Sophomore opposite hitter Sierra Patrick led the Aggies in kills with 20, and sophomore middle blocker Shelby Sullivan was clutch, hitting .556 while tallying a career high 16 kills with only one error. Senior setter Allie Sawatzky also posted double-digit kills with 10 and dished out 47 assists to record her league-leading 14th double-double of the season. Each of the three players hit .333 or above as the Aggies outhit Arkansas, .313 to .236 for the match.
Defensively, Aggie freshman Victoria Arenas had a team-high and career-high 20 digs, and senior Heather Reynolds, playing libero for the first time, added a season-high 16 digs in the winning effort. Redshirt freshman middle blocker Jazzmin Babers had five blocks and Sullivan added four as A&M outblocked the Razorbacks, 10-5.
A&M let a 17-14 lead slip away in the first set as Arkansas outhit the Aggies .362 to .289 to come back and get the win. The Razorbacks managed to tie the score at 18 and again at 19 before a block gave them their first lead since 7-6. Arkansas continued to rally and built its largest lead at 23-20 when A&M called its final timeout.
Sullivan came back from the timeout and got a kill on the slide attack and then teamed with freshman outside hitter Emily Hardesty for a block to cut the lead to 23-22. An Arkansas attack error tied the score at 23-23, but Meredith Hays got a kill to put the Razorbacks at set point. A&M fought off three set points before a kill by Patrick returned the lead to the Aggies, 27-26.
A&M, however was unable to close out the win. The Razorbacks’ Ana Sofia Jusino got a kill to tie the score for the 15th time in the set, and A&M’s next attack sailed long to put Arkansas serving for the set for the fourth time. Breana Jones then finished out the win for the Razorbacks with her fourth kill of the set.
Arkansas overcame a four-point deficit early in the second set, scoring five unanswered points to go up 6-4. The lead would change hands twice before an ace by Arenas gave the Aggies the lead for good at 11-10. Patrick followed with back-to-back kills, and an Arkansas attack error continued a five-point surge that put the Aggies up, 14-10.
Arkansas fought back and got within a point at 18-17 and again at 19-18 before the crafty Sawatzky deceptively set the ball over for a kill. A block by Babers and Patrick and a kill by sophomore outside hitter Angela Lowak gave the Aggies a 22-18 cushion. Hays ended the run with her sixth kill of the frame, but Patrick countered with a kill and Babers and Hardesty followed with a block to put the Aggies at set point. Arkansas, which was outhit, .244 to .140, fought off one set point with a kill before Patrick secured the win with her sixth kill of the set and her 10th of the match.
Although A&M never trailed in the third set, Arkansas did manage to fight back from a 19-14 deficit and get within 21-20. That would be the closest the Razorbacks would get as they fell short of taking a lead. A&M scored back-to-back points on a kill by Sawatzky and a block by Lowak and Babers to go up 23-20. Arkansas then got a kill, but Patrick answered with fifth kill in the stanza to put the Aggies at set point. Patrick, however, then committed consecutive attack errors that allowed Arkansas to get back within a point, 24-23. After an A&M timeout, Hardesty recorded the set winning kill, giving the Aggies a 2-1 lead in the match.
The Maroon and White used a 9-0 run to build a 14-8 lead in the fourth set, but the Razorbacks once again rallied, getting within 17-16. The teams then began trading points before Babers tipped a ball in for a kill and then blasted an overpass to put the Aggies up, 21-18. Patrick’s off-speed kill gave the Aggies a 22-18 lead, but back-to-back attack errors by A&M and an Arkansas ace put the Razorbacks within 22-21.
After an A&M timeout, Patrick strategically placed a kill to the open back corner, and Arkansas’ next attack was wide, putting the Aggies at match point. Although the Razorbacks were outhit, .395 to .132 in the set, they stayed alive as Hays posted her match-high 21st kill to get within 24-22 before Sullivan clinch the victory with a kill down the block.
A&M snapped a two-match losing skid with the win and improved to 11-8 overall and 3-5 in Southeastern Conference matches. Arkansas falls to 13-8, 6-4.
A&M returns to Reed Arena on Sunday to play host to league-leader and 11th-ranked Missouri. First serve against the Tigers, who are 24-0 overall and 8-0 in the SEC, is slated for 1:30 p.m. Fans can get in for only $3 by presenting a ticket from Saturday’s Texas A&M-Vanderbilt football game.
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Texas A&M Head Coach Laurie Corbelli Quotes:
“The things we have really been lacking, a little bit of fortitude in the middle of a set, we might be doing really well and then we let up and made our own errors and shot ourselves in the foot, but it was one of our big goals tonight to not let that happen. I thought there were moments where that was starting to happen. I was really happy to see that they recognized it and could turn it around more often than we have been during this two-week swing that we have been on. It has been really rough.”
(On managing team’s attitude after the first-set loss)
“We knew we really hadn’t gotten going. We were in a new lineup, our [10th] of the year. I saw in their faces that they weren’t pleased with that. We made a pact with them before this match that we were going to do everything in our power to keep positive, reinforcing, enthusiastic coaching so that we could do everything possible to win. We told them to keep their heads up. The things that we have been working on in practice related directly to finishing sets, like points 20 to 25. We told them things like, ‘That one didn’t go our way but the next one will.’ We just had to keep them really positive. Faces have been dropping during sets and at timeouts lately. It’s kind of this feeling of hopelessness at times. We’ve had to be cheerleaders and they have been saying ‘We have to keep our heads up and a positive attitude to get over the hump.’ It’s a long road back. It’s a tough conference and a young team. They get the best of everybody.”
(On moving Heather Reynolds to libero)
“She did a phenomenal job. We just knew we needed to switch something up. I wanted to see more consistency out of the middle-back play. Heather is the most experienced person we have. The others have been brand-new at the middle back. That’s a cornerstone of your defense. Putting her out there allowed her to be out there for every rally, running the defense. She has a lot of confidence. She’s a great competitor. We figured, let’s try it. We have been battling in discussions all year long. We’ve got people that can all play libero. We just decided to try it and make a change. We still get the luxury of [Kelsey] Kinley’s passing and her left-back work. We also get Victoria Arenas’ left-back and passing. However, [Emily] Hardesty is brand-new in the right-back and she was playing all the way around for one of the first times in her career, trying to help this team come off of some losses. That girl is steady and consistent. They were on her all night long. She hung in there. I was really proud of how she handled them coming at her.”
(On what the team takes away from this to prepare for Sunday’s match vs. Missouri)
“This will give us a boost of confidence, the momentum that a win can give you and the belief that you can come from behind and win. We made a lot of adjustments tonight with our blocking. We made adjustments defensively. We made adjustments with [Sierra] Patrick. We were having her on the right to start. We made the switch even though she swung on the left and the right. That kept them having to figure out where she was going to come at them. There’s Shelby Sullivan. I believe we would have been done a long time ago if she had not been playing like this. She was MVP tonight in every sense of the word. She didn’t have her first error until the fourth set. She’s so reliable and so valuable to us. I can count on her every match. She’s going to play hard and play well. I’ve seen her have maybe one off match. That’s phenomenal, especially for a sophomore. I’m almost in awe of that performance.”
(On differences tonight compared to recent matches)
“We just tried to get our outsides really in a rhythm. That’s been one of our difficult things so we’ve relied heavily on middles and rights and our setter attack. They started off the match coming at us in the middle really successfully. They were throwing balls down to the right sideline. We had to find a way to slow that down. I felt like we stayed confident and stayed at it. Allie [Sawatzky] and Heather [Reynolds] did a great job leading the team’s enthusiasm. They told the team, ‘We can do this.’ They gave confidence to the younger players. I thought that was really nice. Being at home also felt good as hard as they perceive it to be because they don’t want to fail in front of their friends, family and fans. I think they are realizing the luxury of being at home and really trying to use that.”
Texas A&M sophomore middle blocker Shelby Sullivan:
(On tonight’s win)
“It felt really good playing here in front of the 12th Man and getting in a rhythm with the team. We started out kind of shaky, but we knew that if we just kept playing with confidence that we would come out on top.”
(On posting a career high in kills)
“It feels amazing. I know that every time I go up and swing that my defense is right behind me covering me. It gives me a lot of confidence to just swing hard and [Allie Sawatzky] always puts up a perfect set up. I know I can trust her and my whole team.”
(On moving forward to Sunday’s match against Missouri)
“We have to take how we played as a team and focus on ourselves, our strengths out of this and just carry them over, carry the momentum and just have even more confidence going into the game on Sunday.”
(On the team’s communication tonight)
“That was one of our strongest points this week in practice. We wanted to make sure we were communicating well and playing as a team. We knew that when we stepped out on the court tonight that we weren’t coming off of it without a win. We knew that on the court.”
(On her serving performance)
“When I serve, I’m going back there to get runs to try to get three or four points every time. We know that whoever gets the most three- or four-point runs is going to win the game. Essentially that’s what we need to do.”