COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Sarah Ammerman surpassed 1,000 career kills as she recorded a match-high 16 to lead Texas A&M to a crucial 25-23, 25-14, 18-25, 25-20 victory over Iowa State tonight in front of 1,290 at G. Rollie White Coliseum.
The Aggies (11-14, 6-9 Big 12) looked like a totally different team from the one that got swept by the Cyclones in Ames in the Big 12 Conference season opener on Sept. 17.
“We’ve come a long way since then,” Corbelli said. “We’ve had a lot of ups and downs, all teams have, but I think my team has really responded to the setbacks, and that was one of our biggest setbacks. Sometimes those things can haunt you later, too, and that didn’t happen tonight, so I was proud of them.”
ISU (16-11, 8-8 Big 12) took advantage of a slow start by the Aggies, jumping out to a 9-5 lead in the opening set. But A&M quickly got rolling, scoring five consecutive points as Aggie freshman libero Kelsey Black made several play-saving diving digs during the run and also added an ace. The teams then traded sideouts until ISU scored two straight points to regain the lead at 14-13. The lead changed for the third time as A&M went up 16-15 on an ISU attack error. ISU managed to tie the score five more times, the last coming at 23-all after Rachel Hockaday and Victoria Henson tallied back-to-back kills. ISU then committed its fifth service error to put A&M at set point, and Black finished off the frame with her second ace of the match.
“Kelsey did a great job all the way around,” Corbelli said. “She’s just really come into her own as our libero. She’s learned a lot from the older players.”
A&M led the entire second set as Ammerman began the stanza with a kill and Jennifer Banse and Darla Donaldson followed with a block to begin a 4-1 run for the Aggies. A&M later held an 11-9 lead and then went on an 8-1 run to pull away. Mary Batis put A&M up, 24-13 with her fourth kill of the set, but Jen Malcom countered with a kill before Ammerman clinched the set with her fourth kill of the set and sixth overall.
A&M, which was outhit, .222 to .144 in the opening set, hit. 344 and posted four blocks as the Aggies held ISU to a .026 hitting percentage and no blocks in the second set.
A&M held a 4-3 edge to begin the third set when ISU scored seven of the next eight points to go up 10-5. A&M later used a 4-1 spurt to get within 15-13, but ISU then reeled off three straight points. ISU expanded its lead to 22-15 when A&M made a last-ditch rally by scoring three consecutive points. But an A&M serve into the net and a blocked attack put the Cyclones at set point. Carly Jenson, who didn’t play in either of the first two sets, clinched the win for ISU with a kill.
The Cyclones carried the momentum into the fourth set, using a stretch of six unanswered points to jump out to a 7-2 lead. Ammerman ended the run with a back-to-back kills, which included her 13th kill of the match and the 1,000th of her career. A&M continued to cut away at the lead, using a four-point run to get within 10-9. Henson got a kill to put ISU ahead, 11-9, before A&M scored three straight to take its first lead. ISU tied the score twice before regaining the lead at 14-13 on a block. A&M was whistled for a ball handling error on the ensuing play, but Donaldson came back with consecutive kills to tie the score. A&M then took the lead after ISU’s attack hit the antenna, and Donaldson put A&M up 17-15 as she punished the Cyclones for an errant overpass.
A&M was up, 18-17, when the Aggies got a kill apiece from Kelsey Bryant, Ammerman and Banse. A&M held onto a 22-19 lead when Bryant went up for an attack. The ball sailed wide, but ISU was charged with a blocking error on the play, giving Bryant the kill and putting A&M up 23-19. Ammerman followed with a kill from the back row to put the Aggies serving for the match. A&M committed a service error before Batis clinched the win with her 13th kill of the match.
A&M hit only .189 in the match but posted 12 blocks to help hold ISU, which had only five blocks, to a .126 hitting efficiency.
“Our blocking really helped a lot,” Corbelli said. “We were really trying to change up our blocking strategy during the game a little bit because we weren’t having success at some of the areas. I thought that was good and the team responded well to that.”
Donaldson, who tallied a match-high six blocks, joined Ammerman and Batis in double-figure kills with 10. Black and Batis tied for team-high honors in digs with 17 each, and Banse and Ammerman added 14 and 13 digs, respectively. Setter Kristen Schevikhoven finished with 46 assists.
“I thought we did a really nice job,” Corbelli said about the Aggies’ overall defensive play. “We’ve worked really hard scouting this team and making sure the girls knew the best vicinity to be in and who they were going to go to in each rotation. They followed the game plan really well, which made it easier. Iowa State does a great job of tooling the block and hitting off the block and out of bounds, and you have to chase a lot of balls down. At first we got caught cheating in a little bit and we made a few adjustments.”
Malcom led the Cyclones with 11 kills while hitting .321. Henson, an outside hitter who was unstoppable when the Aggies played in Ames, was held to nine kills and also committed nine errors in the loss.
“(Henson’s) a great player,” Corbelli said. “They got the ball to their middles a lot and we were really going to try to slow that down. (Malcom) is a great attacker out of the middle, and we knew that we really needed to slow her down, but if we let Henson get hot, it was going to be difficult. She just did struggle. They just had a tough time connecting. We’ve been there. I was just happy that we were able to stay on her and try and slow her down as best we could.”
On Saturday, the Aggies, who must win each of their remaining five matches to be eligible for the NCAA tournament, take a short trek down Highway 6 for a Battle of the Brazos match-up against the Baylor Bears at the Ferrell Center in Waco. The start of the match has been changed to 12 p.m. to allow fans to also attend the A&M-Baylor football game, which kicks off at 3 p.m. at Floyd Casey Stadium.
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