College Station – Texas A&M was glad to be playing at home and even happier to get a 21-25, 25-14, 25-21, 25-17 victory over American on the first day of the Texas A&M Invitational at G. Rollie White Coliseum.
The Aggies entertained the boisterous home-opening crowd of 1,707 while picking up their first win of the season to improve to 1-3. American dropped to 1-3.
A&M got off to a shaky start in the opening set and hit only .094 in the frame. There were 11 ties in the first set, the last coming at 15-all before American went on a 7-1 run. Down 22-16, the Aggies fought their way back within 24-21 before A&M’s last attack sailed long to give the Eagles the win.
“I wasn’t nervous,” Corbelli said about dropping the first set. “We seem to be a slow starting group. They know what they want to get done. It’s really just a matter of taking them awhile to get into their flow. It is something we have to work on, for sure, but I really never felt like anyone panicked or anyone was worried that we weren’t going to be able to kind of make that little turnaround that we needed to make.
“We could identify right away what we were not doing well, and we changed it. The team responded very quickly. We were not really running our offense with the pace and the accuracy that we are capable of, although our first touch was there. Our passing was really, really good."
The Aggies did make a rapid turnaround. After getting outhit, .357 to .094 in the first set, A&M hit .412 and held American to a .079 hitting efficiency in the second set. With Sarah Ammerman, Darla Donaldson and Kristen Schevikhoven at the net and Chelsea Ringel, Mary Batis and Jennifer Banse, handling the back row, the Aggies exploded for eight unanswered points to break the set open and take an 18-6 lead. American was within eight points at 22-14 before Batis and Ammerman combined for three consecutive kills to even the match at a set apiece.
“(The passing) part of our game was a huge difference from last weekend, and it sets the tone for our level of confidence and the speed of our attack,” Corbelli said. “It is everything to our rhythm. We were really excited to see that our passing was really on.”
The Aggies used a six-point run in the third set to break away from an 8-8 tie. A&M, which had built as much as an eight-point lead, was up 24-18 following a kill by Banse, but American scored three consecutive points to get within 24-21. Following an A&M timeout, Ammerman made an attack from the back row and tallied the set-winning kill.
American scored the first three points of the fourth set, but A&M countered with a five-point run. The Eagles tied the score three times, the last coming at 7-7 before the Aggies went on a 7-1 scoring spurt. American kept fighting, getting within 16-14, but A&M went on a 5-1 run to go up, 21-15. The Eagles’ Rubena Sukaj put down her team-leading 17th kill of the match, and A&M had an attack error to put American within 21-17 before Bryant began a four-point run with a solo block and ended the match with a kill.
Bryant, normally a right-side hitter, moved to the middle for this match and posted 11 kills and no errors in 16 attempts for a match-high .688 hitting percentage. Ammerman, quickly found her rhythm after a slow first set to lead the Aggies with 18 kills. Batis pitched in 14 kills and a team-high 18 digs. Ammerman and Banse joined Batis in double-figure digs with 14 and 10 respectively, while Darla Donaldson led the Aggies in blocks with six as A&M outblocked the Eagles, 11-8.
Schevikhoven finished with 48 assists and directed A&M to a .243 to .117 advantage in hitting percentage.
In the earlier match, Malia Marquardt and Bryn Porter combined for 30 kills to lead No. 16 BYU (4-0) to a 25-13, 24-26, 25-9, 25-20 victory over Siena (2-2).
The tournament concludes with four matches on Saturday. Action gets underway at 9:30 a.m. as No. 16 BYU takes on American. A&M faces Siena at 11:30 a.m. in the other morning session match. At 4:30 p.m. American and Siena meet, and the Aggies and Cougars wrap up the tournament with a 6:30 p.m. match.