COLUMBIA, S.C. – Texas A&M senior middle blocker Lindsey Miller had a match-high 13 kills while hitting at a .550 clip to lead the Aggies to a 25-19, 25-16, 25-23 victory against South Carolina this afternoon at the Volleyball Competition Facility.
With the victory, the Aggies complete an undefeated weekend on the road to improve to 17-5 overall – including 7-1 in away matches -- and stay tied with Arkansas for first place in the Southeastern Conference Western Division with a 9-4 record in conference play.
South Carolina drops to 15-10 overall, 3-10 in SEC play.
A&M used a 5-0 run to pull away from a 3-3 tie in the opening set, and the Aggies led the remainder of the frame. Miller, who was nearly impossible to stop on the slide attack throughout the contest, later put down a kill from the right side and then teamed with Tori Mellinger for a block that would give A&M its biggest lead at 17-10. The Gamecocks then went on a 5-1 run before a block by setter Allie Sawatzky and middle blocker Stephanie Minnerly returned serve to the Aggies. Minnerly continued to command the net and posted two more blocks during what turned into a 4-0 run that put the Aggies ahead, 22-15.
A kill by the Gamecocks and an A&M attack error put South Carolina within 22-17, but the Gamecocks served long on the next play and were unable to narrow the deficit. The teams traded sideouts for the remainder of the set before Sawatzky set Miller for the clinching kill.
A&M held an 8-6 lead in the second set when Minnerly put down a kill and then teamed with Mellinger for a block to give the Aggies a 10-6 lead. A&M served long on the ensuing play, but Minnerly immediately sided-out, tapping the ball over for a kill. It was the first of six consecutive points for the Aggies, who raced out to a 16-7 lead.
The Gamecocks, who were outhit .320 to .143 in the set, never got closer than eight points for the remainder of the set. A&M built its biggest lead at 23-12 as Sawatzky capped a 3-0 run with a kill. South Carolina scored the next two points before Minnerly put the Aggies at set point with her team-leading fourth kill of the stanza. The Gamecocks had staved off two set points when Ashley Vrana tooled the South Carolina block for the kill that gave the Aggies a 2-0 lead in the match.
There were 10 ties and five lead changes in the third set. The Gamecocks outhit the Aggies, .179 to .167 in the frame, but they couldn’t stop the Sawatzky-to-Miller combination as Miller connected for seven kills on eight attempts with zero errors.
South Carolina got back-to-back kills and then posted a block to build its biggest lead of the match at 9-6. A Minnerly kill on the slide attack ended the rally. The Aggies were later trailing 11-8 when they used a 10-2 surge to regain the lead, 18-13. Despite facing their largest deficit of the set and playing without their starting setter, Taylor Bruns, who went out with an injury after colliding with a teammate while attempting to dig a Miller kill that had put the Aggies up, 14-12, the Gamecocks fought back, scoring four unanswered points. Miller temporarily ended the rally with a kill, but three consecutive A&M attack errors returned the lead to South Carolina, 20-19
The lead was short-lived as Sawatzky won a joust at the net and freshman Sierra Patrick followed with a powerful kill from the right side that put the Aggies back in the lead, 21-20. The teams traded points before Patrick and Minnerly teamed for a block and Patrick followed with a kill that put A&M at match point, 24-22. Juliette Thevenin put down her team-leading 10th kill to keep the Gamecocks alive and within a point before Miller once again executed the slide attack with perfection, pounding down the match-winning kill.
A&M outhit the Gamecocks, .245 to .163, for the match and led in kills, 45-33. Alisia Kastmo, who had a career-high four aces in a four-set victory at LSU on Friday, had a match-high three aces in the sweep against South Carolina as the Aggies posted seven aces overall with no reception errors.
Minnerly, who finished with nine kills, had a match-high five blocks to lead the Aggies to a 9-6 advantage in team blocks, and Mellinger tied for match-high honors with 12 digs.
The Aggies return home next weekend for two of their final three regular season home matches of the year, playing host to Alabama and Arkansas, Friday, Nov. 2 and Sunday, Nov. 4, respectively. The match against the Crimson Tide begins at 6:30 p.m. at Reed Arena, and the match against the co-leader Razorbacks begins at 1 p.m. A&M defeated both teams during the first half of league play, sweeping Alabama and defeating Arkansas, 3-2.
It also will be a reunion weekend with many former players returning to Aggieland to attend the matches.
Texas A&M Post-Match Quotes
Coach Laurie Corbelli:
(General comments on the match)
Overall I thought our serving was really, really tough and our passing was good enough to get us going in our offensive patterns. We knew we were going to attack from our middles and rights a lot today, and I thought they did a beautiful job. It was nice to see (Sierra) Patrick get out there and get to play. She is a great right side and she came in and didn’t let anybody down. It was really fun. And I thought our blocking may be one of our better blocking matches.
(On Sawatzky and Miller’s play throughout the weekend)
Their combination is really tough to stop. When Sawatzky jump sets, she can either attack or set Miller, and two blockers at the least have to be with both of those two. It is really a struggle for defenses to handle them. We have been working a lot on their connection and on the dynamic between the two of them at the net, and I think we are seeing the results of that work.
(On the upcoming reunion weekend)
Our 20-year reunion with anywhere from 25-30 former players planning on coming with their families and reuniting and remembering some fun old stories and competitions. The difficult thing is that it is fun to see all of those guys, but I have to be really focused on Alabama and Arkansas because both are very physical teams. We have seen them both at their places, but I can see in video that Alabama has already improved a ton since we saw them last, and Arkansas and us are tied for the Western Division lead. As much fun as we hope to have with our former players, I’ll have to find that balance and our players will have to find that balance to make sure we stay focused and really achieve our goals this coming weekend.
REMINDER: The season’s final “Lunch with Laurie” will be Tuesday, Nov. 13, and reservations must be made by Tuesday, Nov. 6 by contacting Kelly Stumph at firstname.lastname@example.org. The luncheon will be noon-1 p.m. in the volleyball practice gym at Reed Arena and will include a meal, video highlights and commentary from Corbelli as well as players depending on class schedules.
In addition, those purchasing a lunch ticket will automatically be entered to win a Texas A&M volleyball jersey autographed by the team. The drawing will be held at the conclusion of the luncheon.
Free parking is available in lot 100g at Reed, and fans should enter Reed through the main entrance facing Olsen Blvd. and follow signs to the practice gym.
Cost is $10 per person at the door (cash or check only).
For more information, please contact Kelly Stumph at email@example.com or 979-862-3925.