Aggies Take on No. 1 Nebraska Saturday in Lincoln

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COLLEGE STATION -- Texas A&M (11-2, 1-2 Big 12) faces its biggest challenge of the season as the Aggies take on defending national champion and No. 1-ranked Nebraska (9-0, 2-0 Big 12) Saturday in Lincoln. First serve is slated for 7 p.m. at Nebraska Coliseum. NET will televise the match in Nebraska, and AggieAthletics.com will stream free live video and audio feed provided by NET and Huskers Sports Network.

The Aggies got back into the win column Wednesday, holding off Texas Tech, 3-2 (30-27, 30-21, 21-30, 27-30, 15-10) in College Station to earn their first Big 12 Conference victory of the season and snap a two-match losing skid.

Nebraska, which boasts five All-Americans, including 2005 AVCA Player of the Year Christina Houghtelling and 2006 AVCA Player of the Year Sarah Pavan, had a bye on Wednesday. Most recently, the Huskers swept Texas Tech, 30-19, 30-15, 30-20, Saturday in Lubbock to extend their winning streak to 19 matches dating to last year.

Sophomore Sarah Ammerman, who posted her third consecutive double-double with 21 kills and 11 digs against the Red Raiders, leads the Aggies and is ranked ninth in the Big 12 with 4.03 kills per game for the full season. She is ranked fifth in the league with a 4.23 kill average in conference games only.

Middle blocker Kelly Stanton, a senior, is hitting a team-high .403, ranking fourth in the league, and junior middle blocker Jillian Phillips ranks ninth in the league with a .387 hitting percentage and leads the Aggies and ranks seventh in the Big 12 with 1.3 blocks per game for the full season.

Sophomore outside hitter Mary Batis is averaging a team-leading 3.44 digs and 0.42 aces per game and is second on the team with 3.47 kills and 4.16 points per game.

Senior libero Jen Moore is second on the team with 2.73 digs per game, and sophomore setter Kristen Schevikhoven is averaging 11.56 assists per game after tallying a career-high 61 against Tech.

As a team, A&M is outhitting its opponents, .305 to .149, for the full season, ranking first in the Big 12 for opponent hitting percentage and second in the league for highest hitting percentage. The Aggies, however, are being outhit, .254 to .214, in league play.

LOOKING AT THE HUSKERS

Nebraska (9-0, 2-0 Big 12) has swept eight of nine opponents this season, including No. 3 Penn State, No. 7 Texas, No. 11 Duke and No. 17 Cal Poly. No. 5 UCLA is the only team to have taken a game off NU this year.

The Huskers, who have won nine Big 12 titles in 11 years, have been unbeatable at home, having won 60 straight home matches dating back to 2004. They have played their last 81 matches as the nation’s No. 1 team, going an impressive 77-4 during the stretch.

Three-time first-team All-American Sarah Pavan, a senior right-side hitter, leads the Huskers with 4.82 kills per game for the full season. Senior middle blocker and 2006 second-team All-American Tracy Stalls is hitting a Big 12-best .508, and sophomore setter and 2006 third-team All-American Rachel Holloway leads the league with 13.32 assists per game. Senior outside hitter Christina Houghtelling, a 2005 AVCA Player of the Year and first-team All-American is leading the Huskers in digs with 4.0 per game.

As a team, Nebraska leads the Big 12 in hitting percentage (.337), assists (16.75) and kills (17.96) per game for the full season. In addition, Nebraska is hitting a Big 12-best .369 in league matches only.

THE A&M-Nebraska ALL-TIME SERIES

Nebraska has won the last 15 meetings -- including three-game sweeps in each of the last seven -- to improve to 25-6 all-time against the Aggies. The Huskers are 20-2 in Big 12 matches against A&M, with both losses occurring at G. Rollie White in 1998 and 1999. A&M has never won in 14 trips to Lincoln.

A&M’s most recent victory over Nebraska was a five-game match on Oct. 2, 1999, in College Station. It was the Aggies’ second consecutive home victory over the third-ranked Huskers. A&M had also upset No. 3 Nebraska in five games at G. Rollie White Coliseum in 1998.

Last year, No. 1 Nebraska held off a young but feisty Texas A&M team, 30-25, 30-24, 30-20, in front of 2,118 at G. Rollie White Coliseum on Oct. 7. Nebraska hit .342 for the match. A&M hit .220, the first team to hit above .200 in the Huskers’ previous eight matches. Sarah Ammerman, who was celebrating her 19th birthday, led A&M with 14 kills. Sarah Pavan, who hit .394 for the match and also posted a match-high four blocks for the Huskers, was joined in double figures in kills by Jordan Larson, who had 11. Larson took match-high honors in digs with 15, and Dani Busboom added 13.

On Nov. 15, Nebraska extended its long-standing home winning streak, posting its 50th consecutive victory at Nebraska Coliseum with a 30-16, 30-28, 30-25 win over the Aggies in front of a sold-out crowd of 4,107.

A&M rebounded from a .161 hitting percentage in the first game to hit .307 for the match, the highest hitting efficiency by a Nebraska opponent in 2006 and the first team to hit over .300 against the Huskers in two years. In addition, the .307 hitting percentage was the highest by an opponent at Nebraska Coliseum in at least 10 years.

Ammerman led the Aggies with 13 kills, and Batis added 10 while hitting .318 for the Aggies. Christi Hahn led A&M with four blocks.

Pavan finished with 23 kills and hit .588 to lead Nebraska to a .436 team hitting percentage. Larson added 13 kills, and Dani Mancuso also reached double figures with 10. Kori Cooper led the Huskers with five blocks to help Nebraska to a 9-6 advantage in team blocks.

A&M QUICK HITS

• A&M’s 10-2 record equals the second best start in school history after 12 matches, tying the 1984, 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2001 Aggie teams. Corbelli’s 1995 squad holds the record for best mark after 12 matches with an 11-1 record.

• Junior middle blocker Jillian Phillips took match-high honors in blocks in two of the previous three matches, posting a career-high nine blocks against Oklahoma on Sept. 12 and tallying seven, including a career-high two solo blocks, at Iowa State on Sept. 19. Phillips leads the Aggies and is ranked fifth in the league with 1.46 blocks per game in Big 12 matches only and is listed seventh for the full season with a 1.30 average.

• Middle blocker Kelly Stanton leads the tem and is ranked fourth in the Big 12 with a .403 hitting percentage. The senior is averaging 2.71 kills per game and has reached double figures in kills five times this season after reaching double digits in only four matches during the entire 2006 season.

• Sophomore Sarah Ammerman has reached double figures in kills in a team-leading 10 matches. She has recorded a double-double in each of the last three matches, including 22 kills and a career-high 21 digs against Oklahoma, marking the first 20-20 performance of her career. Ammerman had 21 kills against Texas Tech to mark the second time in three matches she has posted 20-plus kills. Last year, Ammerman had two 20-plus kill performances in the entire season.

• Sophomore Mary Batis has reached double figures in digs in a team-leading eight matches and also leads the Aggies with six double-doubles.

• A&M entered the week ranked third in the nation with a .314 hitting percentage (matches through Sept. 16). Kelly Stanton (.411) and Jillian Phillips (.401) were listed 22nd and 29th, respectively, in the national individual rankings.

UPCOMING SCHEDULE

The Aggies conclude a two-match road swing Wednesday against the Baylor Bears. First serve is at 6:30 p.m. at the Ferrell Center. A&M returns home Friday, Sept. 28 to host No. 16 Kansas State. Match time is 6:30 p.m. at G. Rollie White Coliseum.