COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Texas A&M middle blocker Jazzmin Babers posted match highs with 10 kills and nine blocks to lead the Aggies to a 25-19, 28-26, 25-17 victory over Auburn this afternoon at Reed Arena.
It was the fifth consecutive victory for the Aggies, who improve to 16-10 overall and 8-7 in Southeastern Conference play and also avenge a 3-1 loss at Auburn earlier this season. The Tigers fall to 17-10 overall and 8-7 in league play, dropping into a tie with A&M for sixth place in the SEC standings.
A&M never trailed in the first set, committing only two attack errors and outhitting the Tigers, .286 to .143 in the frame. The Aggies used a 4-0 run -- including two blocks by Babers -- to build a 10-5 margin. Auburn would cut the lead to 12-10 before a block by Babers and Sierra Patrick sparked a 5-1 run by the Aggies. Stephanie Campbell had back-to-back kills to put the Tigers within 17-13, but it would be the closest the Tigers could get.
Auburn hit wide on the next play and Aggie senior setter Allie Sawatzky followed with a kill. Senior defensive specialist Kelsey Kinley then recorded an ace to give A&M its largest lead of the set, 20-13. Sawatzky later gave A&M a 22-15 lead after sending a ball deep to the open back corner for a kill. Auburn then countered with a kill and then got within 22-17 as an A&M attack sailed long, marking the Aggies’ first attack error of the set. The teams began trading points, with Babers getting a kill down the line to put the Aggies at set point. Auburn blocked an A&M attack on the ensuing play before Patrick closed out the set with a kill.
Babers finished with four blocks in the set as A&M outblocked the Tigers, 5-1.
There were 17 ties and three lead changes in the closely contested second set. The Tigers had jumped out to a 4-1 lead at the start, but A&M fought back and took its first lead at 8-7 following a block by Babers and sophomore outside hitter Angela Lowak. A&M later held a 13-12 lead after freshman outside hitter Emily Hardesty hit high off the block for a kill, but the Aggies then committed back-to-back errors to return the lead to Auburn, 14-13.
The Tigers used a 4-1 run to build a 20-17 lead and maintained a 22-19 advantage when Aggie sophomore middle blocker Shelby Sullivan got a kill on the slide attack and Sawatzky followed with a kill. Following an Auburn timeout, the Tigers committed an attack error, knotting the score at 22-22. A&M served long but Sullivan tied the score once again with a kill on the slide. Campbell hit long on the next play, putting A&M at set point, but she redeemed herself with a kill to keep the Tigers alive, 24-24. Lowak then tooled the block for a kill, putting A&M at set point for the second time, and Auburn burned its second timeout, having been outscored 6-2 down the stretch.
Lowak hit into the net following the timeout, but Babers put the Aggies at set point once again, getting a kill from the right-side pin. Auburn, which was outhit .300 to .250, fought off the third set point with a kill by Katherine Culwell, tying the score at 26-all. Babers kept the lead for the Aggies and put A&M serving for the set for the fourth time after hitting high off the block on the slide attack to put A&M up, 27-26. Sullivan, who had six kills in the stanza, then capped the win for the Aggies, stuffing preseason All-SEC selection Camila Jersonsky’s attack for the set-ending solo block and giving A&M a 2-0 lead in the match.
Auburn scored the first point of the third set with a kill, but it would be the Tigers’ only lead in the frame. Babers gave A&M a 2-1 lead after teaming with Patrick for a block, and after Auburn tied the score with a kill, Babers gave A&M the lead for good with a booming, untouched kill to midcourt.
The Tigers were within 12-11 before the Aggies went on a 5-1 run, with four of A&M’s points the result of Auburn miscues. Auburn, which was outhit, .345 to .050 in the frame as A&M once again limited its attack errors to two, got within 18-15 but could not get any closer. Babers later got a kill and followed with a block to put A&M ahead, 22-16. Following an Auburn kill, Babers countered with her 10th kill of the match, and Sullivan and Patrick combined for a block to put the Maroon and White at match point. Patrick then caromed a kill off the Auburn block to seal the victory.
Babers finished with a career-high and match-high 15 points. The redshirt freshman was the only player to post double figures in kills, tying her career high with 10 while hitting .529. She also tied the team season high for blocks in a three-set match with nine, a feat she also accomplished in A&M’s SEC season-opening sweep against Georgia. As a team, A&M finished with a three-set season-high 13 blocks, while Auburn posted four blocks.
Sawatzky dished out 33 assists, and senior libero Heather Reynolds had a match-high 16 digs as A&M outhit Auburn, .308 to .14, for the match
Campbell and Kathia Rud led Auburn with nine kills apiece, and Culwell had a team-high 15 digs for the Tigers.
A&M closes out the road portion of its regular season schedule next week, as the Aggies travel to both No. 17 Kentucky and Georgia Friday and Sunday, respectively. A&M concludes the regular season with a home match against South Carolina, Wednesday, Nov. 27 at 4 p.m. at Reed. It will be “Senior Day,” and A&M seniors Mariah Agre, Kelsey Kinley, Heather Reynolds, Allie Sawatzky and Ashley Vrana will be honored.
Visit AggieAthletics.com for more information on Texas A&M volleyball. Aggie fans also can keep up to date with the A&M volleyball team on Facebook and on Twitter by following @AggieVolleyball.
Texas A&M Quotes:
Head Coach Laurie Corbelli:
(On defeating Auburn today after losing to them earlier in the season)
"We made fewer errors. We stayed the aggressor most of the time. Our blocking was superior this time. I just think we've gotten a lot better. We're healthy. Those are two big advantages right there. We're young. We have a lot of room for improvement. It's not a hard-sell to work the team out and remind them of how much better they're playing. That's built a lot of confidence. Our senior leaders have done a brilliant job of directing the team, and the team has followed beautifully."
(On gaining momentum by winning the first set)
"I definitely think it does [create momentum]. When you have a slow start, you're constantly trying to dig yourself out of the sand and get out of the hole. After we got a lot of momentum in the first set, we only made two attack errors. That helped us continue to build confidence. I thought the first set was critical this afternoon."
(On the comeback in the second set)
"I was proud of the poise and composure the team showed. They executed the game plan for that rotation we were in. Heather (Reynolds) really directed the team. She's taking such a big responsibility to head up the defense and our passing. It's been so nice to have her command. It makes a big difference. It became a back-and-forth game after they tied it. We stayed patient and confident. I was proud of us coming back like that. In the past, four or five weeks ago, it would not have happened."
(On falling behind early in the second set)
"It doesn't faze us anymore. The disappointment doesn't set in if we don't get it right away. Patience is really something the team has learned. It doesn't hurt when [Jazzmin] Babers turns around and smiles at everyone. A lot of looks on the court can mean stress or panic, but she's got the smile that calms a lot of people. Each one of them has something they can bring to the table that helps the team settle in and get back to execution."
(On redshirt freshman middle blocker Jazzmin Babers)
"We run her in front of the setters so much. We like to use her as bait because someone has to go with her if they want to have a chance. The production she can offer this team is phenomenal. When she's in the rotations that she's in, she doesn't go behind as often. I'd like to do more of that because she's unstoppable behind the setter, and she's getting better and better in front of the setter at her position."
Senior Libero Heather Reynolds:
(On the Auburn defense)
“I was very conscious of how well they played on defense last time because I went back home and re-watched it right after the game. It’s funny bringing that up because before the game I got all of the back row players together and said, ‘We will out-dig this team. They are not better than us in the back row,’ and based on these numbers we did out-dig them. I’m proud of us for that.”
(On getting the win against a team like Auburn)
“I think that says a lot about our attackers. They were really good about mixing up their shots. We hit deep, short, and I noticed that they were responding well to what we were telling them as defenders. We would be standing behind them covering them telling them what shot to hit, and they would hit it perfectly. It helps when you’re all working together as a unit to get the job done.”
(On the blocking performance)
“It was a little shaky at the beginning. What’s so remarkable about it is we addressed it, and from then on it was game over for their outside hitters and right side hitters. It really makes the back row look so much better because it’s basically funneling the ball to the spots that we’re supposed to be. Then when they get their glory too, it’s not so shabby.”
Redshirt Freshman Middle Blocker Jazzmin Babers
(On getting her number called late in the set)
“I’m just there wherever my team needs me. If they need me to be bait, I’ll jump up. If Angela [Lowak] or Sierra [Patrick] gets a kill on the outside with only one blocker, I feel like it’s my point because I helped them. It’s a team sport. Getting sets late in the game, it doesn’t really faze me. I don’t really mind. We had awesome passes by the back row so I was able to get set.”
(On game strategy)
“We worked on blocking a little more this week on getting over quicker. Last time we played them we were trying to block higher, and we were just really focused on getting our hands over quick and just finishing stronger. I thought that helped a lot this week.”
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