COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Texas A&M got back into the win column and Mary Batis recorded her 1,000th career kill as the Aggies defeated Kansas, 25-17, 25-14, 25-23
in front of 1,046 at G. Rollie White Coliseum.
With the win, A&M snaps a three-match losing skid and improves to 10-11 overall and 5-6 in the Big 12. In addition, the Aggies win their fifth consecutive meeting against the Jayhawks, who lost to A&M in five sets in Lawrence, Kan., earlier this season.
Kansas, which has never won in College Station in 14 visits, falls to 9-11 overall and 3-8 in the Big 12.
Junior outside hitter Mary Batis, who entered the match needing only two kills to reach 1,000 for her career, led the Aggies with 11 kills and became the 14th player in A&M history to join the 1,000-Kill Club. Freshman middle blocker Stephanie Wells added a career-high eight kills and also tied for match-high honors in blocks with a career-high five as A&M outblocked Kansas, 8-4, and outhit the Jayhawks, .210 to .041.
“I thought we passed very well,” A&M coach Laurie Corbelli said. “We were able to get everybody in our offense included. The best part of blocking is that it can really make hitters hesitate and try to find new shots that they really don’t want to make. Our goal is to start every match with our best blocking. I thought today we did that very well.
Batis put down a kill on the first play of the match and then reached the 1,000-point milestone during a 7-1 run that put the Aggies up, 8-1. The Jayhawks, who were held to a -.160 hitting efficiency in the first set never got closer than five points, the last coming at 22-17. A&M then closed out the set with three unanswered points, including back-to-back blocks to clinch the frame. Wells, who was involved in the two set-ending blocks, finished the set with five blocks.
“(Blocking is) definitely a huge confidence booster at the beginning, and blocks are such a momentum giver to the team no matter who gets it,” said Wells, who was making the fifth start of her young career. “I’m just really lucky, because a lot of the times all I have to do is close with someone and jump. When my team sets it right and we get that block, it’s just a huge momentum and it gives me the confidence.”
“A strong start sure feels good,” Corbelli added. “The thing is a lot of teams want to let up after a strong start, and one of our goals today was if we do get up on the team, we want to be even more up on the team. We’ve seen some snowball effects of being down and having a run of points on the other side, so we were trying to be super aggressive, even more aggressive when we were up.”
A&M never trailed in the second set and used a six-point rally to build a 10-3 lead. The Aggies built their first 10-point lead at 15-5 on a kill by Wells. A&M maintained the 10-point edge at 22-12 on another kill by Wells, and back-to-back attack errors by the Jayhawks put A&M up 24-12. An A&M service error and a kill by Kansas’ Allison Mayfield kept the Jayhawks alive until Wells ended the set with her fifth kill of the frame.
Kansas scored the first two points of the third set to take its first lead of the match. The Jayhawks built their biggest lead at 7-4, but A&M reeled off three straight points to evaporate the lead. A&M tied the score again at 8-8 and took its first lead at 9-8 following a Kansas attack error. Kansas regained the lead at 12-11 and went up 13-11 after back-to-back attack errors by A&M before Batis mounted another A&M comeback, posting three kills during a five-point spurt that put the Aggies back in the lead, 16-13.
Kansas eventually tied the score for the eighth time in the set at 22-22, but a service error and a kill by A&M’s Jennifer Banse put A&M serving for the match at 24-22. Outside hitter Jenna Kaiser then posted her team-leading ninth kill for the Jayhawks before Batis capped the victory with a kill.
“We were really consistent with our serving,” Corbelli said. “Maybe we missed a few, but I thought we were taking them out of what they wanted to do, a lot better than we have been in the past. (Kansas is) a really strong middle-attack team, but the serving we were doing was making it difficult for them to go to their middles.”
Freshman libero Kelsey Black led A&M with 13 digs, and Banse tied Wells for match-high honors with a career-high five blocks. Setter Kristen Schevikhoven, who made her first start since suffering an ankle injury at Colorado on Sept. 27, finished with 32 assists. Batis tallied a match-high 13 points, giving her 1,139 for her career and moving her into third place in the A&M career records.
A&M is on the road next week, facing two ranked opponents. The Aggies take on No. 13 Kansas State in Manhattan on Wednesday and No. 3 Texas on Saturday in Austin. The match against the Wildcats begins at 7 p.m. at Ahearn Field House and will be televised live by FSN-Kansas City. The match against the Longhorns is at 6:30 p.m. at Gregory Gym.