OXFORD, Miss. – Lindsey Miller recorded a match-high 20 kills to lead Texas A&M to its ninth straight win, a 25-9, 24-26, 27-25, 20-25, 15-10 win at Ole Miss tonight in both teams’ regular season finale.
A&M improved to 24-5 overall, the most wins since 2001 when the Aggies went 26-6 and advanced to the NCAA Regional Final. In addition, A&M closed out its inaugural season as a member of the Southeastern Conference with a 16-4 league mark, winning the SEC Western Division championship and placing second overall.
A&M’s next match is to be determined as the 64-team NCAA Championship bracket will be unveiled Sunday at 3 p.m. on ESPNU. The Aggies, who entered the week No. 18 in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) and defeated No. 15 (RPI) Tennessee on Wednesday will make their 19th NCAA tournament appearance and are hopeful of hosting first and second rounds for the second consecutive year.
A&M jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the opening set and was in command the entire frame. The Aggies, who outhit Ole Miss, .500 to .000, surged to a 19-9 lead when setter Allie Sawatzky began a six-point rally with a dump kill. Ole Miss hit long on the next play, and Tori Mellinger followed with back-to-back kills to put A&M up 23-9. Another Ole Miss attack error put the Aggies at set point, and Miller capped the win with a kill on the slide attack.
There were 14 ties and six lead changes in the second set as Ole Miss played with much more aggression and accuracy and outhit the Aggies, .368 to .258. Ole Miss held a 16-13 lead before A&M went on a 4-0 run to take a 17-16 lead. It would be the Aggies’ final lead of the stanza as Kara Morgan powered one of her five kills in the frame to tie the score, and Ty Laporte followed with an ace to return the lead to Ole Miss. A&M tied the set four more times, twice overcoming two-point deficits, but the Aggies were unable to regain the lead. The score was knotted at 23-23 when Allegra Wells put down her sixth kill of the set with an off-speed shot to put Ole Miss at set point. Alisia Kastmo kept the Aggies alive with a kill, but Laporte countered with a kill on the slide attack. Morgan then blasted a kill to give Ole Miss the 26-24 win and even the match at 1-1.
A&M would take a 5-2 lead early in the third set, but Ole Miss fought back and the set turned into another closely contested battle. Ole Miss took its first lead since 2-1 at 18-17, but a set-over kill by Mariah Agre and a block by Stephanie Minnerly and Kastmo returned the lead to the Maroon and White. The teams then began to exchange points and were tied at 25-all when Wells committed an attack error to put A&M at set point. Kastmo and Miller then teamed for a block to clinch the 27-25 win, giving the Aggies a 2-1 lead in the match.
Ole Miss used a 3-0 run to take a 4-3 lead in the fourth set and kept the lead for the reminder of the frame. Ole Miss, which outhit A&M .440 to .114 in the set, later went on a 5-0 run to build a 13-7 lead that A&M was unable to overcome. The Aggies could get no closer than four points for the remainder of the frame, including 23-19 after A&M scored back-to-back points. But then the Aggies served into the net to put Ole Miss at set point. Miller put A&M within 24-20 with a kill on the slide attack, but Morgan answered with an off-speed kill to end the frame and send A&M to its second consecutive five-set match.
The Aggies jumped out to a 3-0 lead to begin the decisive fifth set, but Ole Miss kept chipping away at the lead, getting within 11-10. Miller then took over, posting back-to-back kills and a block along with Mellinger to put the Aggies at match point, 14-10. Mellinger then followed with a kill to clinch the match for the Aggies.
Miller hit .487 while posting her personal season-high 20 kills. Mellinger registered her 14th double-double with 11 kills and a season-high and match-high 22 digs.
A&M outhit Ole Miss, .259 to .206 to improve to 8-0 in the all-time series and complete the season series sweep. A&M also led in kills (68-61), digs (65-59) and digs (70-59). Ole Miss led in blocks, 11-8.