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Volleyball Opens 2013 Season at UND Classic

August 29, 2013
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Courtesy: Texas A&M Athletics
(photo: Texas A&M Athletics)
The Texas A&M volleyball team plays its season opener this weekend as the Aggies compete in the UND Classic, Friday and Saturday at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center in Grand Forks, N.D. A&M, which returns only two starters from last year’s team that went 25-6, won the Southeastern Conference Western Division and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament, opens against the South Dakota State Jackrabbits, Friday at 5 p.m. A&M plays two matches on Saturday, taking on 15th-ranked and former big 12-foe Iowa State at 10 a.m. and concludes the tournament against host North Dakota at 7 p.m.

Live stats of all A&M matches will be available at AggieAthletics.com. Free live video of the Aggies’ match against North Dakota will be available at BigSkyConf.com.

TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE

Friday, August 30
11 a.m.            #15 Iowa State vs. South Dakota State
5 p.m.               Texas A&M vs. South Dakota State
7 p.m.              North Dakota vs. #15 Iowa State

Saturday, August 31
10 a.m.            Texas A&M vs. #15 Iowa State
1 p.m.              North Dakota vs. South Dakota State
7 p.m.              Texas A&M vs. North Dakota

Texas A&M Notes:

·         A&M is 27-10 in season openers since 1976. (Opening-day results are not available for the 1975 season.)

·         The Aggies, who received votes in the AVCA Preseason Top 25 Poll, are 15-5 in season openers since head coach Laurie Corbelli was hired in 1993. In the 2012 opener, A&M won its fourth consecutive season opener and Corbelli notched the 500th victory of her head coaching career and her 400th victory at A&M by defeating Texas State, 3-0, at the Texas A&M Invitational.

·         Corbelli is entering her 21st season at the helm of the Aggies and the 28th year of her head coaching career. She is 524-306 overall and 424-200 at A&M, where she has directed the Aggies to 16 NCAA appearances and 14 20-plus win seasons in the last 20 years.

·         Corbelli returns two starters and eight other letterwinners from last year’s team that won the SEC West with a 16-4 record and was 25-6 overall with a No. 17 final RPI after advancing to the NCAA second round. She also welcomes two redshirt freshmen and four true freshmen.

·         Senior 6-2 setter Allie Sawatzky, who has started every match (92) since joining the Aggies as a freshman in 2010, highlights the list of returners and was named to the 2013 Preseason All-SEC Team. The southpaw received All-America honorable mention distinction last year after directing an Aggie offense that led the SEC and ranked in the top 15 in the nation in both assists (13.53) and kills (14.45) per set in all matches.

·         Sawatzky, who averaged 10.31 assists and 1.82 kills per set in 2012, is making a homecoming of sorts this weekend. The Canadian hails from St. Andrews, Manitoba, which is less than 200 miles from Grand Forks. Many friends and relatives will be making the trek to Grand Forks to see Sawatzky play in person for the first time since she joined the Aggies.

·         Senior outside hitter Heather Reynolds, who started 29 of 31 matches last year as a junior, and senior defensive specialist Kelsey Kinley, who started two matches in place of Reynolds last year, join Sawatzky as the only players on the 16-member roster with starting experience.  Of the remaining seven returning letterwinners, sophomore middle blocker Shelby Sullivan saw the most action last year, appearing in 21 of 31 matches and 55 of 115 sets as a freshman.

·         With the loss of four senior starters and a senior libero from last year, at least three players will draw the first start of their careers when the Aggies open against the Jackrabbits on Friday. Corbelli must replace last year’s starting middle blockers Lindsey Miller, who started every match of her four-year career, and Stephanie Minnerly, outside hitter Tori Mellinger, opposite hitter Alisia Kastmo and libero Megan Pendergast. Both Miller and Kastmo earned AVCA All-America honorable mention in 2012.

·         Other returners include seniors Ashley Vrana (OH), and Mariah Agre (S), junior defensive specialist Hannah Hood, sophomores Angela Lowak (OH), Sierra Patrick (OH) and Shelbi Vaughan (OH/MB).  Jazzmin Babers and Darby Graff, both 6-1 middle blockers, are redshirt freshmen after training with the team in 2012 but not appearing in a match.

·         The freshman class consists of four players, including libero Victoria Arenas, who graduated high school early and began training with the Aggies in January. Emily Hardesty (OH/OPP), Katelyn Labhart (DS) and Kaysie Shebeneck (S) round out the group of freshmen newcomers.

·         In addition to head coach Laurie Corbelli, associate head coach John Corbelli and assistant coach Steve Greene, there will be two other familiar faces who have joined the staff, as well as one new face on the coaching staff. Lindsey Miller, a four-year starting middle blocker who earned AVCA All-America honorable mention last year as a senior, has been hired as the team’s director of operations. Megan Pendergast, A&M’s designated libero the last two years, is serving as a student assistant coach, and Zheng Xiang, a former assistant coach at Texas-San Antonio, has joined the staff as a volunteer coach.

·         Setter Allie Sawatzky enters the season ranked fourth in the A&M career records with 3,440 assists. She needs 454 assists to move into a tie for third with Yvonne Van Brandt, who posted 3,894 assists from 1986-89.

·         Eleven of A&M’s 29 regular season matches will be against teams that appeared in the 2012 NCAA Championship, including Final Four participant Michigan at the Texas A&M Invitational on Sept. 13.

·         A&M, the 2012 SEC Western Division Champion, was picked to win the SEC West again this year, along with LSU, according to a preseason vote of the league’s head coaches. However, in a meeting held in late August, the SEC athletics directors passed a measure, effective immediately, to recognize and award divisional champions in the sports of football and baseball only.

SCOUTING THE OPPONENTS

·         South Dakota State, a member of the Summit League, returns two starters and five other letterwinners from last year’s team that went 16-13.

·         Senior 5-9 setter Lexi Fowler started all 29 matches and played in all 116 sets last year. Fowler averaged 5.79 assists per set and led the team with 11 double-doubles. Junior 6-0 outside hitter Margit Hansing started 27 matches and played in 113 sets, averaging 1.80 kills and 3.25 digs per set.

·         Phil McDaniel (Culver-Stockton, 1996) is in his third season as head coach of the Jackrabbits.

·         Assistant coach Angela Mooney played against the Aggies during her collegiate career at Texas Tech (2000-03), and graduate assistant Kuulei Kabalis-Bianconi played libero at Kansas State in 2011-12.

 

·         Iowa State, ranked No. 15 in the AVCA preseason Top 25 Poll, returns three starters plus the libero from last year’s team that went 22-8, advanced to the NCAA regional semifinals and was No. 14 in the final poll.

·         Highlighting the list of 12 returning players is senior libero Kristen Hahn, a two-time Big 12 Libero of the Year and a 2012 All-America Second Team selection after averaging 5.44 digs per set.

·         Junior Victoria Hurtt, a 6-2 junior outside hitter, earned AVCA All-America Honorable mention in 2012 after averaging a team-leading 3.03 kills per set. Sophomores Mackenzie Bigbee, a 6-1 right-side hitter who averaged 2.77 kills per set, and 6-2 setter/outside hitter Andie Malloy, who averaged 1.97 kills per set, were both named to the All-Big 12 Freshman Team in 2012, with Bigbee also earning AVCA Central Region Freshman of the Year and Big 12 Freshman of the Year laurels. 

·         Aggie freshman setter Kaysie Shebeneck and Cyclone freshman Ciara Capezio were teammates at two-time state-champion Burlington High School in Burlington, Wis., as well on the Milwaukee Sting volleyball club team.

·         Christy Johnson-Lynch (Nebraska, ‘96) is 172-81 entering the ninth season of her head coaching career, all at Iowa State. Her husband, Joe Lynch, is a volunteer assistant coach.

 

·         North Dakota returns all six starters plus the libero from last year’s team that went 15-17.

·         Junior outside hitter Lexi Robinson (3.28 kps) and senior middle blocker Ronni Munkeby (3.01 kps) were UND’s kill leaders last year, with Munkeby also averaging a team-leading 0.98 blocks per set.

·         Ashley Hardee (East Carolina, ‘00) is 88-33 (.727) entering his fifth season as a head coach, all at UND.

ALL-TIME SERIES RECORDS

·         Texas A&M and South Dakota State will be meeting for the first time.

·         A&M holds a 25-10 lead in the all-time series against Iowa State. During A&M’s 16-year stint as a member of the Big 12 Conference, the Aggies sported a 23-9 record against the Cyclones in conference matches, winning the first 20 matches as league foes. ISU had the upper hand in A&M’s final six years in the league, going 9-3 against A&M during that span. A&M, however, did win the most recent meeting, a 10-25, 25-22, 25-20, 25-16 victory at 16th-ranked ISU in A&M’s final Big 12 match on Nov. 26, 2011. The victory snapped A&M’s five-match losing skid against the Cyclones.

·         A&M is 1-0 in against North Dakota. The teams met for the first time last year at the Texas A&M Invitational, where the Aggies defeated UND, 25-21, 25-14, 25-16, at Reed Arena on Aug. 25.

UPCOMING SCHEDULE

The Aggies will compete in the UTSA Classic, Thursday-Friday, Sept. 5-6, at the Convocation Center in San Antonio. A&M plays two matches on Sept. 5, opening against Loyola Marymount at 10:30 a.m. The Aggies then face Lamar at 7 p.m. on Thursday, and close out the tournament on Friday against host UTSA at 7 p.m.

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