COLLEGE STATION, TX -- Texas A&M begins its inaugural season as a member of the Southeastern Conference when the Aggies host Texas State in the Texas A&M Invitational Friday at noon at Reed Arena. The match takes on added significance as A&M head coach Laurie Corbelli will be aiming for the 500th victory of her head coaching career, as well as her 400th victory at A&M.
Also on Friday at 7:30 p.m., the Aggies take on Pac-12 defending champion and 2011 NCAA Final Four participant Southern California, coached by 2000 Olympic coach and former long-time Texas head coach Mick Haley. The Women of Troy are No. 5 in the preseason AVCA Coaches Top 25 Poll.
The Aggies conclude the tournament Saturday at 12:30 p.m. against three-time defending Great West Conference tournament champion North Dakota, a team that finished No. 52 in the final 2011 NCAA Division I Ratings Power Index (RPI).
TEXAS A&M INVITATIONAL
August 24-25, Reed Arena
Friday, August 24
10:00 a.m. North Dakota vs. #5 USC
12:00 p.m. Texas A&M vs. Texas State
5:30 p.m. North Dakota vs. Texas State
7:30 p.m. Texas A&M vs. #5 USC
Saturday, August 25
10:30 p.m. Texas State vs. #5 USC
12:30 p.m. Texas A&M vs. North Dakota
Tickets: The 12th Man Foundation is offering a special $3 ticket for the opening day of the 2012 Texas A&M volleyball season. To take advantage of this special offer, enter the promo code, texags, at http://www.12thmanfoundation.com/ticket-center/promo.aspx
Regular-price individual match tickets are $9 for reserve seating, $7 for adult general admission and $4 for youth, high school age and under. A&M students without a sports pass also can purchase tickets for $4 each. Tickets may be purchased at Reed Arena or in advance at AggieAthletics.com.
Parking: Free parking for volleyball fans is available in lots 100a, 100b, 100g and 100f at Reed Arena. Lot 102 is for handicap parking.
Video/Audio/Stats: For this special preview weekend only, 12th Man TV will be offering free live video and audio of A&M matches at AggieAthletics.com. Free stats and scoring will be available for all matches played at Reed Arena this season. The tournament page is located at http://www.aggieathletics.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=27300&ATCLID=205498408
AGGIE QUICK HITS:
• A&M is 26-10 in season openers since 1976. (Opening-day results are not available for the 1975 season.)
• The Aggies are 14-5 in season openers since head coach Laurie Corbelli was hired in 1993. Last year, A&M won its third consecutive season opener by defeating Creighton, 3-0, in the Aggies’ opening match at the Texas A&M Invitational.
• Head coach Laurie Corbelli (499-300 overall, 399-194 at A&M) is entering her 20th season at the helm of the Aggies and the 26th year of her head coaching career. She will be coaching the 800th match of her career in the season opener against the Bobcats.
Corbelli’s milestone career victories:
#1 San Francisco def. Weber State Sept. 6, 1986
#100 Santa Clara def. Pepperdine Nov. 21, 1992
#200 Texas A&M def. California Sept. 19, 1997
#300 Texas A&M def. Texas Oct. 6, 2001
#400 Texas A&M def. Loyola Sept. 8, 2006
#499 Texas A&M def. Lipscomb Dec. 1, 2011
• 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.
• Lindsey Miller, a 6-2 middle blocker who received All-America honorable mention distinction last year and has started every match during her career, highlights a solid and experienced senior class. Alisia Kastmo, a 6-4 opposite who earned All-Big 12 first team honors last year, 5-10 outside hitter Tori Mellinger and libero Megan Pendergast also are returning senior starters, and fifth-year 6-2 senior middle Stephanie Minnerly, who has starting experience, completes the senior class.
• Junior two-year starter Allie Sawatzky, a 6-2 lefty, returns at the setter position after earning AVCA All-Central Region honorable mention last year. Junior outside hitters Heather Reynolds (6-0) and Ashley Vrana (5-11) will be competing for the vacancy left by the graduation of All-American honorable mention Kelsey Black. Defensive specialist Kelsey Kinley and setter Mariah Agre, who transferred to A&M in January, round out the junior class, while defensive specialist Hannah Hood is the lone sophomore on the squad.
• The freshman class provides a plethora of young talent at nearly every position, including 6-1 middles Jazzmin Babers, Darby Graff and Shelby Sullivan, as well as 6-2 middle/outside hitter Shelbi Vaughan. Angela Lowak (6-0) and Sierra Patrick (5-10), who both teamed with Babers to win the 2011 USA Volleyball Junior National Champion 17 Open Division, will be competing for an outside hitter position, and Kate Praslicka will provide depth as a defensive specialist and setter.
• Both Darby Graff and Shelbi Vaughan will be celebrating their 18th birthdays on the Aggies’ opening day.
• Lindsey Miller is ranked in the top 10 in the A&M career records for block assists (302), points (938.0) and total blocks (346). She is sixth in block assists and needs only one more to move into a tie for fifth with Kelli Kellen (1986-89). Miller needs 36 points to move into seventh and ahead of Kendra Felder (2001-05) for career points, and Miller needs 21 total blocks to surpass Amy Cumings (1987-90) and move into eighth in the record books.
• Setter Allie Sawatzky enters the season ranked 10th in the A&M career records with 2,265 assists. She needs 45 assists to bump up to No. 9, surpassing Genny Wood (1990-93).
• Twelve of A&M’s 29 regular season matches will be against teams that appeared in the 2011 NCAA Championship, including both Texas State and Final Four participant USC at the Texas A&M Invitational.
• 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.
• Seniors Alisia Kastmo and Stephanie Minnerly have both have graduated with bachelor’s degrees and are continuing their education as they complete their athletic eligibility. Kastmo graduated in August and 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 with a concentration in business and minors in sports management and psychology. She is currently pursuing a second degree, a bachelor’s of science in agricultural leadership and development, and is scheduled to graduate in May 2013.
SCOUTING THE OPPONENTS:
• Texas State returns three starters plus the libero from last year’s team that went 27-8 and won both the Southland Conference regular season title and the league tournament title...The Bobcats, No. 69 in the final RPI, fell to Texas, 3-0, in Austin in the first round of the 2011 NCAA Championship...Top returners are junior right side Amari Deardorff (2.86 kps .330), senior setter Caleigh McCorguodale (10.13 aps, 3.03 dps) and junior middle blocker Ashlee Hilbun (1.15 bps)...Head coach Karen Chisum is 743-467 entering the 32nd season of her career, all at TSU.
• Defending Pac-12 champion and fifth-ranked Southern California returns three starters plus the libero from last year’s team that went 29-5 and advanced to the NCAA semifinals before falling to Illinois, 3-2...Highlighting the returners is libero Natalie Hagglund, a 2011 AVCA first-team All-American and the Pac 12 Libero of the Year, who averaged 5.14 assists per set...Former longtime Texas coach and 2000 USA Olympic coach Mick Haley is 284-64 entering his 12th season as head coach at USC. He is 1,057-252-1 entering the 36th season of his head coaching career.
• North Dakota was No. 52 in the 2011 final RPI after going 26-5 and capturing its third consecutive and final Great West Conference tournament championship title...UND, which no longer uses the Fighting Sioux moniker, is beginning its first season as a member of the Big Sky Conference and is picked to finish fourth in its new league...UND returns three starters and six letterwinners overall, although there are no seniors on the 2012 squad...Ashley Hardee is 73-16 entering his fourth year as head coach at UND.
ALL-TIME SERIES RECORDS:
• Texas A&M has won the last 14 matches against Texas State and is 23-3 all-time against the Bobcats...The Bobcats’ most recent win against A&M was a 3-2 victory on Sept. 28, 1991, in San Marcos...A&M is 11-1 against TSU in College Station, with the Bobcats’ only victory coming in 1986...A&M coach Laurie Corbelli has a career record of 13-0 against Texas State.
• A&M is 0-7 all-time against Southern California...The teams last met Sept. 11, 2005, at the UTSA Dome Rally in San Antonio, where the Trojans won, 3-1...USC is 1-0 against the Aggies in College Station, having won 3-0 on Sept. 13, 2003, at G. Rollie White Coliseum.
• A&M and North Dakota will be meeting for the first time.
The Aggies hit the road for the next two weekends, playing in the Yale Classic, Aug. 31-Sept. 1, in New Haven, Conn., and the Delaware Invitational, Sept. 7-8, in Newark, Del...A&M will play a combined six matches at the tournaments, including three matches against 2011 NCAA tournament teams American, Delaware and Yale...A&M returns to Reed Arena, Friday, Sept. 14 to play its first-ever SEC match as the Aggies play host to Ole Miss.