COLLEGE STATION, TX -- Texas A&M’s home finale against Missouri on Friday at 6:30 p.m. will be special for the five Aggie seniors who will be making their final scheduled home appearance at Reed Arena, and it could be even more momentous as a victory against the Tigers will clinch at least a share of the Southeastern Conference Western Division title for the Aggies.
Seniors Alisia Kastmo, Tori Mellinger, Lindsey Miller, Stephanie Minnerly and Megan Pendergast, who have all been mainstays on the court throughout their careers, will be honored immediately following the match.
Texas A&M (21-5, 13-4 SEC) is riding a six-match win steak and currently has a two-and-a-half game lead over Arkansas (19-8, 10-6 SEC) in the SEC West after road victories against both Auburn and Georgia last weekend. An A&M victory in any of its final three matches combined with a loss by Arkansas, which has four matches remaining, and the Aggies will be the outright SEC Western Division champions.
Missouri thrashed LSU, 25-18, 25-18, 25-14, in its most recent outing and has now won three of its last four matches, with the one loss coming to SEC leader and 16th-ranked Florida. The Aggies defeated their former Big 12 Conference foe, 3-1, in Columbia, Mo. earlier this season, marking the first time A&M had won at the Hearnes Center since 2008.
• Texas A&M students who show their student ID at the entrance will be admitted free
Individual match tickets are $9 for reserve seating, $7 for adult general admission and $4 for youth, high school age and under. Several convenient options are available to purchase the tickets: 1) online, 24 hours a day at tickets.12thmanfoundation.com; 2) by calling the ticket office at 979-845-2311 or toll free at 1-888-99-AGGIE; 3) in person at the ticket office located inside the Zone at the north end of Kyle Field during normal business hours; or 4) in person at Reed Arena beginning one hour before match time.
FOLLOW THE ACTION:
Live video and audio of the match will be available on AggieAthletics.com to 12th Man TV premium subscribers. Chelsea Reber and Allie Freiwald will be calling the action. Live stats will be available free on AggieAthletics.com, and live updates and other information can be found by following @AggieVolleyball on Twitter.
The Aggies conclude the regular season with a pair of road matches next week. A&M faces preseason SEC favorite Tennessee Wednesday at 6 p.m. (CT) at the Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tenn., and then closes out the schedule at Ole Miss, Friday at 7 p.m. at the Gillom Sports Center in Oxford, Miss.
Texas A&M notched its 20th victory of the season as senior opposite Alisia Kastmo tied for match-high honors with 17 kills and completed a double-double by adding 11 digs to lead the Aggies to a 25-21, 26-24, 22-25, 25-23 win at Auburn last Friday. Senior outside hitter Tori Mellinger (13 kills, 14 digs) and junior setter Allie Sawatzky (41 assists, 10 digs) also posted double-doubles as A&M made late comebacks in the second -- which involved overcoming a 24-20 deficit -- and fourth sets to win the match.
On Sunday at Georgia, clutch play by reserves Ashley Vrana and Shelby Sullivan helped Texas A&M erase a 2-0 match deficit, as the Aggies rallied for a 15-25, 23-25, 25-20, 25-18, 15-10 win against the Bulldogs at the Ramsey Student Center in Athens, Ga. Kastmo led all players with 16 kills. Mellinger had a double-double with 13 kills and 11 digs. Sawatzky also finished with a double-double, posting 49 assists and a career-high and team-high 20 digs. Libero Megan Pendergast also reached double figures in digs with 15. Miller posted a season-high and match-high seven blocks to lead A&M to a 13-10 advantage in blocks.
SERIES HISTORY VS. MISSOURI:
• A&M leads the all-time series against Missouri, 24-12.
• A&M is 14-2 against the Tigers in matches played in College Station.
• A&M has won the last two meetings, sweeping the Tigers at Reed Arena last year to snap a three-match losing skid against Missouri, and then defeating the Tigers, 3-1, earlier this season in Columbia in the first-ever meeting between the two schools as members of the SEC and A&M’s first-ever SEC road match.
• The teams split the two-match series last year with each team winning on its home court.
• In the most recent meeting (Sept. 28, 2012) A&M used a balanced attack to defeat Missouri, 25-20, 23-25, 25-23, 25-17, at Hearnes Center. Four Aggies posted double-figure kills, led by Alisia Kastmo, who tied for match-high honors with 20. Tori Mellinger had 17 kills, and Stephanie Minnerly pitched in a career-high 15 kills while hitting a personal best .700. Lindsey Miller finished with 11 kills 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 Megan Pendergast led A&M with 21. Allie Sawatzky, who dished out a season-high 54 assists, contributed 12 digs, and Mellinger and 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.
AGGIE QUICK HITS:
• A&M jumped seven spots to No. 17 in this week’s Rating Percentage Index (RPI). Stanford is No. 1, and Penn State, Texas, Nebraska and Louisville round out the top five. At No. 11, Florida is the top-rated team representing the SEC, followed by No. 16 Tennessee, Texas A&M, No. 22 Kentucky and No. 25 Arkansas. Missouri and Auburn are in the top 50 at No. 47 and No. 49, respectively.
• The Aggies are receiving votes in the AVCA Top 25 Poll and are listed 30th.
• The win against Auburn last Friday was A&M’s 20th victory of the season, marking A&M’s 14th 20-plus win season in head coach Laurie Corbelli’s 20-year tenure.
• Texas A&M holds a two-and-a-half game lead over Arkansas (10-6) for first place in the SEC West and is 9-0 in Western Division matches. A&M has three matches remaining and is still mathematically in the hunt for the overall SEC championship, although league-leader Florida (15-1 SEC) would need to lose at least three of its remaining four matches and A&M would have to win out for the Aggies to snag a share of the title.
• A&M is ranked 12th in the nation and leads the SEC with 14.53 kills per set for the full season. A&M also leads the league and is 15th in the country with 13.51 assists per set. In addition, the Aggies lead the SEC with a .167 opponent hitting percentage for the full season.
• In SEC matches only, A&M leads the league in assists (13.56) and kills (14.45) per set.
• A&M has the fewest receptions errors in the SEC, having allowed only 61 aces this season.
• A&M won the first set in each of the first 14 matches of the season and in 20 of 26 matches overall. The Aggies are 18-2 when winning the first set and 3-3 when dropping the opening set. No. 5 USC and No. 11 Florida are the only teams that have come back to defeat the Aggies after dropping the opening set. A&M has twice defeated Arkansas after losing the first set and came back to defeat Georgia, 3-2, after losing each of the first two sets.
• A&M is 8-4 in home matches and 9-1 in away matches. With a 4-0 record at neutral sites, the Aggies are 13-1 away from Reed Arena.
• Five A&M players who have appeared in 80 or more sets overall are averaging at least 2.14 points per set for the full season and in SEC matches only. Senior opposite Alisia Kastmo leads the team with 4.07 points per set overall and 4.14 kills per set in SEC contests only.
• A&M has led its opponent in kills in 21 of 24 matches and is 19-2 when leading in kills. Kentucky and Florida are the only two teams to defeat A&M when trailing in kills, and both of those matches were decided in five sets.
• A&M is 20-0 when posting a higher hitting percentage than its opponent and 1-4 when trailing in hitting percentage.
• A&M is outhitting its opponents .249 to .167 for the full season and .247 to .186 in SEC matches only.
• A&M has used the same starting lineup in 24 of 26 matches with seniors Lindsey Miller and Stephanie Minnerly at middle blocker, senior Alisia Kastmo at opposite, senior Tori Mellinger on the outside along with junior Heather Reynolds, and junior Allie Sawatzky at setter. Senior Megan Pendergast has started out every match as the team’s designated libero. Kelsey Kinley started two matches -- the first two starts of her career -- in place of Reynolds in the back row.
• Texas A&M head coach Laurie Corbelli celebrated the 500th win of her 26-year head coaching career and her 400th victory in her 20th season at the helm of the Aggies in A&M’s season-opening victory against Texas State on Aug. 24 at Reed Arena. She is now 520-305 for her career and 420-199 at A&M.
• Corbelli returned 10 letterwinners – including four starters plus the libero -- from last year’s team that went 23-8 and reached the second round of the NCAA tournament. She welcomed one transfer and seven highly touted freshmen who represent the 20th-ranked recruiting class in the nation to begin the 2012 campaign.
• Twelve of A&M’s 29 regular season matches are against teams that appeared in the 2011 NCAA tournament. A&M is currently 5-5 against 2011 NCAA tournament teams.
• In their inaugural season in the SEC, the Aggies have been picked to finish second in the SEC West behind seven-time defending west champion LSU. Tennessee is projected to win the East Division and the overall SEC title. A&M finished third in the Big 12 with an 11-5 record in 2011.
• Junior Allie Sawatzky, who became the first A&M player to be named SEC Offensive Player of the Week when she received the honor on Nov. 5, directs the A&M offense that leads the SEC and is ranked in the top 15 in the nation in both kills and assists per set. The attacking-minded setter averages 10.14 assists per set and leads all SEC setters with 1.88 kills per set. She also averages 4.76 attacks, 2.13 digs and 2.33 points per set.
• Lindsey Miller and Allie Sawatzky have started every match of their careers. Miller has started 118 consecutive matches. Sawatzky has started all 87 matches throughout her career.
• Libero Megan Pendergast became the first A&M player to receive an SEC weekly honor when she was named SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Week on Oct. 1. The senior leads A&M and is sixth in the league with 4.16 digs per set in conference matches only. She is ninth in the SEC with 4.03 digs per set for the full season.
• Pendergast has posted double-figure digs in 20 of 26 matches, including five matches in which she had 20 or more digs. Against Arkansas on Nov. 4, the senior had a career-high and match-high 32 digs, the second most digs by an A&M player during the rally scoring era -- including the 30-point scoring cap period -- and tying for eighth in the A&M all-time match records. The 32 digs obliterated her previous career high of 24 digs, set last year in a 3-1 victory over Baylor.
• Lindsey Miller, who has tied or led the team in blocks in 18 of 26 matches this season, leads A&M and is fourth in the SEC with 1.08 blocks per set for the full season. Throughout her career, Miller has led the team in total blocks and blocks per set, as well as hitting percentage in the season ending stats every year.
• Miller ranks fifth in the A&M career records with 389 block assists. She needs three more to move into a tie for fourth and four more to move into a tie for third. She is seventh in the career annals with 440 total blocks and needs one more to move into a tie for sixth.
• Tori Mellinger, considered the best all-around player on the team, is second on the squad with 2.78 kills, 3.22 digs and 3.17 points per set for the full season.
• Mellinger, who has posted double figures in digs in each of the last seven matches, ranks third in the A&M records with 1,414 career digs, the most by an A&M player since rally scoring -- including the 30-point cap -- went effect in 2001. She needs 58 digs to surpass two-time All-American and three-time Olympian Stacy Sykora, who is second in the record books with 1,471 career digs.
• Alisia Kastmo has had double-figure kills in a team-leading 19 matches this season, including three 20-plus kill performances. She leads A&M and ranks ninth in the SEC with 3.59 kills per set for the full season. She is sixth in the league in SEC matches only with 3.68 kills per set. In addition, Kastmo is eighth in the league with 4.07 points per set for the full season and 4.14 points per set in SEC contests only. In addition, she is 11th in the SEC with 0.24 aces per set in all matches.
• Allie Sawatzky needs six assists to give her 3,204 for her career and move her into sole possession of fifth place in the A&M records. She needs 44 assists to move into fourth place.
• Aggie freshman Shelby Sullivan and Missouri sophomore outside hitter Katie O’Brien are first cousins and were teammates at J.J. Pearce High School in Richardson, Texas. O’Brien has been out this year with an injury.
• Each of A&M’s starters was named to at least one all-tournament team in the three tournaments A&M played this year. Senior opposite Alisia Kastmo, the MVP of the Delaware Invitational, and Allie Sawatzky appeared on two all-tournament teams. Senior middle blocker Stephanie Minnerly, the MVP of the Yale Classic, senior outside hitter Tori Mellinger, junior outside hitter Heather Reynolds and Lindsey Miller and have each appeared on one all-tournament team.
• Alisia Kastmo and Stephanie Minnerly both have graduated with bachelor’s degrees and are continuing their education as they complete their athletic eligibility. Kastmo graduated in August with a degree in finance and is pursuing a master’s degree in real estate. Minnerly, a fifth-year senior, graduated in December 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in university studies. She is pursuing a second degree, a bachelor’s of science in agricultural leadership and development, and is scheduled to graduate in May 2013.
• Missouri (18-9, 9-7 SEC) is making a strong final push for an NCAA at-large bid as the Tigers have won three of their last four matches, including a commanding 25-18, 25-18, 25-14 victory against preseason SEC West Division favorite LSU in their most recent outing.
• The Tigers lead the SEC and are ranked 20th in the nation with 2.77 blocks per set. Sophomore Whitney Little leads all SEC players and is 18th in the nation with a 1.43 block average.
• Preseason All-SEC selection Lisa Henning leads the SEC and is in the top eight in the nation in both kills (4.64) and points (5.29) per set.
• Junior setter Molly Kreklow is the niece of Missouri head coach Wayne Kreklow, who is in his eighth season as head coach of the Tigers.