A&M snapped its three-match losing skid and improves to 16-5 overall and 8-4 in the Southeastern Conference to remain tied with Arkansas for first place in the SEC Western Division.
Seven-time defending Western Division champion LSU, currently in third place in the Western Division, falls to 9-13 overall and 5-8 in the SEC.
The early part of the opening set was filled with long rallies with both teams displaying scrappy defensive saves. The Aggies eventually pulled away for a 7-3 lead, but LSU later went on a 9-2 run to overtake the lead and go up 15-11 at the media timeout. Kastmo came back from the timeout and put down a cross-court shot that sparked a three-point run for the Aggies. LSU's Kati Leak ended the run with a kill, but Heather Reynolds' roll shot fell to the ground to put A&M within 16-15. LSU's next attack sailed long, and then Reynolds put down her fourth kill to return the lead to the Aggies.
A&M, which outhit the Tigers .213 to .089 in the set, later led 22-20 when Sawatzky connected on a kill and LSU hit wide to put the Aggies at set point. Tori Mellinger then blasted a kill down the line to give the Aggies the 25-20 victory.
A&M spotted the Tigers a 4-0 lead to start the second set, but the Aggies would later use a 5-0 run, taking advantage of LSU errors to take their first lead at 12-11. A sharp-angle kill by Mellinger, another attack error by LSU and a Kastmo kill down the Tiger block gave the Aggies their biggest lead at 15-12, but it was short-lived. LSU countered with four consecutive kills and a block to go up 17-15. A back-row kill by Kastmo ended another long rally and tied the score for the final time at 18-18, but A&M was unable to take the lead as LSU scored the next three points and kept the lead for the remainder of the frame. The Tigers stretched the lead to 24-20, and A&M fought off two set points before Madie Jones put down a kill that gave LSU the 25-22 win to even the match at a set apiece.
The third set was tied at 3-3 when Sawatzky and Miller took over, spurring the Aggies on an 8-1 run. Miller tallied three kills during the rally and Sawatzky recorded two of her set-leading six kills, and the two also combined for a block during the surge. The Aggies, who outhit the Tigers .324 to .024 in the set, continued to find the floor with their attacks while thwarting the LSU offense with tough serving and four total blocks in the set.
LSU used a three-point run to get within 18-11 but would go scoreless for the remainder of the set. The Tigers served into the net, sending Kastmo to the service line. The Tyler, Texas, native served two of her career-high four aces, and with Sawatzky and Miller controlling the net, Kastmo served out the set as A&M held the Tigers to their fewest points in a 25-point set this season.
A&M carried the momentum into the fourth set, jumping out to a commanding 14-4 lead. The Aggies built their largest lead at 23-12 when LSU posted three consecutive kills to get within 23-15. LSU hit long on the next play to put the Aggies at match point. The Tigers got a block before freshman middle blocker Shelby Sullivan got a kill to end the match.
Sawatzky finished the match with 10 kills and no errors for a .476 hitting percentage. She also had 42 assists and tied her season high with four blocks. Miller, who had 12 kills and zero errors for a .480 hitting efficiency, led all players with six blocks as A&M outblocked the Tigers, 10-6.
Libero Megan Pendergast led the Aggies with 21 digs, and Mellinger added 19. Kastmo added 13 digs to complete her sixth double-double, and Heather Reynolds, whose two aces helped A&M to a 7-1 advantage in service aces, finished with 11 digs.
Desiree Elliott led the Tigers with 22 kills while hitting at a .390 clip. Libero Meghan Mannari led all players with 23 digs.
A&M continues its road swing, taking on South Carolina Sunday in Columbia. First serve is at 12:30 p.m. (1:30 ET) at the Volleyball Competition Facility. A&M is 3-0 in the all-time series against the Gamecocks, including a 3-0 sweep in College Station earlier this season.
Live video will be available on 12thMan.TV to premium subscribers. A free audio webcast of the match also will be available on 12thMan.TV with Chelsea Reber and Kelly Stumph calling the action.
Texas A&M Post-Match Quotes
Coach Laurie Corbelli:
(On setter Ally Sawatzky)
After a little bit of a slow start, she really started to work some of the shots she has been working on and did it more confidently as the match went on. She can't do her thing nearly as effectively without a good, quality pass. Early in the match, our passing and our first touch was not the quality we are used to, and it puts a lot of pressure on her and our hitters. Once the passing started to come through and the defense started to come through, she just got confidence with each touch and was really, really phenomenal and lots of fun to watch play.
(On the overall difference in the match)
I really thought our serving to start the match was very passive, and they were in system. They were able to get the ball to their middles, who were unbelievably unstoppable for us; 9-for-9 at one point for (Desiree Elliott) and that really makes it difficult when they are in system all of the time. We just kept plugging away on our serving and tried to get them a little bit more shaken up in their offense. Then I think also our passing started to clean up a little bit. They were really pushing us back deep in the court, and we weren't doing a good job of pushing the ball up to the net for Sawatzky. Once we settled down and got those two parts of our game going, I thought that made all the difference.
(On the other players that stood out)
Alisia Kastmo was again one of the most unstoppable attackers in the SEC. She just has such a high reach and such a sharp angled attack that no one can seem to figure out how to defend her. I thought Lindsey Miller had an awesome night. She was just quick on the ball. She was dynamic in her approaches and great blocking. She was getting across the net nicely. And I thought Pendergast did a good job with her defensive effort.
(On the importance on winning this match)
This win on the road, for us it was important after three losses to get back into the win column and get our confidence back and mostly get back our rhythm and propel us through the rest of the weekend as well as next weekend. We really have to play some great volleyball. This was important in our confidence building and just in our team vibe and rhythm.
(On winning the last two sets so convincingly)
We started serving shorter and it was really hard for them to get the ball to their middles. It was really enjoyable to see us on a roll. We made the adjustments we needed to make to stop what they were doing that was effective against us in set 2. So when the team responded the way they did and were effective with so many of their different touches, from the defensive touches to our offensive off-speed work and our serving especially, it all came together. It was really fun.
REMINDER: Texas A&M volleyball coach Laurie Corbelli invites fans to join her at "Lunch with Laurie," Tuesday, Nov. 13.
The final luncheon of the season will be from noon-1 p.m. in the volleyball practice gym at Reed Arena and will include a meal, video highlights and commentary from Corbelli as well as players depending on class schedules.
In addition, those purchasing a lunch ticket will automatically be entered to win a Texas A&M volleyball jersey autographed by the team. The drawing will be held at the conclusion of the luncheon.
Free parking is available in lot 100g at Reed, and fans should enter Reed through the main entrance facing Olsen Blvd. and follow signs to the practice gym.
Cost is $10 per person at the door (cash or check only), and reservations must be made by Tuesday, Nov. 6 by contacting Kelly Stumph at email@example.com.
For more information, please contact Kelly Stumph at firstname.lastname@example.org or 979-862-3925.