AUBURN, Ala. – Texas A&M came up short against a veteran Auburn team, falling to the Tigers, 25-23, 22-25, 25-19, 25-17, today at Auburn Arena.
Auburn (12-7, 3-4 SEC) took its first lead of the opening set after mounting a 7-1 run that put the Tigers ahead, 9-6. A&M setter Allie Sawatzky ended the rally and returned the momentum to the Aggies, recording back-to-back kills and sparking a 6-0 run that returned the lead to A&M, 12-9. It would be A&M’s final lead in the set as Auburn countered by scoring six of the next seven points to go up, 15-13. A&M, which was outhit .286 to .146 in the set, tied the score three times before consecutive kills put the Tigers ahead, 19-17. A kill by Aggie freshman Emily Hardesty got the Aggies within 19-18 before Auburn went on a 5-2 run that put the Tigers at set point, 24-20. A&M fought off two set points as Auburn’s next attack sailed wide and Sawatzky followed with an ace. The Aggies then staved off a third set point as redshirt freshman middle blocker Jazzmin Babers and sophomore opposite hitter Sierra Patrick blocked an attack by Auburn’s Katherine Culwell to move A&M within 24-23. Culwell, however, was good on her next attack to close out the 25-23 win for the Tigers.
Both teams hit .000 in the second set, but A&M managed to come out on top and tie the match at a set apiece. Auburn spotted the Aggies a 5-0 lead to begin the set, and A&M never trailed. The Aggies used an 8-2 run to go up 18-11 and equal their biggest lead, but A&M then committed five attack errors and Auburn posted three kills during an 8-1 outburst by the Tigers that knotted the score at 19-19.
Auburn served long on the next play, and sophomore outside hitter Angela Lowak had a kill to put A&M up, 21-19. Auburn then got consecutive points on two kills to tie the score for the final time. Lowak kept the lead for the Aggies with a kill and Auburn had an attack error to give A&M a 23-21 lead, but the Aggies hit long on the next play to put the Tigers within 23-22. A block by Babers and Patrick put the Aggies at set point, and following intense rally of diving saves and multiple jousts at the net, Auburn was whistled for a ball handling error to give A&M the 25-23 win.
A&M scored the first two points of the third set, but it would be the Aggies’ only lead as Auburn went on a 10-2 run to go up 10-4. A&M, which was outhit .310 to .222, was unable to get closer than four points throughout the remainder of the frame. A&M got within 23-19 following an Auburn attack error, but A&M then served into the net to put the Tigers at set point. Auburn then blocked an A&M attack attempt on the next play to clinch the 25-19 win and take a 2-1 lead in the match.
Auburn reeled off series of points to pull away in the fourth set. Holding a narrow 12-10 cushion, the Tigers quickly expanded their lead, scoring five unanswered points to go up 17-10. A&M chipped away at the margin, and following a 3-0 run that included back-to-back blocks, the Aggies were back within 20-17, forcing Auburn to call a timeout.
The Tigers, who outhit the Aggies .389 to .179 in the set, would come out of the timeout and score five straight points, with A&M hitting wide to end the match.
Lowak led A&M with 15 kills, and Patrick contributed 11 kills along with a career-high six blocks to tie Babers for match-high honors. Hardesty led A&M in digs with a career-high 14, and senior libero Kelsey Kinley and senior defensive specialist Heather Reynolds also tallied double-figure dig performances with 13 and 11, respectively. Sawatzky finished with 38 assists and eight kills.
Four Auburn players recorded double figures in kills, including senior middle blocker Courtney McDonald, who tied for the team high with 13 kills while hitting .400. Senior libero Sarah Wroblicky led all players with 26 digs.
As a team, Auburn outhit A&M, .242 to .135, recording 65 kills to A&M’s 48. Auburn also led in digs, 75-59. A&M held a narrow edge in blocks, 9-8.
The Aggies (10-8, 2-5 SEC) aim to get back into the win column next weekend with a pair of home matches. A&M plays host to Arkansas Friday at 6 p.m. and then welcomes league-leader and undefeated Missouri Sunday at 1:30 p.m. at Reed Arena.
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Texas A&M Head Coach Laurie Corbelli Quotes:
“Their defense was so tough, and it was really hard to find an open area on their court. A few nights ago our middles were really hot, and today our outsides did better and our middles weren’t as hot. It’s just kind of a matter of getting everybody all on the same page at the same time and playing well at the same time, kind of like we did in September. It is frustrating for everybody and it is almost like the deeper you dig yourself in a hole, it is harder to get out. I think they are feeling that right now.
“They are pretty bogged down. You try really, really hard and you know that your efforts are going to eventually pay off, but at some point it just feels like you’re running in sand. It’s that time of the season where we have gotten ourselves into a little bit of a bind and we have to find our way out. I know this group is willing to do what it takes. How soon it happens, it’s is hard to tell.
“Overall I’m really impressed with the effort. I think we are really feeling a lot of our youth, our inexperience. We just played a team with six seniors on the court, and our inexperience was really, really evident at the net with our block and with our attack.
“It’s hard to keep saying ‘growing pains’ but you have to learn at some point what it’s like to go through a season against teams that are all really good and even better at their place. We just have to continue to evaluate and keep everybody’s heads up. There isn’t any other option but to keep plugging along, and it will come eventually. It’s part of sports. There are going to be times that are really hard to get through.”