COLUMBIA, MO -- Playing its first-ever Southeastern Conference road match, Texas A&M posted a 3-1 victory against a familiar opponent, defeating its former Big 12 Conference foe Missouri, 25-20, 23-25, 25-23, 25-17, tonight at Hearnes Center.
A&M, which gets its first win in Columbia since 2008, improves to 11-2 overall and 3-1 in the SEC. Missouri drops to 11-4, 3-2.
A&M, the SEC leader in kills per set, used a balanced attack as four players posted double-figure kills, led by senior opposite Alisia Kastmo, who tied for match-high honors with 20. Senior outside hitter Tori Mellinger had 17 kills, and senior middle blocker Stephanie Minnerly pitched in a career-high 15 kills while hitting a personal best .700. Senior middle Lindsey Miller finished with 11 as A&M posted 74 total kills to Missouri’s 47 and outhit the Tigers .294 to .221.
A&M also had a 69-55 lead in digs as senior libero Megan Pendergast led A&M with 21. Junior setter Allie Sawatzky, who dished out a season-high 54 assists, contributed 12 digs, and Mellinger and junior outside hitter Heather Reynolds posted 11 digs apiece.
Lisa Henning was the only Missouri player to record double-figure kills with 20. Missouri, the top blocking team in the league, outblocked A&M 13-5 to 9.0, getting five blocks each from Henning and Whitney Little.
A&M never trailed in the opening set as Mellinger and Kastmo combined for three consecutive kills to give the Aggies an early 5-2 lead. The Aggies, who outhit the Tigers, .317 to .189 in the frame, later led 17-13 when a kill and a block by Miller put the Aggies up 19-13. A Missouri attack error on the next play gave the Aggies their largest lead at 20-13, but Missouri began chipping away at the margin, using a 5-1 run to get within 20-16. The Tigers stayed within four points at 23-19 before Minnerly put down a kill using a slide attack to put A&M at set point.
Missouri setter Molly Kreklow posted a kill following an errant A&M overpass to fight off one set point before Aggie freshman Angela Lowak blasted a kill through the Tiger block to close out the set.
A&M jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the second set, but Missouri later used a 3-0 run to retake the lead at 10-8. The Tigers, who outhit A&M, .406 to .220 in the set, went on to build a three-point lead before A&M rallied and tied the score at 14-14 following a Missouri ball handling error. A&M tied the score again at 15-all but was unable to retake the lead as the Tigers scored three unanswered points to go up 18-15 and force an A&M timeout.
Kastmo ended the run with a tip kill, and the Aggies would later get within 21-20 as Mellinger’s off-speed shot fell in for a kill. A&M hit wide on the ensuing play and then had consecutive attacks blocked as Missouri took a 24-20 lead. A&M fought off three set points to get within 24-23 before Henning ended the set with a kill.
A&M built a 12-7 lead in the third set before Missouri went on a 6-1 run to get right back into the set. The Tigers later used a 5-1 run to take their first lead of the stanza at 18-16. They kept the lead at 19-17, but they were whistled for reaching over the net and Sawatzky followed with a kill to knot the score at 19-19. Henning then got a kill out of the back row, but Mellinger countered with back-to-back kills as A&M retook the lead at 21-20. Sawatzky continued the scoring, swatting down a ball that had caromed off her own block for a kill. With A&M leading 22-20, the teams traded points for the remainder of the set with Kastmo clinching the set with her seventh kill of the frame, giving the Aggies a 2-1 lead in the match.
A&M appeared in control of the fourth set, building 17-10 advantage. Missouri fought back, using a 4-0 run to get within 17-14 before Mellinger posted a kill and Minnerly and Lowak teamed for a block. Henning ended the run with a kill, but Kastmo answered with a kill out of the middle and Lowak followed with her fourth kill of the match to build a 21-15 lead.
A&M kept the lead at 22-17 when Miller and Lowak got a block to begin a match-ending three point run. Sawatzky posted her seventh kill with a dump to put the Aggies at match point, and Reynolds followed with an ace to clinch the victory.
A&M completes its first SEC road swing Sunday as the Aggies take on the Alabama Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa. First serve is slated for 1:30 p.m. at Foster Auditorium. Live audio of the match will be available for free on AggieAthletics.com, with Chelsea Reber calling the action.
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