TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Texas A&M capped its first SEC weekend road swing with a 25-22, 25-20, 25-20 victory over Alabama this afternoon at historic Foster Auditorium.
The Aggies, playing in Tuscaloosa for the first time in program history, improved to 12-2 overall and 4-1 in SEC play after handing Alabama (13-5, 2-4 SEC) its first sweep of the season.
“We are really excited to get another SEC win in an unfamiliar place,” A&M coach Laurie Corbelli said. “(The game) was relatively slow on our side, and it didn’t really resemble a lot of the things that we have been trying to work on. Part of that was frustrating, but at the same time we had some players really come through and do a great job of leading with intensity and energy. In the end our numbers looked okay and we got the win, so we are really excited about that.”
Alabama used a 3-0 run to take a 6-5 lead in the opening set, but A&M immediately retook the lead, countering with a 4-0 surge which included back-to-back back-row kills by 6-4 junior opposite Alisia Kastmo. Alabama managed to tie the score four times throughout the remainder of the set but was unable to regain the lead. The Crimson Tide evened the score for the final time at 16-16 before kills by Kastmo and junior setter Allie Sawatzky, as well as consecutive aces by junior outside hitter Heather Reynolds, gave the Aggies a 20-16 lead.
Alabama mounted a late rally, scoring three unanswered points to get within 22-21 when Kastmo put down her seventh kill of the stanza and senior outside hitter Tori Mellinger followed with an ace to put the Aggies at set point. Alabama notched a kill before Aggie freshman Angela Lowak plastered a kill down the line to clinch the 25-22 win.
Although Alabama hit -.023 in the second set, the Tide stayed within striking distance as A&M was held to a .136 hitting efficiency. Alabama held its only lead of the frame at 3-2 before Lowak had consecutive kills to give the Aggies the advantage. A&M later held a narrow 17-16 lead, but an Alabama attack sailed long and A&M got kills from Mellinger and senior middle blocker Stephanie Minnerly to give the Aggies a 20-16 lead. Alabama twice got within two points, the last time at 22-20 before A&M junior setter Mariah Agre, who had come off the bench late in the set, got a kill to put A&M up, 23-20. Alabama hit out on each of the next two plays to close out the 25-20 A&M win, giving the Aggies a 2-0 lead in the match.
A&M jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the third set, and other than a 9-9 tie, the Aggies held the lead from start to finish. Leading 15-13, A&M recorded back-to-back blocks with Minnerly, Lowak, Kastmo and senior middle blocker Lindsey Miller all getting in on the action. Lowak then got a kill to widen the gap to 18-13.
A&M continued to hold its five-point margin at 19-14 when it hit a rough stretch that led to four consecutive points for Alabama. After an A&M serve went long and an attack went into the net, the Aggies set up Alabama for a kill with an errant pass over the net. Another A&M attack error put Alabama within 19-18, forcing Corbelli to take a timeout.
Miller got a kill on the slide attack coming out of the timeout, marking the start of a 4-0 run by the Aggies. Alabama was whistled for a ball handling error on the ensuing play, and then Sawatzky and Miller blocked an Alabama attack. Reynolds capped the run with her career-high fourth service ace of the match to put the Maroon and White ahead, 23-18.
The teams exchanged kills, with Miller putting down her ninth kill of the contest to put the Aggies at match point. Alabama staved off one match point with a kill but then unceremoniously served long to end the match.
Kastmo and Miller led A&M with nine kills apiece and Sawatzky dished out 35 assists as A&M outhit Alabama, .202 to .073.
A&M had three players reach double figures in digs, led by senior libero Megan Pendergast’s 15. Mellinger had 14 digs to give her 1,266 for her career, catapulting her from ninth to sixth in the A&M career records. Reynolds finished with 11 digs.
Lowak, who as of late has been coming in for Reynolds on the front row, finished with career highs of six kills, three blocks -- including two solo blocks – and 8.5 points.
Kayla Fitterer led the Tide with 11 kills.
A&M returns home next weekend for a pair of televised SEC matches. The Aggies host South Carolina Friday at 8:30 p.m. at Reed Arena and return to Reed for a contest against Mississippi State on Sunday at 3 p.m. Both matches will be televised live by SportsSouth.