COLLEGE STATION, Texas. - Texas A&M took over sole possession of first place in the Southeastern Conference Western Division with a commanding 25-12, 25-16, 25-16 victory over South Carolina in a televised match played in front of 1,318 pink-clad fans at Reed Arena.
A&M improved to 13-2 overall and 5-1 in the SEC, breaking away from a tie with Arkansas (13-4, 4-2 SEC) for first place in the league following the Razorbacks' 3-0 loss at No. 11 Florida earlier tonight.
South Carolina suffered its fifth consecutive loss and dropped to 13-5 overall and 2-5 in SEC play.
Junior setter Allie Sawatzky dished out 33 assists and directed the Aggies to a .364 to .078 hitting advantage. Aggie senior middle blocker Lindsey Miller led all players with 12 kills while hitting .500, and senior opposite Alisia Kastmo also posted double figures in kills with 10 to help lead the Aggies to a 48-26 advantage in kills.
Other than a 3-3 tie, A&M led the entire first set. A kill by senior Tori Mellinger broke the tie and sparked 9-1 run by the Aggies. A&M continued to widen the gap, building an 18-8 lead following a kill by senior middle blocker Stephanie Minnerly, who finished the match with six kills and a 714 hitting efficiency.
The Gamecocks got within 19-12 before A&M used a 6-0 run, getting kills from four different players, to close out the set. Mellinger clinched the win with her fourth kill of the frame.
South Carolina, which was outhit, .400 to .111 in the first set, built a 4-1 lead to begin the second set. A&M would tie the score three times before taking the lead at 7-6 on a South Carolina attack error. The point was part of a 5-0 run by the Aggies, who continued to score in bunches while building a 22-13 lead. South Carolina, which scored three consecutive points only twice in the match, got within 22-16 on three straight Aggie errors, but a kill by Mellinger, an ace by Kastmo and an attack error by the Gamecocks, who were outhit .424 to .091, closed out the set and gave the Aggies a 2-0 lead in the match.
Corbelli nearly emptied her bench in the final set as 13 players saw action and helped the Aggies complete the sweep. South Carolina tied the score six times early in the set but was unable to ever take a lead. The score was knotted for the final time at 7-7 when South Carolina, which was outhit .278 to .033 in the set, committed an attack error. Freshman middle blocker Shelby Sullivan followed with a kill, and the Aggies continued to pull away. Leading 20-15, freshman outside hitter Shelbi Vaughan pounded a kill through the block, and Miller teamed with freshman right-side Sierra Patrick for a block. Miller then posted her match-high 12th kill before combining with Patrick for another block that put the Aggies at set point, 24-15. South Carolina tooled a kill off the block before Vaughan sealed the victory with her second kill.
A&M returns to Reed on Sunday for another televised SEC match as the Aggies take on Mississippi State and freshman defensive dynamo Roxanne McVey (6.29 digs per set) for the first time in program history. First serve is slated for 3 p.m.
A&M Post-Match Quotes:
Head Coach Laurie Corbelli:
"I was really pleased with our execution overall. I didn't think there was a part of our game that was sub-par for how we've been playing in practice and how we've been performing in matches. It just feels like the team has gotten into a nice rhythm and kind of on a roll. I'm really pleased with the way they prepared themselves for tonight's match.
(On A&M's defensive effort)
We work a lot on our defense and we've been working a lot on our block to take more responsibility at the net and to help the floor defense. I think we still have a ways to go. I know they work very hard at that and I see the improvement so I know our work is paying off. Still, I think that's an area of our game that we have to continue to improve in. It keeps us motivated and keeps us working hard in practice.
(On the upcoming
match against Mississippi State)
Mississippi State's record shows they are having a hard time putting it all together at match time, but individually they have a very strong group. They have some amazing athletes that are jumping very high, some higher than anyone else we've played against. We just have to be really prepared for what we are expecting to see and what we need to do against them. We need to be ready to compete hard. We've really been focusing on trusting each other. That's been a big focus for us. It has really helped smooth some of the rough edges of our game and it's been fun as a coach to see that."
number of kills)
"It was just a matter of really seeing the block and trusting that (Allie Sawatzky) was going to set me up for something like that. It's half her job to be a threat so that the block is confused and doesn't know who is going to swing. I think everyone was so threatening offensively that it caused a lot of holes to appear because the blocker didn't know who to be on or when to be where. It was definitely a combination of everyone just hitting so well that it caused a lot of holes for everybody."
"I feel like the passing was great today and that everyone was hitting and being aggressive. I didn't need to pick someone to set; I could set everyone and I knew they would all do their jobs."