COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Texas A&M won its fourth consecutive match with a commanding 25-17, 25-14, 25-10 victory against Tennessee this afternoon at Reed Arena.
Senior setter Allie Sawatzky directed the Aggies (15-10, 7-7 SEC) to their second highest hitting percentage of the season as A&M outhit the Lady Vols, .413 to .172. The 6-2 lefty led all players with 12 kills while hitting .550 and also dished out 29 assists to record her SEC-leading 17 double-double of the season.
Senior libero Heather Reynolds led the Aggies with 13 digs, and freshman Victoria Arenas pitched in 11. Senior Mariah also had double-figure digs with 10 and served a career-high five aces as A&M also had its second highest ace output of the season with nine.
A&M sophomore middle blocker Shelby Sullivan had nine kills while hitting at a .562 clip and contributed three aces and two blocks to take match-high honors with 13 points.
Tennessee (9-18, 1-12 SEC) led the opening set, 12-11, before A&M scored five unanswered points -- including two aces by Agre and two kills by Sullivan -- to take a lead it would not lose. The Aggies continued to pull away, using a 6-1 spurt to build a 23-15 cushion. The Lady Vols, who were outhit 275 to .148 and trailed in kills, 17-7, scored two points on A&M errors then served into the net to put A&M at set point. Aggie freshman outside hitter Emily Hardesty then closed out the set with a kill.
The second set was even at 2-2 when Sullivan and sophomore outside hitter Angela Lowak led the Aggies on a 5-0 charge. A&M, which outhit the Lady Vols .469 to .214 in the set, later mounted an 8-0 run to take a commanding 21-7 advantage. Tennessee rallied and got within 23-14 before redshirt freshman middle blocker Jazzmin Babers put A&M at set point with a kill. Darby Graff, a redshirt freshman opposite hitter who was appearing in only her third match of the season, then clinched the set with a kill.
Graff, who would finish the match with a career-high five kills, began a 7-0 run in the third set with a kill which sent Agre to the service line. Agre added two aces during the rally with Sawatzky, Sullivan and Hardesty contributing at the net.
A&M would continue to score series of points and outhit the Lady Vols, .531 to .156 in the set despite A&M coach Laurie Corbelli subbing in numerous players with limited playing experience. Overall, 15 A&M players appeared in the match, including Hannah Hood, Katelyn Labhart, and Graff, who all entered the match having appeared in five or less sets the entire season.
Senior outside hitter Ashley Vrana had come off the bench in the final set and posted a kill that put the Aggies up, 23-9. Tennessee got its final point with a kill before Graff countered with an authoritative kill down the line that put A&M at match point. Tennessee then hit into the net on the final play as A&M completed the sweep.
A&M returns to Reed Sunday at 1:30 p.m. to take on Auburn, and 350 pizza rolls will be given away to fans following the match. Auburn, which upset the Aggies in Alabama earlier this season, held a one-game lead over A&M in the SEC standings entering a Friday contest at LSU.
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 winning fourth consecutive match)
“I think the scheduling really worked in our favor, if we have to go five in a row. Tennessee has a young, young maybe the youngest team in the league. It was a little bit of a break. I thought they still gave great effort, and they didn’t make a lot of errors. It’s just their youth wasn’t able to bring the power that they’ve had in the past.”
(On getting a quick win)
“Honestly, I’ve probably said it before but when you’re playing a team with a 1-11 record in your conference, it’s different than when you’re playing the team that’s 11-1. You obviously are not as hyped up. You have to really rely on your discipline and your focus to make sure you are effective and your performance doesn’t suffer from lack of preparation. That’s always my concern as a coach: sometimes these are the ugliest matches for the team that is ‘supposed to win.’ I think that’s what I’m most proud of is the seniors tonight really lead beautifully. Heather [Reynolds] was focused and talking and communicating on the court and demanding from teammates. [Allie] Sawatzky made great communication and showed all of her hitters the trust in them. A new player would come on the court; she would get them involved right away. [Kelsey] Kinley just passed nails and did a great job defensively. Mariah [Agre] with her serving and digging. That’s pretty incredible. The four seniors really were our foundation tonight. When [Ashley] Vrana got on the court and just went up and kill after kill, she carried that through for all the seniors. That was really, really nice to see.”
(On serve receive and defense)
“Serve receive was really nice. I thought they were going to go at [Victoria] Arenas all night. They started off going at [Arenas] and she didn’t waiver. She was passing really well and confidently, so they started to go at Heather [Reynolds] and Mariah [Agre]. But I’d say that’s one of our areas that we’ve gotten better most noticeably over the last month is our serve receive. It sure does make our offense look a lot prettier and it’s much more effective. That’s how we’re able to hit .300’s, and .400’s.”
(On getting everyone playing time)
“Hannah Hood is a favorite. She’s definitely maybe the 12th Man-type player on our team. Just her dedication and work ethic and how much she cares about the team are really phenomenal. I guess her best area is serve receive. Then she goes and does a couple of great defensive plays where she’s very good on defense, too, but her receive is really good. They didn’t serve her. I was really proud of her and really glad to see that.”
(On the remainder of the season and the outlook for making NCAA tournament)
“I don’t think there is any definite. I think the only thing we can control is winning the next four or doing our best over the next four. A lot depends on how other teams do that are in the same kind of situation as us. In terms of RPI, it is heavily considered. It is probably mostly considered in the eyes of the committee, what your RPI is in the end or the week before. We have Kentucky, Auburn, Georgia, those three in the next week. It can’t get much tougher than that. I think that all of them have a higher RPI than us. If not, just two of them. It’s important that we do what we can do to get the wins, period. After that we cross our fingers and just really hope for the best. We’re all going to work our butts off to get these wins and we’ll see what happens.”
(On how the team is playing)
“I like what we’ve got to offer right now going into these tough matches. I think we’re really confident. I think our seniors have a mission on their minds to lead. The whole team is on a mission, but I think with the seniors, I’m noticing better and better and stronger and stronger leadership from them and determination. I think that’s made a big difference for us. I think we’re playing well. I’m not sure this is the best we can play. I’d like to still see us get the ball to [Jazzmin] Babers more. I’d like to kind of solidify our right side. I think our serving is still getting better and better and better. I think it’s only going to get better. I think we’re at a good place but hopefully improving still.”
(On Mariah Agre’s serving)
“She’s got a great serve. She was actually our only server in the SEC category of aces for a long time. Then she was out with injury for about 3 weeks, so we didn’t get to use her defensively or passing or serving. I think that affected us in October too; losing a senior experience passer, digger, and server. That was certainly an element of our October. Having her back healthy and getting to use that vicious serve of hers is really a big boost. It helps our defense a lot and takes the other team out of their system.”
Senior Libero Heather Reynolds
(On getting comfortable as the libero)
“I actually got to play some libero during in the off-season so I kind of got a feel for it then. Obviously it’s a different experience when you’re playing SEC and conference. I’ve just been working really hard in practice on the things that I’m not so good at, and it’s been paying off.”
(On Hannah Hood)
“Hannah Hood is one of the hardest workers you will ever see. She puts in the work day in and day out. We all know she can do it, and just being able to see her out there in a real conference game and she gets to produce in front of a lot of people is awesome.”
(On the remaining matches)
“Right after we lost that tough game against Florida, we made a pact that we are going to do eight straight. That’s kind of been our motto ever since that game is eight straight. I know coming in today we were ‘strive for five.’
Senior Setter Allie Sawatzky
(On the ease of the win)
“It is really fun to get everyone in and get everyone going. We have been working a lot of different lineups and different rotations, and everyone is doing such a great job. We know that when they come in to the game that we trust them that they’re going to do their thing.”
(On Hannah Hood)
“Next year she’s going to be the lone senior. Getting this experience is really awesome for her, and we know she is going to do a great job.
(On the postseason)
“Right now all we are focusing on is the next game, the next game, the next game. What we’re focusing on is our side of the court. We’re not worrying as much on what the opponent is doing. We’re trying to get ourselves to be as best as we can. Then good things will come, and good things will come in the postseason as well if we keep doing our four-game win streak.”
(On her own performance, both setting and attacking)
“Usually in film I’m taking note of all the openings in their court, whether there is actually a jump or block being committed on me or not. Early in the set I can tell kind of what they are doing against me and that helps me prepare. Our passing was awesome today. Every hitter only had one blocker up on them. That was awesome too. “
(On Sunday’s rematch against Auburn)
“We just had a chance to get revenge on LSU. Now we have Auburn in our home gym and we really need to take advantage of this opportunity.”