BRASLOVCE, Slovenia -- The Texas A&M volleyball team dropped the first set, 26-24, against a Slovenian team consisting of a combination of players from the youth and junior national teams but came back to win the next three sets, 25-18, 25-19, 25-21, in the small country town about an hour from Maribor.
"I was happy the team came back from being down one set to win the match," A&M coach Laurie Corbelli said. "We were hoping to get a few looks at some different lineups, but we've had off a couple of days and tonight we weren't ready to try things. We wanted to get the win.
"Using both setters is the other key thing. We are really working in both setters -- Kristen Schevikhoven (Centennial, Colo.) and Jola Kelner (Poland) --close to equal time, 60-40 maybe, but that does change a lot of things on your court. Sometimes we are seeing the result of that."
The Aggies got off to a slow start in the first set as Slovenia reeled off three unanswered points to begin the match. A&M came back to take its first lead at 9-8 following a kill by Sarah Ammerman (Parker, Colo.). Slovenia tied the score at 9 and 10 before A&M went on a 7-2 run to build its biggest lead at 17-12. Slovenia got back within 22-21, but a service error and a kill by Jennifer Banse (San Antonio, Texas) put the Aggies at set point. Slovenia rallied, however, posting back-to-back kills and consecutive blocks to take the lead, 25-24. A&M was then whistled for a ball handling error to give Slovenia the win.
"They served us really, really well, and that is something we really need these teams to do for our sake," Corbelli said. "I thought when we passed well and were in system, we are a great team. It is obvious from tonight that we need to keep working on our out-of-system offense. I was excited that they played such great defense. They were in good spots against our different offensive sets. They competed hard, and that is exactly what we needed. Once again we got a bonus match for ourselves as we look forward to the fall."
The Aggies regrouped in the second set, jumping out to an 8-0 lead. A&M built its biggest lead at 16-5, but Slovenia used an 8-1 run to get within 17-13. The Aggies answered with a four-point spurt, with the last two points coming on back-to-back blocks by Darla Donaldson (Temecula, Calif.). Slovenia cut the lead to 21-17, but two kills by Mary Batis (San Antonio) and a Slovenian attack error put the Aggies at set point. An Aggie service error extended the set before Kelsey Bryant (Austin, Texas) put down a kill to give A&M the win and tie the match at a set apiece.
Slovenia scored three consecutive points to take its first lead of the third set at 10-9, but the Aggies would later go on a 7-2 run to build an 18-13 advantage. Slovenia got back within three points three times, the last coming at 22-19. Donaldson then got a kill, and Slovenia hit into the net on the ensuing play to put A&M serving for the set. Donaldson capped A&M's three-point, set-winning run with a solo block.
A&M came from behind to win the fourth set and clinch the match. Slovenia had led by as many as four points early in the final set and were up, 18-16, when Banse put down a kill and then teamed with Bryant for a block to tie the score. Bryant then put down a kill following a Slovenian pass that hung over the net, giving A&M its first lead since 9-8. The teams traded points and were tied at 20-all when Ammerman tooled the Slovenian block for a kill, marking the start of a four-point run for the Aggies. With A&M serving for the match at 24-20, Slovenia managed to stay alive with a kill off the block, but Donaldson thundered down a kill for the match-winning point.
With the win, the Aggies improve to 3-1 on their 14-day European tour. They conclude their Slovenia competition schedule tomorrow, taking on the Slovenia Youth National Team in the early afternoon and the Slovenia Junior National Team in the evening.
"In the first match, we will try to focus on using some of our younger players and see if we can get that going," Corbelli said. "I'm trying not to just think about winning. I want development and experience to happen. It's a very difficult decision to make. We really want them to learn to win as well, and that is one of the important skills that this team needs. We are trying to find that balance."
On Sunday, the team heads to its final stop, the Czech Republic, where the Aggies will play a two-match series against the Czech Republic Junior National Team.