BOZEMAN, MT -- Texas A&M improved to 4-0 on the season and recorded its fourth consecutive sweep with a 30-17, 30-23, 30-23 victory over the Utah State Aggies in the first match of the Holiday Inn Classic at Montana State’s Shroyer Gymnasium.
A&M set the tone early, hitting a blistering .708 in the opening game after recording 18 kills and only one error in 24 attack attempts.
Junior middle blocker Jillian Phillips sparked A&M to a 9-1 lead to open the match, posting three kills and teaming for three blocks in the run. A&M went on to build what would equal its biggest lead at 23-10 after Sarah Ammerman and Kelly Stanton connected on back-to-back kills. Utah State could get no closer than 10 points, and with A&M leading 28-17, Kelsey Bryant put down a kill and Stanton added a solo block to end the game.
“We’ve been working really hard on strong starts and making sure we take care of the first five rallies especially,” A&M coach Laurie Corbelli said. “It is just a good mentality for us to get started strong.
“Our blocking was really disciplined. Whether or not we stuffed them, we were slowing balls down, and we were in good position with our defense to play behind the block.”
A&M got off to another quick start in the second game, jumping out to a 7-1 lead. Utah State got within 9-6 before A&M went on a 9-3 run to build an 18-9 advantage. Sophomore setter Kristen Schevikhoven sparked the rally with two kills and an ace.
Leading 22-17, A&M scored four straight points to take its biggest lead of the game. Utah State answered with a 5-1 run to get within 27-22 before Schevikhoven put down her third kill of the game and a Utah State attack error put A&M at game point.
An A&M serving error extended the r, but Mary Batis clinched the game with a kill down the line, giving A&M a two game lead.
Utah State (1-3) took its only lead of the match after opening the third game with a kill. A&M responded with six unanswered points and never looked back. A&M led by as many as eight points throughout much of the final frame. Utah State, which was held to a .076 hitting percentage in the match, could not get closer than six points and hit into the net for A&M’s match-winning point.
Ammerman led A&M with 12 kills and hit .550. Bryant had six kills and no errors in seven attempts for a .857 hitting percentage, and Schevikhoven hit .714 with five kills and no errors in seven attempts. Stanton finished with nine kills and only one error for a .533 hitting percentage as A&M hit .330 as a team.
“The hitters are connecting really well with the setters, and the passing was really good tonight,” Corbelli said. “We have been stressing technique and movement on our passing, and the team is really trying hard to transfer their training. Even after a mistake, we are bouncing back really well in the following point and not letting a bunch of errors congregate. They get confidence from that, and they are comfortable with the kinds of things they are doing to make changes when they need to make them.”
Senior libero Jen Moore took match-high honors in digs with 12, and Phillips tallied a match-high three blocks.
Melissa Osterlich led Utah State with 12 kills, and Jessalyn Payne had nine digs.
The Aggies conclude the tournament with a pair of matches on Saturday. A&M faces Washington State at 11 a.m. (CDT) and then takes on host Montana State at 8 p.m.