Texas A&M (12-2, 4-1 SEC) returns to Reed Arena this weekend for a pair of Southeastern Conference match-ups, taking on a dangerous South Carolina team Friday at 8:30 p.m. and then facing Mississippi State Sunday at 3 p.m. Both matches will be televised by SportSouth (FS Southwest in Texas). Check local listings for availability.
A&M, the league leader in kills and assists per set, is tied with Arkansas for first place in the SEC Western Division. The Aggies are coming off a successful first-ever SEC road trip in which they defeated Missouri in Columbia for the first time since 2008 and then handed Alabama its first sweep of the season in A&M’s inaugural visit to Tuscaloosa.
South Carolina (13-4, 2-4 SEC) opened the season with 13 consecutive victories, but the Gamecocks are currently mired in a four-match losing skid. Most recently, South Carolina fell to No. 12 Florida, 3-1, and Ole Miss, 3-0, in road matches last weekend.
Mississippi State (4-10, 0-5 SEC) will be looking to end a six-match losing skid when the Bulldogs play at Auburn on Friday.
• Friday vs. South Carolina: “Dig Pink” - Wear pink to be admitted for only $3
• Sunday vs. Mississippi State: “Faith and Family Day”- Present a flyer distributed at Tuesday’s Breakaway session and receive free admission. Free tickets also can be obtained in advance by going to the special promotions link at 12thmanfoundation.com and using the promo code “Breakaway”.
FOLLOW THE ACTION:
• Both matches will be televised by SportSouth, with Pete Pranica calling the play-by-play and Phil Bush providing color commentary. Other television networks carrying the matches include Sun Sports, FS Southwest, FS Midwest, FS Arizona, FS San Diego and FS Prime Ticket. Check local listings for availability.
• Live video of the matches will be available on ESPN3 (blacked out in SEC the footprint)
• Live audio of the match will be available free on 12thMan.TV with Chelsea Reber calling the action.
• Live stats will be available on AggieAthletics.com
• Live updates and other information can be found by following @AggieVolleyball on Twitter.
A&M has a crucial pair of road matches in which the Aggies take on Arkansas in Fayetteville on Friday, Oct. 12 and then head to Lexington, Kentucky, on Sunday, Oct. 14 to take on the Wildcats, who escaped Reed Arena with a 3-2 victory over the Aggies on Sept. 23. Match time against the Razorbacks is 7 p.m., and the match against Kentucky begins at 12:30 p.m. (CT).
Texas A&M went 2-0 in its inaugural SEC road matches, defeating former Big 12 foe Missouri in Columbia, 3-1, on Friday and sweeping Alabama, 3-0, Sunday in the Aggies’ first-ever trip to Tuscaloosa. The win against the Tigers was A&M’s first victory in Columbia since 2008. Junior setter Allie Sawatzky, who had a season-high 54 assists in the win against Missouri, averaged 12.71 assists over the two matches as A&M remained the league leader in team assists and kills per set for the full season and in SEC matches only. Alisia Kastmo was Sawatzky’s primary target in the two matches, as the senior opposite led A&M with 4.14 kills and 4.29 points per set. Kastmo tied for match-high honors with 20 kills at Missouri, the second time in her career that she has reached the 20-kill mark. Senior middle blocker Stephanie Minnerly had a career night against the Tigers with a personal best 15 kills and only one error in 20 attempts for a .700 hitting percentage, tying for fifth in the A&M records for highest hitting percentage in a match with 20 or more attack attempts. Senior libero Megan Pendergast posted her third 20-plus dig performance of the season with 21 against the Tigers and had 15 digs at Alabama to average 5.14 assists per set for the weekend.
SERIES HISTORY VS. SOUTH CAROLINA:
• A&M is 2-0 all-time against the Gamecocks and has not dropped a single set in the series.
• The teams last met Dec. 3, 1995, for an NCAA second round match at A&M’s G. Rollie White Coliseum. The Aggies defeated South Carolina, 15-6, 17-15, 15-12.
• The teams first met Oct. 10, 1993, in Columbia, where A&M defeated the host Gamecocks, 15-7, 15-8, 15-7, in Laurie Corbelli’s first season as head coach of the Aggies.
SERIES HISTORY VS. MISSISSIPPI STATE:
• This will be the first meeting between Texas A&M and Mississippi State.
AGGIE QUICK HITS:
• Texas A&M has won 11 of its last 12 matches and is tied for first with Arkansas in the SEC Western Division with a 4-1 record.
• A&M’s 12-2 record equals the best start in school history after 14 matches. The 1984 team won 22 matches before suffering its third loss, and the 1996 and 1995 squads won 15 and 14 matches, respectively, before posting a third loss.
• A&M is No. 22 in the NCAA’s first Rating Percentage Index (RPI) of the season. Penn State is No. 1, and Stanford, Nebraska, Louisville and UCLA round out the top five. Arkansas and Kentucky are the top-rated teams from the SEC at No. 16 and 17, respectively.
• The Aggies are receiving votes in the AVCA Top 25 Poll and are tied for 28th, equally their highest listing of the year.
• A&M leads the SEC in three of seven statistical categories: assists (13.81) and kills (14.94) per set, as well as opponent hitting percentage (.150) for the full season. The Aggies are second in the league with 17.38 digs per set and third with 1.33 aces per set.
• In SEC matches only, A&M leads the league with 14.47 assists and 15.32 kills per set and is second with a .186 opponent hitting percentage and third with 17.53 digs per set.
• In the national statistics, A&M is No. 3 in kills, No. 5 in assists and No. 25 in digs per set, in addition to No. 16 with a .857 winning percentage.
• Of the eight players who have appeared in 39 or more sets, six are averaging at least 2.0 digs per set. The two players with less than 2.0 digs per set are middle blockers and don’t play in the back row.
• A&M has led its opponent in kills in 13 of 14 matches and is 12-1 when leading in kills. Southern California is the only team that has posted more kills (56-48) as the Trojans defeated A&M, 3-1, in College Station in the second match of the season. Kentucky is the only team to defeat A&M when trailing in kills. The Wildcats defeated A&M, 3-2, at Reed Arena on Sept. 23 despite trailing in kills, 66-61.
• A&M is 11-0 when posting a higher hitting percentage than its opponent.
• A&M has won the first set in 13 of 14 matches. Only Kentucky has taken the first set off the Aggies. The Wildcats went on to win, 3-2.
• A&M has used the same starting lineup in all 14 matches thus far: seniors Lindsey Miller and Stephanie Minnerly at middle blocker; senior Alisia Kastmo at opposite; senior Tori Mellinger and junior Heather Reynolds on the outside; and junior Allie Sawatzky at setter. Senior Megan Pendergast has started out every match as the team’s designated libero.
• 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 511-302 for her career and 411-196 at A&M.
• A&M’s win at Alabama marked the 900th win in program history. The Aggies are 900-500-2 in their 38th season.
• Corbelli returns 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 also welcomes one transfer and seven highly touted freshmen who represent the 20th-ranked recruiting class in the nation.
• Twelve of A&M’s 29 regular season matches will be against teams that appeared in the 2011 NCAA tournament.
• 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.
• Libero Megan Pendergast is the reigning SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Week and is the first A&M player to receive an SEC weekly award. The senior from League City, Texas, led the Aggie defense with 5.14 digs per set last week, posting a team-high 21 digs at Missouri, marking her second consecutive 20-plus dig performance and her third 20-plus dig outing of the season. She also added a career-high eight assists. Pendergast tallied her fourth-consecutive double-figure dig output with a match-high 15 digs in the sweep at Alabama. For the season, Pendergast leads A&M with 3.96 digs per set for the full season and 4.26 digs per set in SEC matches only.
• Senior middle blocker Stephanie Minnerly had a career night at Missouri with a personal best 15 kills and only one error in 20 attempts for a .700 hitting percentage, tying for fifth in the A&M records for highest hitting percentage in a match with 20 or more attack attempts.
• Senior middle blocker Lindsey Miller and junior setter Allie Sawatzky have started every match of their careers. The match against Delaware earlier this season marked Miller’s 100th consecutive start, and she has now started 106 consecutive matches. Sawatzky has started all 75 matches throughout her career.
• 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 Allis Sawatzky appeared on two all-tournament teams. 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.
• Lindsey Miller, who has tied or led the team in blocks in 12 of 14 matches this season, leads the team, is second in the SEC and ranks 78th in the nation with 1.19 blocks per set. She posted eight blocks last weekend, giving her 397 total blocks for her career and moving her into seventh place in the A&M record books. She is fifth in the A&M career records with 347 block assists.
• Tori Mellinger had 14 digs at Alabama on Sunday, giving her 1,266 for her career and catapulting her from ninth to sixth in the A&M records.
• Allie Sawatzky, who ranks eighth in the A&M records with 2,742 career assists, is averaging 9.94 assists per set for the full season, ranking ninth in the SEC. In conference matches only, she is second in the SEC with 11.21 assists per set. The 6-2 lefty also is averaging 1.98 kills per set for the full season and 1.95 kills per set in SEC matches only.
• Alisia Kastmo has had double-figure kills in a team-leading 10 matches this season, including two 20-plus kill performances. She leads the team and ranks seventh in the SEC with 3.59 kills per set for the full season. She is fifth in the league in SEC matches only with 3.89 kills per set.
• Freshman outside hitter Angela Lowak has appeared in each of the last four matches and has played in every set in the last two matches, coming in for Heather Reynolds in the front row. Lowak had career highs of six kills and three blocks -- including two solo blocks -- in the 3-0 win at Alabama.
• A&M also has been getting significant contributions off the bench from freshmen Sierra Patrick and Shelby Sullivan. Patrick has been serving for a middle blocker in the back row, and Sullivan is the first middle blocker off the bench.
• 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.
SOUTH CAROLINA NOTES:
• South Carolina (13-4, 2-4 SEC) has lost its last four matches after beginning the season with a school-record 13 consecutive wins.
• The Gamecocks are led by junior outside hitter Juliette Thevenin, who ranks third in the SEC with 4.12 kills per set and 19th in the league with a .279 hitting percentage. In SEC matches only, the 6-2 Belgian is averaging 4.14 kills, fourth best in the league, but is being held to a .198 hitting percentage.
• South Carolina is 1-2 in road matches, sweeping George Mason and falling at Auburn and No. 21 Tennessee by identical 3-1 scores.
• South Carolina is outhitting its opponents, .272 to .212 in all matches but is being outhit, .290 to .194, in SEC matches only.
• The Gamecocks list three players who hail from Texas: redshirt sophomore middle blocker Cara Howley (McKinney) and freshmen Jenna Allen, an outside hitter from Lewisville, and Elizabeth Johnbull, a middle blocker from Pflugerville.
• Scott Swanson (Arizona State, 1995) is 27-20 in his second season as head coach of the Gamecocks.
MISSISSIPPI STATE NOTES:
• Mississippi State is 4-10 overall and 0-5 in SEC matches entering a Friday contest at Auburn.
• Freshman Roxanne McVey, a libero from Magnolia, Texas (Tomball H.S.), leads the SEC and is second in the nation with 6.36 assists per set. She is averaging a league-leading 7.0 digs per set in SEC matches only.
• McVey was named SEC Freshman of the Week on Monday, the second time she has received the honor this season. She posted 50 digs in a 3-2 loss at LSU and averaged 8.12 digs per set for the weekend.
• Six of 13 players on the Bulldogs’ roster are from Texas.
• Head coach Jenny Hazelwood, who lists Pearland, Texas, as her hometown is in her fourth season at Mississippi State, where she graduated in 2000.