COLLEGE STATION, TX -- Texas A&M (8-1) opens its inaugural Southeastern Conference season this weekend as the Aggies play host to Ole Miss (6-3) on Friday at 6:30 p.m. and Auburn on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Reed Arena. The Aggies, who have been picked to finish second in the league’s Western Division, enter conference play riding a seven-match winning streak after sweeping the field at the Delaware Invitational last weekend to claim their second consecutive tournament title.
Friday, Texas A&M vs. Ole Miss, 6:30 p.m.
• The first 250 A&M students will receive a free T-shirt commemorating the Aggies’ first-ever SEC volleyball contest.
• It will be Fish Camp Night, and all students who wear their Class of 2016 Fish Camp T-shirt will be admitted free to the match through the student entrance only.
Sunday, Texas A&M vs. Auburn, 1 p.m.
• It will be Aggie Ring Day and anyone wearing an Aggie Ring will receive a free ticket at the ticket window at Reed.
Season and individual match tickets are on sale, with several convenient options available to purchase the tickets: 1) online, 24 hours a day at tickets.12thmanfoundation.com; 2) by calling the ticket office at 979-845-2311 or toll free at 1-888-99-AGGIE; 3) in person at the ticket office located inside the Zone at the north end of Kyle Field during normal business hours; or 4) in person at Reed Arena beginning one hour before match time.
FOLLOW THE ACTION:
Live video and audio of both matches will be available on AggieAthletics.com to 12th Man premium subscribers. Live stats for both matches will be available on AggieAthletics.com, and live updates and other information can be found by following @AggieVolleyball on Twitter.
Texas A&M has a single match next week as the Aggies return to Reed Arena Sunday, Sept. 23 at 1 p.m. to play host to No. 24 Kentucky. The Wildcats and Aggies met last December at Reed, where Kentucky eliminated A&M in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Texas A&M extended its winning streak to seven and won its second consecutive tournament by sweeping Xavier, Delaware and Columbia at the Delaware Invitational in Newark, Del., last weekend. Texas A&M senior opposite Alisia Kastmo was named MVP, and senior outside hitter Tori Mellinger and junior setter Allie Sawatzky were named to the all-tournament team. Kastmo, who celebrated her 21st birthday on the opening day of the tournament, led A&M with 4.94 points and 4.44 kills per set and also led the starters with a .446 hitting percentage in the tournament. Throughout the weekend, the Tyler, Texas, native also set individual match career highs in four different categories: kills (21), digs (13), points (22.0) and hitting percentage (.667, minimum 10 kills).
• Texas A&M is 16-14 (.533) all-time in conference season opening matches, having gone 8-6 in 14 years under the Southwest Conference umbrella and 8-8 in 16 years as a member of the Big 12 Conference.
• The Aggies are 23-7 (.767) in their first home conference match of the season.
• Laurie Corbelli, in her 20th season as head coach at Texas A&M, was the Aggies’ head coach when A&M made its Big 12 Conference debut on Sept. 25, 1996. She directed her team to a 3-0 (16-14, 15-2, 15-12) victory over No. 5 Texas at G. Rollie White Coliseum.
A&M VS. THE SEC:
• Texas A&M is 70-42 (.625) all-time against SEC teams, including a combined 7-0 against both Ole Miss and Auburn.
• Texas A&M head coach Laurie Corbelli is 36-22 against SEC opponents, including 1-0 against Ole Miss and 2-0 against Auburn.
• A&M owns a 5-0 record against Ole Miss and is 1-0 against the Rebels in matches played in College Station. The teams last met Sept. 11, 1993, at the Jammin’ Oklahoma Open in Norman, Okla., where A&M defeated the Rebels, 3-1 (15-12, 15-8, 12-15, 15-0).
• A&M is 2-0 against Auburn, with both matches being played at a neutral site. The teams first met Sept. 1, 1996, at the University Park Holiday Inn Classic, hosted by Colorado State in Fort Collins, Colo. The Aggies won the match, 16-14, 15-10, 16-14. The most recent meeting occurred Sept. 8, 2007, at the UTSA Classic in San Antonio. A&M defeated the Tigers, 30-17, 30-22, 30-15.
• Former Big 12 foe Missouri is A&M’s most common SEC opponent. The Aggies own a 23-12 all-time record against the Tigers. The Tigers of LSU are A&M’s second most common opponent. A&M holds a 22-13 all-time record against LSU.
AGGIE QUICK HITS:
• A&M has won the first set in all nine matches this season.
• The Aggies are receiving votes in the AVCA Top 25 Poll and are listed 33rd this week.
• A&M has swept each of its last five opponents. The Aggies have now won 16 consecutive sets since dropping the third set of a 3-1 victory at Yale on Aug. 31, in New Haven, Conn.
• A&M has used the same starting lineup in all nine 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.
• Each of A&M’s starters has been named to at least one all-tournament team in the three tournaments A&M has played this year. Kastmo, the MVP of the Delaware Invitational, and Sawatzky have appeared on two all-tournament teams. Minnerly, the MVP of the Yale Classic, Mellinger, Miller and Reynolds have each appeared on one all-tournament team.
• Lindsey Miller, a senior, and Allie Sawatzky, a junior, have started every match of their careers. The match against Delaware last Friday marked Miller’s 100th consecutive start, and she has now started each of the last 101 matches. Sawatzky has started in all 70 matches throughout her career.
• 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.
• Setter Allie Sawatzky needs 51 assists to give her 2,580 for her career and move her into eighth in the A&M career records.
• Middle blocker Lindsey Miller, who has taken team-high honors in blocks in eight of nine matches this season, leads the team and is second in the SEC with 1.27 blocks per set. She currently ranks eighth in the A&M career records with 379 total blocks and needs only 12 more blocks to move into seventh in the A&M records with 391.
• Senior outside hitter Tori Mellinger had 34 digs at last weekend’s Delaware Invitational, giving her 1,199 digs for her career and moving her into 10th in the A&M career records.
• A&M is holding its opponents to a .125 hitting efficiency, the best in the SEC. The Aggies have held their opponent below .100 in each of the last four matches and below .200 in all but the match against No. 5 Southern California.
• A&M entered the week ranked 15th in the nation with 14.69 kills per set, 25th in the nation with 13.38 assists per set and 27th in the country with 17.28 digs per set.
• A&M leads its opponent in every positive statistical category. The Aggies are hitting .255 and averaging 14.69 kills, 13.38 assists, 1.45 aces, 17.28 digs, 1.79 blocks and 17.93 points per set. • Opponents are being held to a .125 hitting efficiency, 10.45 kills, 9.83 assists, 0.59 aces, 15.24 digs, 1.62 blocks and 12.66 points per set.
• Kastmo has posted double figures in kills in a team-leading six matches. Pendergast has tallied double-figure digs in a team-high seven matches.
• 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.
• Kastmo and 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.
OLE MISS NOTES:
• Ole Miss is 6-3 and riding a five-match winning streak.
• The Rebels are coming off a 3-1 victory over North Dakota, the same team the Aggies defeated 3-0 in the season-opening Texas A&M Invitational.
• Another common opponent is Xavier. The Rebels defeated the Musketeers, 3-2, on Aug. 31, and A&M downed Xavier, 3-0 on Sept. 7 at the Delaware Invitational.
• Ole Miss is outhitting its opponents .220 to .180.
• Senior libero Ashley Veach is second in the SEC with 5.20 digs per set. Junior Kara Morgan leads the Rebels with 3.11 kills per set.
• Ole Miss lists five players who hail from Texas, including freshman defensive specialist Evan St. Laurent who attended Houston’s Cypress Creek High School, Aggie junior outside hitter Ashley Vrana’s alma mater.
• The Rebels return four starters from last year’s team that went 11-17 overall and finished tied for third in the SEC Western Division with a 7-13 league record.
• Ole Miss is picked to finish fourth in the SEC West in 2012 according to a preseason poll of the league coaches.
• Joe Getzin (George Williams College, 1986) is in his 11th season as head coach of the Rebels.
• Auburn is 9-1 entering a match at Mississippi State on Friday.
• The Tigers, who opened the season with eight consecutive wins before falling to Wichita State, are coming off a 3-0 victory at SMU on Sept. 8.
• Auburn is outhitting its opponents, .244 to .152, third best in the league, just behind the Aggies.
• Juniors Chloe Rowand and Camila Jersonsky are hitting a team-leading .397 and .383, respectively, and rank fifth and sixth in the SEC.
• Auburn went 11-19 last year and finished fifth in the SEC West with a 5-15 record.
• Rick Nold (Louisville, 1998) is in his second season as head coach of the Tigers.