NORMAN, OK -- Texas A&M’s Sarah Ammerman had a team season-high 26 kills and Mary Batis added 16 kills to lead the Aggies to a 15-25, 25-20, 25-18, 20-25, 15-8 victory over the Oklahoma Sooners tonight at McCasland Field House.
The Aggies notch their third consecutive Big 12 win, equaling their longest conference winning streak of the season, and improve to 13-14 overall and 8-9 in Big 12. They also keep their hopes alive for postseason play, as they must win their remaining matches to finish above .500 and be eligible for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. The Sooners fall to 11-15, 7-11.
“I don’t really know how to describe it,” A&M coach Laurie Corbelli said. “The determination is really there. There is a large junior class that is really wanting to go to the (NCAA) tournament, and they know their only chance is to win out and then maybe we will get a look. That is what is on their minds, so the determination and the leadership are starting to really come out. They are finding ways to get it done. It was a really stressful match tonight but a lot fun at the end.”
A&M never got in sync in the opening set and was held to a .000 hitting percentage. The Aggies also got off to slow starts in the second and third sets but managed to come back and win the sets. Their comeback attempt in the fourth set fell short, but the Aggies never trailed in the fifth set to clinch victory and complete a series sweep against the Sooners.
The score was tied at five-all in the opening set when the Sooners’ used a four-point rally to begin to pull away. The Aggies closed to a two-point margin at 10-8 when Oklahoma went on a 5-1 scoring run. A&M got back within 18-14 before the Sooners rallied for four consecutive points, three on A&M attack errors. A block by Jola Kelner and Kelsey Bryant ended the run, but the Sooners came right back with a kill and an ace to be serving for the set. A&M then hit into the net on the final play of the set.
The Aggies continued to struggle to begin the second set and were down 12-7 before things finally began to click. A&M used a 7-1 run to take its first lead at 14-13. OU tied to score at 14 before Ammerman posted three kills to spark a five-point run for the Aggies. The teams exchanged sideouts for the remainder of the set, with Ammerman recording her 10th kill of the set to clinch the win and even the match at a set apiece.
“Sarah really stepped up,” Corbelli said. “We absolutely needed her. She is one of the most determined players that I have, so I think it’s wonderful that she had the confidence. She has been working really, really hard in her training sessions to add a little bit more punch to her attack. She has been working on her block. She has been working hard on her defense. I really see her responding to the training. I’ve been seeing it the last few weeks.”
A&M spotted the Sooners a 6-3 lead to begin the third set before the Aggies began another comeback. Ammerman and Bryant got things started, posting two kills each to give A&M a 7-6 lead. OU got a kill off the block to tie the score before A&M got five kills from four different players during a 5-1 rally. The Aggies, who hit .474 in the set, continued to stay in command of the set and were up 23-18 when Darla Donaldson got a solo block and Jennifer Banse got a kill down the line to close out the set for the Aggies.
OU scored four unanswered points to jump out to a 10-5 lead in the fourth set, forcing A&M to take a time out. The Aggies then went on a 7-2 run to tie the score at 12. A&M, however, was unable to take the lead as Oklahoma reeled off four consecutive points to spark a 7-1 run and a 19-12 lead. OU went on to take a 24-18 lead. A&M fought off two set points before Sarah Freudenrich pounded a kill to end the frame and force a fifth set.
A&M opened the fifth set with a block by Donaldson and Batis. OU answered with a kill, but it would be the only tie of the set. A&M went on a 5-1 to go up, 6-2. The Aggies maintained a 9-6 edge before reeling off four straight points to take a commanding 13-6 lead. The teams then traded point for point with Ammerman appropriately getting the match-winning kill.
“Just getting into our rhythm tonight was super difficult,” Corbelli said. “We didn’t have our normal energy level on the court at first, and then they started to really encourage each other to bring more energy and get to Aggie volleyball style. Our blocking started to come together. They were running their middles so fast that we hadn’t seen anything that fast in awhile, so we had to make a few adjustments there, and I thought they did a great job of doing that as well.”
Libero Kelsey Black led the Aggies in the back row, posting 24 digs to tie A&M’s season high. Batis, who had two of A&M’s five service aces, pitched in 19 digs, and Banse and Ammerman added 14 and 13 digs, respectively.
Francie Ekwerekwu led the Sooners with 19 kills while hitting .359. Bridget Laplante added 13 kills. Libero Lacy Barnes led OU in digs with 22.
The Aggies return to G. Rollie White Coliseum on Saturday, Nov. 22 to host Colorado. It will be “Senior Night”, and A&M’s three seniors – Kelsey Bryant, Darla Donaldson and Jillian Phillips -- will be honored prior to the match, which begins at 6:30 p.m.
The Aggies play their final match at G. Rollie on Wednesday, Nov. 26 against Texas Tech before closing out the regular season at Missouri on Friday, Nov. 28.
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