COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Texas A&M returns home this weekend for two of its final three home matches of the regular season, playing host to Tennessee Friday at 4 p.m. and hosting Auburn Sunday at 1:30 p.m. at Reed Arena.
In celebration of Aggie Ring Day on Friday, anyone wearing an A&M ring will be admitted free to the contest against the Lady Vols. The match is part of a doubleheader with the men’s basketball team, and fans with a volleyball ticket will be admitted free to the 8 p.m. game against Rice.
On Sunday, A&M takes on Auburn at 1:30 p.m. at Reed, and 350 pizza rolls will be given away to fans following the match.
The Aggies (14-12, 6-7 SEC) are riding a three-match winning streak after getting a crucial 25-21, 25-22, 25-22 victory against rival LSU Wednesday in Baton Rouge, La. Tennessee (9-17, 1-11 SEC) will be aiming to snap a four-match losing skid after falling, 3-1 (23-25, 25-18, 25-14, 25-18), to Ole Miss last Friday in Knoxville, Tenn. Auburn, which upset the Aggies, 3-1, in Auburn earlier this season, is 16-9 overall and 7-6 in SEC matches heading into a Friday contest at LSU.
A&M is 3-6 all-time against the Lady Vols since the teams first met in 1982. The teams met twice last year, with each team getting a win on the road. Tennessee is 2-1 in matches played at A&M, including a 25-21, 25-19, 25-21 victory at Reed Arena in last year’s first-ever meeting as SEC foes. A&M avenged the loss with a thrilling 15-25, 25-22, 25-20, 27-29, 15-9 victory in Knoxville.
A&M senior setter Allie Sawatzky, who leads the SEC with six triple-doubles and 16 double-doubles on the year, directs a balanced offense that ranks third in the league and in the top 20 in the nation in both kills (14.33) and assists (13.37) per set. Middle blocker Shelby Sullivan, who posted a match-high 15 kills while hitting .609 at LSU, has emerged as one of Sawatzky’s most consistent go-to attackers, as the 6-2 sophomore ranks second in the SEC with a .458 hitting percentage in conference matches only and also leads the Aggies with 3.17 kills and 3.89 points per set in league play. Sophomore outside hitters Sierra Patrick and Angela Lowak and Sawatzky are averaging more than two kills per set apiece in SEC matches, and freshmen Jazzmin Babers and Emily Hardesty, who had a career-high nine kills at LSU, are averaging 1.89 and 1.55 kills per set respectively.
Defensively, Babers leads A&M and is fourth in the conference with 1.26 blocks per set in league matches only. Senior Heather Reynolds, who has played libero since moving into the position for the first time in her career six matches ago, had a match-high 15 digs against the Tigers and now leads A&M with 2.83 digs per set in league play.
Tennessee, two years removed from winning its first outright SEC championship, lists five freshmen on its roster, including 6-2 outside hitter Jamie Lea leads Tennessee and is 13th in the SEC with 3.14 kills per set for the full season. Senior libero Ellen Mullins leads the SEC with 5.83 digs per set for the full season and needs only 16 digs to give her 568, tying for the school all-time record for digs in a season.
The Lady Vols’ only SEC win was a sweep at South Carolina, a team that defeated A&M 3-1 in Columbia, S.C., on Oct. 6.
On Sunday, the Aggies will be looking to earn a split in the season series against Auburn, which earned its first-win against the Aggies earlier this season with a 3-1 victory at Auburn on Oct. 20. The Aggies then close out the road portion of their schedule, traveling to both No. 17 Kentucky and Georgia next weekend. A&M closes out 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.
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