NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Texas A&M won the Yale Classic today after completing a 3-0 (25-14, 25-22, 25-19) victory over Stony Brook at the John J. Lee Amphitheater this afternoon and going 3-0 in the tournament.
It was the fourth consecutive victory for the Aggies, who improve to 5-1 overall. The Seawolves fall to 1-5.
A&M senior middle blocker Stephanie Minnerly was named tournament MVP after hitting .460 with 26 kills and only three errors in 50 attempts throughout the Classic.
“Sometimes kids just get in a zone and everything just comes together and feels right,” A&M head coach Laurie Corbelli said. “(Minnerly) found openings. She was blocking. She was running in transition so fast and so hard at the defense. I’ve always said she is one of my hardest workers, and how hard she worked on the court during this entire tournament was just a testament to the person she is and the player she can be, and when things all come together for her, she was unstoppable..”
Junior setter Allie Sawatzky, who led A&M with 12 kills in the victory over the Seawolves, and junior outside hitter Heather Reynolds, who averaged a team-leading 4.40 digs per set and also averaged 2.5 kills per set while hitting .396 throughout the weekend, were named to the all-tournament team.
“Sawatzky certainly is blossoming this season early here in the second weekend just being comfortable with a variety of hitters,” Corbelli said. “Allie is one of those returning starters who is in charge of making sure that she commands the court. I like to call her the general. The setter on the court is your general and they have to take command, and she did a beautiful job of that.
“And Reynolds was just all-around one of the most valuable players of the weekend. One thing that really stands out is that she is so reliable. She doesn’t make errors. I like what she brings from a competitive standpoint, her intensity, and her game is just getting better every day”
The Aggies set the tone early against the Seawolves, opening the match by scoring the first five points. A&M, which outhit SBU .481 to .100 in the frame, continued to score consecutive points throughout the set with Sawatzky, who had a team-leading five kills in the frame, keeping SBU off balance with her setting and attacking. A&M would go on to build its largest lead at 24-12, but Stony Brook stayed alive with back-to-back kills before serving into the net to end the set.
Corbelli tweaked the lineup in the second set, starting Ashley Vrana on the outside in place of senior Tori Mellinger, and sophomore defensive specialist Hannah Hood playing back row and freshman Shelbi Vaughan playing front row for senior opposite Alisia Kastmo. With the score tied at 1-1, Reynolds posted one of her four kills of the set to give the Aggies a lead they would hold for the remainder of the set.
A&M, which outhit the Seawolves .282 to .077 in the set, equaled its largest lead at 21-16 after Reynolds tooled the block for a kill. SBU rallied for three points to get within 21-19 when Reynolds’ off-speed shot fell in for another kill. SBU answered with a kill, but Sawatzky and Vrana countered with kills to put the Aggies at set point. SBU fought off two set points before Vrana put down her fourth kill to give A&M a 25-22 win and a 2-0 lead in the match.
With the comfortable lead in the match, Corbelli once again altered the starting lineup for the third set, inserting freshmen Kate Praslicka and Angela Lowak and later subbing in rookies Sierra Patrick and Shelby Sullivan.
“One our goals going into the tournament was to get three wins,” Corbelli said, “and one was to make sure we did our best to give our new players who are going to be having an impact some court time. Just that kind of experience is really hard to get sometimes. There were a few moments we thought it would work fine and luckily it did. The upperclassmen showed really great leadership and they kept the mindset on the court that we wanted without having a drop off in our performance.”
SBU scored the first four points of the third set, but A&M quickly came back and took its first lead at 8-7. The Seawolves tied the score with a kill before a kill by Patrick marked the start of a six-point run by the Aggies. A&M went on to build its largest lead at 19-12, but the Seawolves chipped away at the lead and cut the margin to 19-17 after scoring five unanswered points. SBU would get no closer, and with the Aggies leading 22-19, Reynolds posted her ninth kill. Libero Megan Pendergast followed with an ace and then Reynolds teamed with senior middle blocker Lindsey Miller for a block to complete the sweep.
A&M outhit SBU .340 to .088 for the match and led in kills (44-31), digs (53-43) and blocks (5-1). Reynolds and Pendergast tied for team-high honors in digs with 11 apiece, and Miller had a match-high four blocks.
Melissa Rigo was the only SBU player to post double-digit kills with 14.
A&M concludes its non-conference schedule next weekend as the Aggies compete in the Delaware Invitational. A&M will face both Xavier and 2011 NCAA tournament participant Delaware on Friday at 9 a.m. (CT) and 6 p.m. (CT), respectively in Newark, Del. A&M closes out the tournament on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. (CT) against Columbia.
The Aggies play their first-ever SEC match Friday, Sept. 14, as they play host to Ole Miss at 6:30 p.m. at Reed Arena
More Corbelli quotes:
(On her overall impression of the match against SBU)
“We had a really good start. I like that we are serving really consistently and putting the ball where we need it go according to our plan. We got a chance to get a lot of blocking work because their main hitters were on the pins. We have been working a lot on our movement and getting our timing of our block, and I thought as the tournament went on and ended against Stony Brook with some really nice blocking. Maybe it doesn’t show up in kill-blocks all the time, but we were slowing down a lot of balls, and that is an area of the game early in the season is a sore spot and we are happy that it is starting to look better.
(On getting so many younger players into the match)
“I’ve kind of been waiting for these days for a while. Most of them decided on A&M a year and a half or two years ago, and to have them be able to be on our court in Aggie jerseys just doing their thing, all the talent they have is really, really fun to watch. They each bring something a little bit different from our starting lineup. Although they may not have the experience, they don’t know that they are not that experienced, and they just come out and do their thing, and no pressure. They are really great players and great kids and there was a lot of satisfaction watching them play.”
(On the play of defensive specialist Kelsey Kinley):
“Kelsey Kinley is just really passing nails. Defensively she’s just aware of where the ball is and she just seems to always have a great feel of where to be and makes a great play on the ball, so we are so glad that we are getting a chance to get her on the court more and Praslicka as well.”
2012 Yale Classic All-Tournament Team
MVP - Stephanie Minnerly, Texas A&M
Kendall Polan, Yale
Kelly Johnson, Yale
Heather Reynolds, Texas A&M
Allie Sawatzky, Texas A&M
Sara Rishell, American
Melissa Rigo, Stony Brook