GRAND FORKS, N.D. – Texas A&M posted a convincing win in its season opener, defeating South Dakota State, 25-10, 25-12, 25-12, at the UND Classic at the Sioux Center.
While Aggie senior setter Ally Sawatzky started her 93rd consecutive match, five other players drew their first career start and all 14 available players on the A&M roster saw action. Sophomores Angela Lowak, Sierra Patrick and Shelby Sullivan started at the outside, middle and opposite positions, respectively, and redshirt freshman middle blocker Jazzmin Babers and true freshman outside hitter Emily Hardesty also started in their first-ever collegiate match.
Sawatzky tied the school record with six service aces. A&M, which did not allow an ace, finished with 14 as team, tying for ninth in the all-time school records. The last time A&M tallied more than 14 aces in a match was in 1994.
A&M also dominated in every other positive statistic, outhitting SDSU, .363 to -.011 for the match, posting 39 kills to the Jackrabbits’ 18. In addition, the Aggies led in blocks (8-3), digs (44-27) and assists (37-16).
Lowak led all players with a career-high nine kills, and Babers recorded eight kills in 10 attempts for a .800 hitting percentage. Lowak also added a career-high four blocks -- including two solo blocks -- and Sullivan had four blocks to tie her career high. Sullivan also recorded a personal-best three aces.
Sawatzky had 19 assists and added five kills as Mariah Agre took over setting duties when Sawatzky rotated to the front row. Libero Kelsey Kinley took match-high honors in digs with 12.
In the opening set, the Aggies used two six-point scoring runs to build a 14-3 lead over the Jackrabbits. While A&M continued to put together numerous runs of consecutive points, SDSU was unable to score back-to-back points throughout the first set. Babers closed out the 25-10 set victory with a slide kill as she posted three kills in three attempts to help the Aggies outhit SDSU .600 to .040 in the frame.
A&M used a seven-point rally to open up a 16-7 advantage in the second set. The Aggies, who outhit SDSU .344 to -.030 in the stanza, continued to add to their lead and used a four-point run to complete the 25-12 win and take a 2-0 lead going into the break.
The Maroon and White raced to a 15-4 lead in the third set, with Sawatzky posting three consecutive aces during a four-point run. Every healthy player saw action throughout the set, including appearances by freshmen Kaysie Shebeneck, Victoria Arenas, and Katelyn Labhart.
The Aggies return to the court Saturday, playing a pair of matches to close out the tournament. A&M takes on 15th-ranked and former Big 12 Conference foe Iowa State at 10 a.m. and concludes the tournament against host North Dakota at 7 p.m.
Live stats of the matches will be available at AggieAthletics.com. In addition, free live video of the UND match will be available at BigSkyConf.com.
Visit AggieAthletics.com for more information on Texas A&M volleyball. Aggie fans also can keep up to date with the A&M volleyball team on Facebook and on Twitter by following @AggieVolleyball.
Texas A&M Head Coach Laurie Corbelli quotes:
(Overall opinion of the match)
“I was really excited about the team and our performance. I thought the team was super spirited, very prepared and really intense, and it was maybe one of the best performances we’ve ever had to start the season.”
(On so many young players seeing action)
“It was so fun to watch. The young players always bring in a lot of excitement and intensity, and it made it that much more fun to have them loosen up. I was just really happy to see that.”
(On so many players starting for the first time)
“We did have a whole new lineup. It also is a team with a whole new personality. It’s a feisty group, and that is one of the things I love most is that you can see how much they love volleyball and each other, and that makes it a lot of fun. The beauty of it is a lot of them have been in the gym for a year together, so as new as we are together on the competition court, they are really pretty familiar with each other. They are really good friends and they trust each other, and like to play with each other. I just feel like it is a group where the sky is the limit.
“Across the board, everyone had their first game jitters already out and calmed down before we started. Returning starter Allie Sawatzky, I know she is a serious player and she is really intent and a perfectionist, and she was smiling. I know the team looks at her and all setters for their composure. The others that started, you would have never known it was their first start. They took it with such ease. And it was a little bit of cheating because three of them played together at Austin Juniors and won a national title, and they were all in the front row at one time. I thought everyone did a beautiful job for the first match of the season.”
(On the team’s depth)
“We’ve got so much talent in the setting position all the way around. I’m hoping we can really continue to really use all the talent we have. It will just depend a lot on our opponents, what we need and what each player has to contribute both in the attacking area as well as the setting area. We’ve also got a lot of depth at our libero position. We have five outside hitters who can all play left or right. You’ll see Sierra Patrick on the left sometimes this season, and you might sometimes see Hardesty on the right, so we are going to be able to mix things up and make it really hard to scout us.”
(On the team’s 14 aces)
“This may be one of my best serving teams ever. Serving and blocking are two of the easiest ways to score points. The first way you score is with an ace and the second way is with a block, and we are really good at both of those. That is going to take a lot of pressure off of our attack and other aspects of the game.”
(On playing Iowa State tomorrow)
“It was great to start out with South Dakota State, so we got the first match out of our system. We got a good feel for everybody’s game mode, game preparation and team-ness, so now it is really get-down-to-business time against some top teams in the country. North Dakota returns everyone. They are at home and they want to win this tournament. We’ve got so much challenge ahead of us tomorrow from both Iowa State and North Dakota, so tomorrow is when we will really be tested. I have no doubt that we will rise to the occasion with our performance, and I trust my team will be ready to go and they will give it all they have.”
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