COLLEGE STATION, TX -- Texas A&M (15-5, 7-4 SEC) aims to stay atop the Southeastern Conference Western Division standings and end its three-game losing skid this weekend as the Aggies hit the road to take on seven-time defending Western champion LSU (9-12, 5-7 SEC) on Friday in Baton Rouge and the South Carolina Gamecocks (15-8, 3-8 SEC) Sunday in Columbia.
The Aggies’ first matchup against the Tigers as a member of the SEC begins at 7 p.m. at the Maravich Center and will be televised by Cox Sports Television (Suddenlink channel 119). First serve against South Carolina is 12:30 p.m. (1:30 ET) at the Volleyball Competition Facility.
The Aggies are coming off a 3-2 (14-25, 25-27, 25-23, 25-23, 15-6) home loss to No. 11 Florida, which improved to 11-0 in the SEC after winning its 14th consecutive match. It was A&M’s third consecutive loss, dropping the Aggies into a tie with Arkansas for first place in the SEC Western Division.
LSU is in third place in the Western Division and is coming off a 3-0 loss at Kentucky on Sunday. The Gamecocks, who fell at Ole Miss, 3-0, on Sunday, host Auburn on Friday.
FOLLOW THE ACTION:
• The match at LSU will be televised by Cox Sports Television (CST) with Lyn Rollins and Kent Lowe calling the action. (Suddenlink channel 119)
• Free live audio of the A&M-LSU match will be available on 12thMan.TV with Chelsea Reber and Kelly Stumph calling the match
• South Carolina’s video feed of the A&M-South Carolina match will be available to premium subscribers on 12thMan.TV. Audio is free at 12thMan.TV
• Live stats of both matches will be available on AggieAthletics.com
• Live updates for all matches and other information can be found by following AggieVolleyball on Twitter
The Aggies return home for two of their final three regular season home matches of the year, as they play host to Alabama and Arkansas, Nov. 2 and 4, respectively. The match against the Crimson Tide begins at 6:30 p.m. at Reed Arena, and Sunday’s match begins at 1 p.m. A&M defeated both teams during the first half of league play. It will be a reunion weekend for the team with many former players returning to College Station to attend the matches.
Texas A&M held No. 11 Florida to a season-low 14 points and had six players who had two or more kills to win the first set against the Gators, 25-14. Senior outside hitter Tori Mellinger closed out a 27-25 second-set victory for the Aggies with three consecutive kills to give A&M a 2-0 lead in the match, but the Gators won the next three sets to escape Reed Arena with a 14-25, 25-27, 25-23, 25-23, 15-6 victory on Sunday. Mellinger tied her career highs with 18 kills and four block assists and recorded her seventh double-double of the year with 16 digs. Senior Alisia Kastmo (17 kills, 16 digs) and junior setter Allie Sawatzky (50 assists, 10 digs) also completed double-doubles. Senior middle blockers Lindsey Miller and Stephanie Minnerly combined for a .500 hitting percentage and 22 kills, and senior libero Megan Pendergast led all players with 18 digs. Florida’s Chloe Mann carried the Gators with 19 kills while hitting .486 and also had six blocks to lead Florida to an 11-8 advantage in blocks. Both teams hit an identical .267, with A&M leading in kills, 70-67.
SERIES HISTORY VS. LSU:
• A&M is 22-13 all-time against LSU, including 6-3 in matches played in Baton Rouge.
• This will be A&M’s 36th meeting with LSU, equaling Missouri as A&M’s most common opponent in the SEC. The Aggies are 24-12 all-time against former Big 12-foe Missouri.
• LSU has won three of the last four meetings against the Aggies, including a 25-9, 25-17, 25-22 victory on Aug. 28, 2010, at Reed Arena in the most recent meeting.
• The last time A&M went to Baton Rouge was December 2009 for NCAA first and second rounds. After upsetting No. 19 Arizona in the first round, unranked A&M stunned the 18th-ranked and No. 15 seed Tigers, 18-25, 26-24, 23-25, 25-23, 15-10 in the second round at the Maravich Center to advance to the Omaha Regional. Current Aggie seniors Alisia Kastmo and Lindsey Miller were freshmen on the team and served as A&M’s starting middle blockers. In addition, current A&M senior outside hitter Tori Mellinger was the designated libero in that match and led the Aggies with 18 digs.
SERIES HISTORY VS. SOUTH CAROLINA:
• A&M is 3-0 all-time against the Gamecocks and has not dropped a single set in the series.
• 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.
• In the first meeting as SEC opponents, A&M defeated South Carolina, 25-12, 25-16, 25-16, at Reed Arena on Oct. 5, 2012. Junior setter Allie Sawatzky dished out 33 assists and directed the Aggies to a .364 to .078 hitting advantage. Aggie senior middle blocker Lindsey Miller led all players with 12 kills while hitting .500, and senior opposite Alisia Kastmo also posted double figures in kills with 10 to help lead the Aggies to a 48-26 advantage in kills. Thirteen players overall saw action for the Aggies. Bethanie Thomas led the Gamecocks with five kills.
AGGIE QUICK HITS:
• Texas A&M is tied with Arkansas (7-4) for first place in the SEC West and is 5-0 in Western Division matches.
• A&M is No. 27 in this week’s Rating Percentage Index (RPI). Stanford is No. 1, and Penn State Nebraska, Texas and UCLA round out the top five. At No. 10, Florida is the top-rated team representing the SEC, followed by No. 16 Tennessee, No. 20 Kentucky, No. 25 Arkansas and Texas A&M.
• The Aggies are receiving votes in the AVCA Top 25 Poll and are listed 34th.
• A&M is ranked 14th in the nation and leads the SEC with 14.43 kills per set for the full season. A&M is 25th in the country and second in the league with 13.31 assists per set. The Aggies also lead the SEC with a .163 opponent hitting percentage for the full season.
• In SEC matches only, A&M leads the league in assists per set (13.27) and is second in kills per set (14.24).
• Five A&M players who have appeared in 60 or more sets are averaging at least 2.0 kills per set for the full season, including setter Allie Sawatzky, who averages 2.19 kills per set. In addition, five players who have played in at least 38 sets in SEC matches only are averaging at least 2.0 kills per set. Senior opposite Alisia Kastmo leads the team with 3.99 kills per set overall and 4.05 kills per set in SEC contests only.
• Five players who have appeared in 38 or more sets in SEC matches only are averaging more than 2.0 digs per set. Senior libero Megan Pendergast leads the team with 3.92 digs per set in SEC matches only.
• A&M has led its opponent in kills in 17 of 20 matches and is 15-2 when leading in kills. Kentucky and Florida are the only teams two teams to defeat A&M when trailing in kills, and both of those matches were decided in five sets.
• A&M is 14-0 when posting a higher hitting percentage than its opponent.
• A&M is 14-2 when winning the first set. No. 5 USC and No. 11 Florida are the only teams that have come back to defeat the Aggies after dropping the opening set.
• A&M has used the same starting lineup in 18 of 20 matches with seniors Lindsey Miller and Stephanie Minnerly at middle blocker, senior Alisia Kastmo at opposite, senior Tori Mellinger on the outside, along with junior Heather Reynolds, and junior Allie Sawatzky at setter. Senior Megan Pendergast has started out every match as the team’s designated libero. Kelsey Kinley started two matches -- the first two starts of her career -- in place of Reynolds in the back row.
• 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 514-305 for her career and 414-199 at A&M.
• 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. A&M is currently 5-5 against 2011 NCAA tournament teams.
• 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.
• Senior outside hitter Tori Mellinger was teammates with LSU outside hitters Madie Jones and libero Meghan Mannari on the Skyline Juniors club team that finished runner-up at the 2008 Junior Olympics.
• Senior middle blocker Lindsey Miller and 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 112 consecutive matches. Sawatzky has started all 81 matches throughout her career.
• Lindsey Miller, who has tied or led the team in blocks in 14 of 20 matches this season, leads A&M and is eighth in the SEC with 1.06 blocks per set for the full season. Miller has led the team in both total blocks and blocks per set, as well as hitting percentage, in the season final stats every year during her career, and she ranks fifth in the A&M career records with 363 block assists, and she is seventh in the career annals with 414 total blocks and 1,136 points. She needs only 25.5 points to move into sixth in the A&M career records.
• Libero Megan Pendergast became the first A&M player to receive an SEC weekly honor when she was named SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Week on Oct. 1. The senior leads A&M and is eighth in the league with 3.92 digs per set in conference matches only. She is 11th in the SEC with 3.85 digs per set for the full season. Pendergast has posted double-figure digs in 15 of 20 matches, including three matches in which she had 20 or more digs.
• Showing the balance of the team, 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 Allie Sawatzky appeared on two all-tournament teams. Senior middle blocker 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.
• Tori Mellinger, considered one of the most complete players on the team, is ranked in the SEC top 20 in kills, digs and points per set in all matches and in SEC matches only. She is averaging 2.93 kills, 3.10 digs and 3.31 points per set for the full season and 3.02 kills, 3.24 digs and 3.46 points per set in SEC matches only.
• Alisia Kastmo has had double-figure kills in a team-leading 14 matches this season, including three 20-plus kill performances. She leads A&M and ranks ninth in the SEC with 3.57 kills per set for the full season. She is seventh in the league in SEC matches only with 3.70 kills per set. In addition, Kastmo is eighth with 3.99 points per set for the full season and tied for ninth with 4.05 points per set in SEC contests only.
• Allie Sawatzky ranks eighth in the A&M career records with 2,940 assists. She needs 23 more to move into seventh place.
• Tori Mellinger is ranked sixth in the A&M career records with 1,332 digs. She needs 35 more to move into fifth place, surpassing former teammate Mary Batis who had 1,366 digs from 2006-09.
• 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.
• LSU (9-12, 5-7 SEC) was picked to win the SEC Western Division for an eighth straight year and is currently in third place in the league standings.
• The Tigers are coming off a 3-0 (25-29, 25-18, 25-22) loss at Kentucky on Sunday. They were outhit, .287 to .160 and outblocked, 8.5 to 2.0. Madie Jones was the only LSU player to reach double figures in kills with 11.
• LSU leads the SEC with 16.79 digs per set for the full season and 18.42 digs per set in SEC matches only.
• Libero Meghan Mannari was named SEC Defensive Player of the Week on Monday after averaging 7.57 digs per set in a 3-1 win at Auburn and a 3-0 loss at Kentucky. The senior from Frisco, Texas, had 40 digs against Auburn and 13 digs at Auburn last week and is averaging 5.67 digs per set in SEC matches only.
• Head coach Fran Flory (Texas ‘84) is 276-168 in her 15th season at the helm of the Tigers. She served as an assistant coach at Texas A&M in 1987 under former Aggie head coach Al Givens.
SOUTH CAROLINA NOTES:
• South Carolina (15-8, 3-8 SEC) went 1-1 on the road last weekend, defeating Mississippi State, 3-0, and then falling to Ole Miss, 3-0.
• The Gamecocks are led by junior outside hitter Juliette Thevenin, who ranks second in the SEC with 4.19 kills per set for the full season.
• Defensively, Paige Wheeler is averaging a team-best 4.05 digs per set and Darian Dozier is averaging 0.80 blocks per set.
• South Carolina is outhitting its opponents, .262 to .228 in all matches but is being outhit, .295 to .202, in SEC matches only.
• South Carolina is 9-3 in home matches.
• 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 29-24 in his second season as head coach of the Gamecocks.