wood) Volpe. A&M, which never led by more than five points in the first set, held a 24-19 lead, but a kill and a block by the Owls kept Rice in the set. But Rice then served into the net to give A&M the first-set victory, 25-12.
There were seven ties and four lead changes in the second set. A&M put up its longest run midway through the set. Freshman Chelsea Ringel got two kills during a six-point run by the Aggies, which helped A&M to a 17-13 lead. Rice got within a point at 19-18, but A&M scored three unanswered points to build a 22-18 advantage. Rice never got closer than two points before freshman Kelsey Black closed out the match with a powerful kill.
“Our defense also was strong,” Corbelli said. “Ringel, who has been at A&M for only a few months now and served as the libero for most of the day, was phenomenal. I really didn’t know that I was going to get such great defense from her, but she really held her own in that position. And yet the rest of the group really was executing our defense the way that we’ve been training. I’ve definitely seen improvement in our defense.
“The team played with consistency, and that is always a goal of a coach in any sport, to see a team perform without a lot of lows or drops in their performance. Overall we are glad we made this trip. We got a good look at the things we must improve on this spring, and also are pleased where we are right now.”
The Aggies will get a chance to defend their undefeated spring record when they host their own spring tournament on April 5 at G. Rollie White Coliseum. More information on the tournament will be posted at a later date.
Rice Spring Play Day Results:
A&M defeated Sam Houston State, 25-17, 25-12, 17-15
A&M defeated Houston Baptist, 25-16, 25-17
A&M defeated Rice, 25-21, 25-22