Junior outside hitter Angela Lowak led the Aggie attack with 10 kills while hitting .346. Junior middle blocker Shelby Sullivan added nine kills, and freshman opposite hitter Ashlie Reasor pitched in eight kills.
All three drew a spot in the season-opener starting lineup, along with sophomore outside hitter Emily Hardesty, junior middle blocker Jazzmin Babers and sophomore Kaysie Shebeneck, who was making the first start of her career at the setter position. Sophomore Victoria Arenas was the libero in the opening set for the first time in her young career.
Also seeing action in the match were freshman Stephanie Aiple, who played the setter position for each of the final two sets, as well as sophomore middle blocker Darby Graff and freshman Kiara McGee, who appeared in one set apiece.
The Aggies spotted Iowa three points to start the match, but eventually tied the score at 6-6 following an Iowa attack error. Iowa came back with a kill on the next play before a Lowak kill down the line tied the score for the final time. Shebeneck followed with a solo block to give A&M a lead it would not lose.
The Aggies later held onto a 13-11 lead before they began to pull away. Lowak and Babers posted a block, which began a 5-0 A&M run. The Hawkeyes twice got within three points, the last time coming at 20-17, but they would go scoreless for the remainder of the set.
Sullivan put down back-to-back kills to put A&M ahead, 22-17. Iowa then had a hitting error before Lowak tallied her fourth and fifth kills of the set, hitting high off the block for the set-clinching kill.
A&M, which outhit Iowa, .282 to .109 in the opening set, led the entire second set. With Aiple taking over setting duties to start the second set, the Aggies reeled off strings of points to build their largest lead at 17-8. Iowa got within 17-12 but could not get any closer as the Aggies went on a 4-0 run. A&M, which outhit the Hawkeyes, .433 to .162 in the frame, later equaled its largest lead at 23-14, but a Hawkeye kill and two A&M miscues put Iowa within 23-17. Sullivan quickly dashed the Hawkeyes’ comeback hopes, putting the Maroon and White at set point with a kill down the block. She then teamed with Aiple for a block on the next play to close out the set and give the Aggies a 2-0 lead in the match.
Although A&M managed to tie the score five times early in the third set, Iowa never trailed throughout the first half of the stanza. The Hawkeyes had used a 3-0 run to build their largest lead at 13-10, when A&M charged back, scoring seven unanswered points to take a 17-13 lead. The Aggies later used a 5-1 run to build their largest lead at 23-17. Iowa once again rallied late in the set, getting back-to-back kills and a block to pull within 23-20. After A&M coach Laurie Corbelli called her first and only timeout of the match to regroup the troops, Graff responded with a kill to put A&M at match point. The Hawkeyes fought off one match point with a kill before Graff countered with her fourth kill of the set to close out the match.
Arenas led A&M in digs with 15, and Hardesty added 10. Aiple finished with 25 assists and tied Sullivan and Babers for the team lead in blocks with two. As a team, A&M outhit Iowa, .327 to .174 and led in kills, 45-38. Paced by Lowak’s three aces, A&M also led in aces, 6-2. Both teams posted 43 digs apiece, and Iowa led in blocks, 7-6.
A&M improved to 22-0 in home openers with Corbelli as head coach.
The Aggies return to the court today at 5 p.m. to take on Tulane. A&M closes out the tournament Saturday at 3 p.m. against UTSA.
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Texas A&M Head Coach Laurie Corbelli quotes:
On nerves to start the match…
“I didn’t think it was nerves. There may have been. Iowa did a nice job at the start. They passed really well. Some of those serves we were nailing at them shouldn’t have come up. They really did a nice job in serve receive. Their outsides--it’s a really different style. It’s come at the block, challenge the block all the time, and if you see an opening you go at it fast. We’ve been working on blocking mostly the last week. I know we’ve got athleticism and size. I think that part of our game is going to change more drastically than any part of our game from a spectator standpoint. You’re going to see the block come together, be better timed, and be more volatile.
On the blocks…
“They had a ton of tips that just went right over the block. We didn’t get opportunities to block a lot of the balls. They really like to tip over the block. The ones that I thought were really the hardest we when they do a no-look shot when they were trapped with a block on them and they just go off of you really well. We can learn a lot from that play. We tend to have the first thought of where on the court should I get the kill on the floor. They look at the block as the first opportunity to score. It’s really effective.”
On the two setters, Kaysie Shebeneck and Stephanie Aiple…
“I don’t know if I ever will have a definite decision. It’s fun because they are both so good, and they are both so similar to each other although, they bring different qualities. I am one of the luckiest coaches in the nation, to have a Shebeneck and an Aiple that compete every day in a healthy way. They support each other. They push each other. That’s an ideal situation in a setting world. I’m not worried about settling in on one. I just feel really fortunate.”
On middle blocker Darby Graff…
“Darby did a beautiful job. As you can tell she is a high jump champ. She is a highflier and she’s been working really hard on her position. Getting great position is what middles do. She’s been learning and improving in two-a-days. She is one of our best blockers. It’s really exciting to see her get out there and attack it. She took the opportunity and attacked it. She did and awesome job.”
On the team…
“I like the depth we have in our middle spot. There are four, but boy it’s competitive. They make each other better. They are really competitive. That has helped us improve more in the last three weeks than anything else. They know if they are not competing one day and they’re not pushing, there is someone waiting to stand on the court for them in every single spot. It is a coach’s best friend to have that kind of competition in your gym.”
Junior Outside Hitter Angela Lowak
On having nerves to start the match…
“It’s always nerve-racking a little bit in the beginning with the home crowd and getting out there for the first time. Luckily, we had a chance to get those nerves out in the Maroon and White scrimmage. But, once we were able to do that we let our team flow, and it was a blast. It was nice to see another team on the other side of the court.”
On the two setters…
“They’re both phenomenal setters. I think either one gets the job done. Kaysie brings so much enthusiasm to the court, and Stephanie brings such a competitive side. They both handle the ball phenomenally.”
On things to improve on…
“There so much room for improvement. That is what makes me so excited about this team. Every single day we gradually get better. We’re not starting out really high, so it just makes the upcoming season so exciting. The other team presented a really nice swing, and they were challenging our block. We had to make some adjustments. That is something we will work on in practice, but we responded really well to their runs.”
On if she is the go to person…
“I think it’s just the way things set up today. This, probably, is the best team I’ve ever been a part of. With the whole team attack, you don’t know who the setter is going to set. You don’t know whose night it’s going to be, and that’s what I love about this team. It’s fun for the setters, hard for the other teams especially.