COLUMBIA, MO -- Texas A&M defeated Missouri, 25-21, 25-20, 20-25, 25-16, tonight at the Hearnes Center, closing out the regular season riding a season-high six-match winning streak.
With NCAA tournament implications on the line in each of the Aggies’ last six matches of the regular season, it was an all-or-nothing match once again for the A&M, which improves to 16-14 overall to finish above .500 and become eligible for the NCAA tournament. The 64-team field will be announced Sunday at 9 p.m. on ESPNU.
“There is just something in this team that became evident after we went through the stretch in October that was so difficult,” A&M coach Laurie Corbelli said. “Just playing in the Big 12 makes you get better and makes you more mentally tough. Along with everybody getting healthier, it’s just like things have come together so perfectly. Not just the players on the court, but our back-up players have been doing a beautiful job in practice every day in pushing the starters. There’s just been such a great team effort in this push for the strong finish. It’s really rewarding as a coach to be a part of and to help try and lead this group to where we really want to go.”
The Aggies, who finish no less than tied for fourth in the Big 12 Conference with an 11-9 mark, had four players reach double figures in kills, including 15 apiece by Sarah Ammerman and Mary Batis. Kelsey Bryant added a season-high 12 kills, and Jennifer Banse also pitched in 12 kill for A&M, which outhit Missouri, .297 to .166 for the match. Kelsey Black tied her personal best with a match-high 24 digs.
A&M, which had not won at the Hearnes Center since 2003, scored the first three points of the match and held a lead throughout the first set. Batis recorded two of her five kills in the set during a four-point A&M rally that put the Aggies ahead, 12-6, and A&M later got three consecutive kills to build its biggest lead at 17-10. A kill by Julianna Klein ended the run, and the teams traded serves until the Tigers reeled off three unanswered point to get within 21-17. The Aggies scored the next two points, but Missouri fought back to win four of the next points to close to within 24-21. Banse ended Missouri’s comeback bid with a set-clinching kill off the block.
A&M got off to a slow start in the second set, spotting the Tigers a 7-1 lead. The Aggies then got on a roll, answering with their own 7-1 run to tie the set at 8-8. Missouri got a kill by Catie Wilson before A&M countered with three consecutive points to take its first lead of the frame. Missouri tied the score at 11 and again at 12, but back-to-back errors by the Tigers put A&M up, 14-12. Missouri stayed within a point at 15-14 when A&M got consecutive kills by Banse, Ammerman and Bryant to go up 18-14. The Tigers cut away at the lead and got within 19-18 before Bryant recorded her fifth and sixth kills of the set to put the Aggies up, 21-18. The teams traded points, and the Aggies held a 22-20 advantage when they got kills by three different players, including another set-clinching kill by Banse, to take a two-set lead.
A&M held its second lead of the third set at 6-5 before three Aggie consecutive errors and a Missouri kill gave the Tigers a 9-6 lead. A&M came back to tie the score at 9-9 before the Tigers went on a 6-2 run. Missouri went on to build its biggest lead at 21-15, and A&M could get no closer than four points before Megan Wilson put down a kill to end the set.
Missouri held a 4-2 lead to open the fourth set when A&M erupted for six straight points, three courtesy of kills by Bryant. The Tigers scored two points to get within 8-6 when Ammerman got a kill and then stepped to the service line and had two aces during another 6-0 run and a 14-6 lead for the Aggies. A&M built its biggest lead at 20-10 when the Tigers rallied for four unanswered points.
Ammerman ended the run with a kill, which marked a 3-1 run for A&M, the Aggies held a 23-16 lead, when Bryant got a solo block to put the Aggies at match point. Batis then ended the match and started the celebration with a kill.
Klein had a team-high 13 kills for the Tigers, who end the season 13-17 overall and 7-13 in the Big 12 after losing their last four matches.
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