Aggies win home debut for Laura 'Bird' Kuhn during A&M Invitational

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COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Texas A&M opened the home portion of its season schedule with a 25-20, 25-18, 25-22 victory over Pepperdine tonight, giving Aggie first-year head coach Laura "Bird" Kuhn a win in her official debut at Reed Arena.

A&M (5-2) used a balanced attack, with junior outside hitter Hollann Hans leading the way with nine kills. Sophomore setter Camille Conner, who dished out 23 assists, also got into an offensive mode and posted a season-high eight kills while hitting at a .667 clip. Freshman middle blocker London Austin-Roark pitched in seven kills while hitting .429, and three other players had three or more kills as the Aggies led the Waves in kills, 35-30, and outhit Pepperdine, .227 to .069.

A&M senior libero Amy Houser led A&M in digs with eight, and freshmen defensive specialists Allison Fields, Sydney Little and Taylor Voss also pitched in as A&M outdug Pepperdine, 40-32. Austin-Roark took match-high honors in blocks with four as A&M outblocked the Waves, 7-3.

Freshman outside hitter Rachel Ahrens led the Waves with seven kills but hit .095. With the loss, Pepperdine had its three-match win streak snapped and falls to 4-3.

In the opening match of the Texas A&M Invitational, Missouri State cruised to a 25-8, 25-13, 25-12 victory over Nicholls State University.

SET-BY-SET SUMMARIES

Set 1 – The Waves built their largest lead at 13-10 before back-to-back kills by Conner, a Pepperdine attack error and an ace by freshman defensive specialist Taylor Voss gave the Aggies a 14-13 advantage. The teams briefly traded points until, with the score tied at 15-15, Hans put A&M on top for good with a kill. She then stepped to the service line and delivered one of her three aces on the night.

The Aggies went on to build a 20-16 lead, but the Waves later got within 22-20 following two consecutive A&M attack errors. Pepperdine, which was outhit, .280 to .059, could get no closer, as the Waves served into the net and then hit wide to put A&M at set point. Conner closed out the frame with her third kill.
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Set 2 – There were 14 ties and seven lead changes in the second set. Pepperdine, which led by as many as three points early in the stanza, was up, 11-10, before a Hans kill started a 3-0 run by the Aggies. Pepperdine later retook the lead and was up, 16-15, when Austin-Roark tipped the ball in for a kill and Hans ripped a kill from the back row to regain the lead for A&M. Pepperdine, which was outhit, .171 to .000, countered with a kill to tie the score for the final time, but a hitting error returned the lead to A&M. Conner followed with a kill and then teamed with freshman middle blocker Mallory Talbert for a block during a 4-0 A&M run that put the Aggies up, 21-17. An attack error returned serve to Pepperdine and put the Waves within 21-18 before senior outside hitter Brookah Palmer and Talbert had back-to-back kills. A Pepperdine attack error put the Aggies at set point, and Palmer clinched the 25-18 win with an ace, giving A&M a 2-0 lead in the match.
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Set 3 – Pepperdine took its largest lead of the match by jumping out to a 7-2 advantage, but A&M raced back, using an 8-2 run to take a 10-9 lead. Pepperdine would regain the lead and was up 13-12 before Hans and Conner had consecutive kills. Pepperdine tied the score for the final time at 14-14 before Austin-Roark and sophomore opposite hitter Morgan Davis recorded back-to-back kills. It was the start of a 9-2 run that put the Aggies ahead, 23-16. Pepperdine, which was outhit, .250 to .185, made a late charge and got within 23-20 before Davis and Talbert combined for a block to put A&M at match point. The Waves staved off two points, putting down an A&M overpass for a kill and then acing the Aggies to get within 24-22 before Talbert posted her third kill of the night to cap the victory for A&M.

UP NEXT
The Aggies play two matches on Friday, taking on Nicholls at 10 a.m. and closing out the tournament against Missouri State at 7 p.m.

TEXAS A&M QUOTES
Head Coach Laura "Bird" Kuhn

Opening Statement…
"I think that was solid for our opening match. I mean a 3-0 win anytime is execution, and we know we were up and down and sloppy on some points. [Pepperdine] is a very good offensive team, and coming into this we knew it was going to be a battle. Our team shows up and executes against a game plan and it just changes the mood of the game."

On first home win as A&M head coach…
"The funny thing is I wasn't even thinking out it. Melissa Stokes, the Missouri State head coach, talked to me before the match and was like 'this is going to be exciting; it will be your first home win.' I honestly didn't even think about that. I think I am just so into our team and the way they are feeling and just executing that. I mean that stuff is cool, but it is more about what we are doing as a group. It is definitely special."

Senior Libero Amy Houser
On the defense…
"Our defense was really balanced tonight. We had a ton of people contributing, and this past week we just worked on going against no block and going with a block and just digging balls, getting down and getting underneath balls, and I think that it showed today."

On the first home game…
"We had an awesome crowd tonight, and it was just fun feeling the energy, kind of feeding off of that. I know we have fun together when we are on the court, and so just having people behind us supporting us just makes it that much more fun."

Visit 12thMan.com for more information on Texas A&M volleyball. Aggie fans also can keep up to date with the team on Facebook and on Twitter and Instagram by following @AggieVolleyball.