AUSTIN, Texas – Texas A&M pushed the nation's No. 1 team to four sets with a gritty effort, but the Aggies fell to Texas, 25-14, 25-18, 15-25, 25-19, Friday night before a rowdy crowd of 3,831 at Gregory Gym in the second round of the NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship.
The Aggies, who entered the match as winners of eight of their last nine matches, finish the season 19-12. The Maroon and White were playing in their third consecutive NCAA Championship, reaching the second round all three seasons. Texas improves to 25-2 and advances to the regional semifinal next weekend in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Sophomore middle blocker Shelby Sullivan led the Aggie arsenal with a .522 hitting percentage, 14 kills (two off a career-high) and four block assists. Sophomores Angela Lowak and Sierra Patrick each logged 10 kills from the left and right outside hitter positions, respectively. Playing her last collegiate match, senior setter Allie Sawatzky recorded her 21st double-double of the season and the 45th of her career with 37 assists and 10 digs. Senior libero Heather Reynolds logged a match-high 20 digs, marking the 11th consecutive match she reached double figures in digs, and freshman Victoria Arenas also reached double-digit digs with 11.
The Longhorns raced out to a 9-3 lead in the first and reclaimed a six-point lead at 11-5, before Patrick recorded consecutive kills to stem the tide. A&M remained in striking distance until 14-10 when the Longhorns went on a 7-0 run to stretch the lead to 21-10. The Maroon and White closed the gap to nine points, 21-12, with a service error by the Longhorns’ Amy Neal and a service ace by Sawatzky, but the Longhorns outscored the Aggies 4-2 down the stretch to finish the set.
Patrick paced the A&M attack with a .833 hitting percentage and five kills.
The Aggies got kills from Lowak, redshirt freshman middle blocker Jazzmin Babers and Patrick to take a 3-1 lead in the second set. Texas went on a 4-0 spurt to claim a 5-3 edge, but a service error by Khat Bell, a kill by Patrick, an attack error by UT’s Bailey Webster and a block assist by Patrick and Sullivan staked A&M to a 7-5 lead.
The match was tied on six occasions over the next 12 points before the Aggies gained their last lead of the second set at 13-12. UT responded with a 12-3 run to take 24-16 lead. Kills by senior outside hitter Ashley Vrana and Lowak staved of the close of the set before the Horns’ Chiaka Ogbogu was successful on a swing.
In the third set, A&M was triumphant, 25-15, snapping a string of 16 consecutive sets won at home by the Longhorns. The Maroon and White outhit Texas in the third set, .306 to .094. Sullivan spearheaded the attack, hitting .625 with five kills and two blocks. Sophomore outside hitter Shelby Vaughn came off the bench to hit .429 with three kills, two digs and one block in the set.
After the set started out tied 3-3, the Aggies stymied the Longhorns during an 8-1 charge to take an 11-4 lead. The sequence included three kills and two block assists by Sullivan. Texas closed the gap to four points at 13-9, but a 6-0 surge gave A&M a 19-9 cushion, finished off with a tandem block by Patrick and Babers. Consecutive attack errors by UT’s Molly McCage and Webster ballooned the lead to 12 points at 23-1,1 and an attack error by Ogbogu clinched the set for A&M.
The Maroon and White took a 6-3 lead in the fourth set, including two kills by Lowak and a service ace by Reynolds. Texas went on a 4-0 run to take a 7-6 lead, and the Longhorns would not trail for the remainder of the set. A&M tied the match at 12-12 on Lowak’s fifth kill of the set, but Texas went on a 7-0 surge to take a 19-12 lead.
The Longhorns’ maintained a sizeable cushion until 21-15, before the Aggies mounted one last rally. Kills by Sullivan and Lowak and an attack error by Webster trimmed the lead to 21-18. The gap was closed to three again at 22-19 before Texas finished the match with a 3-0 run.
In the fourth set, Sullivan hit 1.000 with five kills and Lowak hit .667 with six kills, but the rest of the squad registered a -.350 hitting percentage with seven errors on 20 swings.
After posting a .028 hitting percentage in the first two sets, A&M rebounded to hit .214 in the last two sets, including .306 in the third. The Aggies fell victim to 18.5 blocks by Texas, the most for an A&M opponent on the season.
The match marked the last collegiate match for five Aggie seniors: Sawatzky, who started every match of her four-year career (123), Reynolds, Vrana, Kelsey Kinley and Mariah Agre.
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