COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Texas A&M was unable to hand No. 11 Missouri its first loss of the season as the Tigers won their school-record 25th consecutive match in a 25-17, 29-27, 25-20 victory over the Aggies this afternoon at Reed Arena.
The loss overshadowed another spectacular performance by Aggie middle blocker Shelby Sullivan, who led all players with 16 kills, tying her career high set Friday in a 3-1 victory against Arkansas. The 6-2 sophomore from Richardson, Texas, also hit a career-high .682 against the Tigers, who were unable to defend her lethal slide attack. With only one error on the day, Sullivan completes a two-match stretch averaging 4.57 kills per set and hitting a combined .612 with only two errors in 49 total attempts.
Missouri, which sits atop the Southeastern Conference standings with a 9-0 league mark, jumped out to a 13-5 lead in the opening set and continued to widen the gap, getting kills from five different players during a 7-2 run that put the Tigers up, 20-10. A&M cut the margin to 21-15 following a 4-0 surge, but that would be the closest the Aggies would get. Carly Kan put Missouri at set point, 24-16, and although the athletic freshman served long on the next play, All-American outside hitter Lisa Henning quickly closed out the frame with her fourth kill.
A&M overcame an 11-7 deficit in the second set, with freshman redshirt middle blocker Jazzmin Babers knotting the score at 13-13 after putting down an errant Missouri overpass. Babers then teamed with freshman opposite hitter Kaysie Shebeneck for a block to give the Aggies their first lead of the match, 14-13. Soon after A&M took the lead, Missouri used a three-point run to regain an 18-16 advantage. The teams then began to exchange points until Babers blocked consecutive attacks to knot the score at 22. Missouri was good on its next two attacks and was serving for the set with a 24-22 lead, but sophomore outside hitter Sierra Patrick kept the Aggies alive with consecutive kills to tie the score. The teams once against traded points, with Sullivan tying the score at 26-all following a kill on the slide attack. She then powered a kill through the block on the next play to put the Aggies at set point. Kan came back with consecutive kills to put Missouri back on top, 28-27, and the Tigers clinched the set and a 2-0 lead in the match with a block.
The Aggies jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the third set, getting kills from Sullivan, sophomore outside hitter Angela Lowak and senior setter Allie Sawatzky during the rally. Missouri called an early timeout and then began chipping away the lead. The Tigers were within 8-6 when they scored four unanswered points to take a 10-8 lead. A&M twice tied the score, the last coming at 14-14 before the Tigers mounted another 4-0 run to pull ahead, 18-14.
The Aggies got back within two points at 18-16 and 20-18 before Missouri scored three straight to go up, 23-18. Sullivan ended the rally with a kill before Tiger setter Molly Kreklow had a kill, putting Missouri at set point. Sullivan posted her seventh kill of the set to continue the match before Kan put down her 12th kill of the match to close out the victory for the Tigers.
Missouri, which entered the weekend with a nation-leading .374 hitting percentage, outhit A&M .347 to .235. The Tigers also led in kills, 59-41, with Henning leading the Tigers with 15.
Babers joined Sullivan in double-figure kills for the Aggies with a career-high 10 while also hitting a personal-best .529. Babers led all players with five blocks, and freshman defensive specialist Victoria Arenas led A&M with 13 digs.
A&M (11-9, 3-6 SEC) returns to Reed Arena on Sunday, Nov. 3 to play host to fifth-ranked Florida. The match begins at 1 p.m. and will be nationally televised by ESPNU. Fans will be admitted for only $3 by presenting a ticket from the Texas A&M-UTEP football game.
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 Head Coach Laurie Corbelli Quotes:
(On Missouri’s performance)
“It’s very hard to defend. They are all very efficient attackers. We have some as well. They have a lot of experience. Experience in this game counts for a lot because of the pace of the game, the skills required from passing to attacking and being spot-on with what you are trying to do. Experience helps a lot. We played four true freshmen today. That’s really encouraging for me. Our freshmen and sophomores are the bulk of our group right now for the most part. I have been here long enough to know that it only gets better. The understanding, the positioning and anticipating what an opponent is going to do just comes with time. To play a match like this and to be battling was incredibly valuable for our team. For that, I’m glad Missouri is in the SEC. I love playing great volleyball teams. It makes my team better.”
(On adjustments made during the match)
“We tried to change some things but we were unable to get those things accomplished in terms of areas to attack, parts of their court that we thought we could get the ball to and changing up our attack in terms of tempo. For whatever reason some attackers didn’t feel comfortable trying those things. Once again, I point to the inexperience and building their confidence. They want to do what they are used to doing and what they are comfortable doing. Getting out of their comfort zone is hard for young players.”
(On preparing for Missouri)
“You can watch it and you can tell players about it but none of these players except for [Allie] Sawatzky and [Heather] Reynolds have actually played against the pace of this team. They watched it, but watching it and playing against it on the court are two completely different things. To be able to see the real pace that the set is released with or the tempo of every hitter on their way to the approach when the setter has the ball in her hands is valuable. Most teams out there don’t do that. Set one was trying to get our block rhythm and our timing figured out. They knew where they were supposed to be, but it all happened so fast for them. I’m positive that we learned a lot. I know this team likes to learn from opponents and what other teams can do. I see us getting better from this match.”
Texas A&M sophomore middle blocker Shelby Sullivan:
(On her effectiveness with the slide attack)
“Every time I go up I get more comfortable with it. I have full trust in our setter Allie [Sawatzky] and the defense. I know that Allie is going to place it just where I want it and I can get a great swing at it.”
(On getting a lot of swings in the third set)
“I just had to keep swinging. I trust my team. I knew they were behind me the whole way. I could hear them yelling, ‘Just keep swinging’. When I’m up in the air and I hear that, I have full confidence in my team.”
(On Missouri’s hitters)
“It does make it more challenging when they are in system every play. Their setter does a great job of distributing the ball. We are going to work this week on getting better at defending that.”