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Texas A&M Concludes Road Schedule at No. 16 Kentucky, Georgia

November 21, 2013
Courtesy: Texas A&M Athletics
(photo: Texas A&M Athletics)

Texas A&M (16-10, 8-7 SEC) vs. #16 Kentucky (20-6, 12-3 SEC)
Friday, Nov. 22, 2013,
7 p.m. (6 p.m. CT), Memorial Coliseum
Lexington, Kentucky

Texas A&M vs. Georgia (20-8, 10-6 SEC)
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013
1:30 p.m. (12:30 p.m. CT), Ramsey Center
Athens, Georgia

Texas A&M (16-10, 8-7 SEC) closes out the road portion of its regular-season schedule this weekend with a pair of crucial matches at No. 16 Kentucky and Georgia. The Aggies, who have improved their NCAA tournament chances by winning their last five matches, face the Wildcats, Friday at 7 p.m. (6 p.m. CT) at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Ky., and then meet the Georgia Bulldogs Sunday at 1:30 p.m. (12:30 p.m. CT) at the Ramsey Center in Athens, Ga.

A&M won five matches over 10 days to improve to 16-10 overall and 8-7 in SEC matches, climbing into a tie with Auburn for sixth place in the conference standings. The Aggies won their last three matches in sweeps, defeating rival LSU in Baton Rouge on Wednesday, Nov. 13, and blanking both Tennessee and Auburn last Friday and Sunday, respectively, at Reed Arena in College Station.

Kentucky is 20-6 overall -- including 12-1 in home matches -- and in third place in the SEC with a 12-3 league mark. The Wildcats, who moved up one spot to No. 16 in the most recent AVCA Top 25, are riding a four-match win streak after defeating both Mississippi State and Ole Miss on the road last weekend.

Georgia is 20-8 overall and 10-6 in league matches, good for fourth place in the SEC. The Bulldogs, who have a bye on Friday, have won their last three matches, including road wins at Ole Miss and Mississippi State last weekend.

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Texas A&M concludes the regular season with a home match against South Carolina, Wednesday, Nov. 27 at 4 p.m. at Reed Arena. It will be “Senior Day,” and A&M seniors Mariah Agre, Kelsey Kinley, Heather Reynolds, Allie Sawatzky and Ashley Vrana will be honored following the match. It also will be “12th Man Appreciation Day” and all A&M students will be admitted free.


Senior setter Allie Sawatzky directed Texas A&M to its second highest hitting percentage of the season as the Aggies outhit Tennessee, .413 to .172, in a 25-17, 25-14, 25-10 victory Friday at Reed Arena. The 6-2 lefty led all players with 12 kills while hitting .550 and also dished out 29 assists to record her SEC-leading 17th double-double of the season. Senior libero Heather Reynolds led the Aggies with 13 digs, and freshman Victoria Arenas pitched in 11. Senior Mariah Agre also had double-figure digs with 10 and served a career-high five aces as A&M also had its second highest ace output of the season with nine. A&M sophomore middle blocker Shelby Sullivan had nine kills while hitting at a .562 clip and contributed three aces and two blocks to take match-high honors with 13 points.

A&M continued its win streak on Sunday as middle blocker Jazzmin Babers posted match highs with 10 kills and nine blocks to lead the Aggies to a 25-19, 28-26, 25-17 victory over Auburn at Reed. Babers finished with a career-high and match-high 15 points. The redshirt freshman was the only player to post double figures in kills, tying her career high with 10 while hitting .529. She also tied the team season high for blocks in a three-set match with nine. As a team, A&M finished with a three-set season-high 13 blocks, while Auburn posted four blocks. Sawatzky dished out 33 assists, and Reynolds had a match-high 16 digs, and A&M outhit Auburn, .308 to .148, for the match

·         Texas A&M is 35th in the NCAA Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) with three matches remaining. The RPI is a major criterion in determining the 64-team NCAA tournament. Last year, Loyola Marymount received an at-large bid with a No. 48 RPI, the lowest RPI to receive an at-large berth. Kentucky is ninth and Georgia is 31st in the latest RPI listing, released Monday.

·         Texas A&M ranks third in the SEC and 16th in the nation in both kills (14.41) and assists (13.41) per set.

·         A&M is fourth in the conference in hitting percentage (.256) and fifth in digs per set (15.86).

·         In SEC matches only, A&M ranks third with 14.30 kills and 13.32 assists per set and is fourth in both hitting percentage (.270) and blocks per set (2.33).

·         A&M has a balanced attack with five starters each averaging more than 2.50 points per set in all matches, as well as in SEC matches only. With her consistent strong play over the last several weeks, sophomore middle blocker Shelby Sullivan has steadily climbed the ranks and has now overtaken the team lead with 3.56 points per set for the full season and 3.92 points per set in SEC matches only. Sophomore outside hitters Angela Lowak and Sierra Patrick are averaging 3.29 and 3.27 points per set, respectively, in all matches, while redshirt freshman middle blocker Jazzmin Babers (2.69 pps) and senior lefty setter Allie Sawatzky (2.60 pps) round out the top five scorers.

·         A&M has used 12 different starting lineups in 26 matches and 13 different lineups when considering the designated libero. Only setter Allie Sawatzky and middle blockers Shelby Sullivan and Jazzmin Babers have started every match. They also are the only three who have played in all 93 sets.

·         In the season opener against South Dakota State, five of six A&M players were making the first start of their collegiate careers, including two freshmen:  Emily Hardesty and Jazzmin Babers at outside hitter and middle blocker, respectively. Senior setter Allie Sawatzky was the only upperclassman in the lineup, as sophomore outside hitters Angela Lowak and Sierra Patrick and sophomore middle blocker Shelby Sullivan also drew their first career starts.

·         Sophomores and freshmen have accounted for 81 percent of A&M’s total kills (1081 of 1340) and 80 percent of the team’s total points (1323 of 1661.5). In addition, the underclassmen are responsible for 96 percent or 45 of 47 of the team’s solo blocks and 290 of 335 (87 percent) of the team’s block assists.

·         Six of A&M’s losses have been to ranked opponents. The Aggies, who lead the SEC with seven matches against Top 25 opponents, are 1-6 against ranked foes, defeating Florida State, 3-0, and falling to No. 7 Michigan, 3-2, No. 15 Iowa State, 3-1, and No. 11 Missouri and No. 22 Colorado State, 3-0. A&M also fell to third-ranked Florida, 3-0, in Gainesville and then lost to the No. 5 Gators, 3-2, in College Station.

·         Texas A&M won two of three pre-conference tournaments, winning the UTSA Classic with a 3-0 mark and winning its own Texas A&M Invitational. The Aggies, No. 7 Michigan and No. 16 Florida State all finished with 2-1 records in College Station, but A&M was awarded the trophy based on the sets won-lost ratio tiebreaker. A&M placed second at the season-opening UND Classic, won by No. 15 Iowa State.

·         Eleven of A&M’s 29 scheduled matches will be against teams that appeared in the 2012 NCAA Championship, including Michigan and Florida State, who reached the Final Four in 2012 and 2011, respectively. A&M is currently 4-6 against last year’s NCAA tournament teams.

·         Texas A&M head coach Laurie Corbelli returns two starters -- setter Allie Sawatzky and outside hitter Heather Reynolds, who is a defensive specialist this year -- 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, where the Aggies fell to eventual national champion Texas. Corbelli also welcomes two redshirt freshmen and four true freshmen.

·         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.

·         Senior setter Allie Sawatzky leads the SEC with six triple-doubles. Arkansas setter Raymariely Santos has one triple-double and is the only other SEC player to register a triple-double this season. Sawatzky is tied for first in the league with 17 double-doubles for the full season.

·         Sawatzky, a 6-2 lefty who averages 10.03 assists and also accounts for 15 percent of A&M’s total kills with 205 overall (2.20 kills per set), has recorded 10 or more kills 12 times this season. She is hitting a combined .456 when posting 10 or more kills.

·         Sawatzky is second on the team and 14th in the SEC with a .321 hitting percentage. She hit a career-high .714 (minimum 10 kills) with 10 kills, 0 errors in 14 attempts in the sweep against Mississippi State on Oct. 11, equaling the 10th best individual hitting percentage in program history when taking 10-14 swings in a match. Sawatzky is hitting .336 in SEC matches only, ranking eighth in the league.

·         Sawatzky has started every match of her career (118) at setter and has played in 434 of 437 total sets during her career. She moved into third place in A&M career assists records on Oct. 6 at South Carolina, surpassing Yvonne Van Brandt, who had 3,894 assists from 1986-89. Sawatzky, who now has 4,373 career assists, also ranks 10th in the career records with 897 points.

·         Middle blocker Shelby Sullivan is second in the SEC with a .468 hitting percentage in conference matches only. She also is listed eighth in the league with 3.92 points per set in SEC matches and ranks 11th with 3.15 kills per set in conference matches only. Sullivan has posted double-figure kills in eight conference contests and is hitting an impressive .519 when posting 10-plus kills in SEC matches.

·         Sullivan hit a career-high .682 (16k-0e-22ta) against Missouri, ranking eighth in the A&M single match records when making 20 or more attack attempts. Sullivan is sixth in the SEC and 35th in the nation with a .386 hitting percentage for the full season.

·         Jazzmin Babers was named the SEC Freshman Player of the Week on Monday after hitting .444 and averaging 1.33 blocks, 2.11 kills and 2.83 points per set as A&M swept LSU, Tennessee and Auburn. The 6-2 middle blocker led all players and tied her career high with 10 kills while hitting .529 in the 3-0 victory against Auburn in A&M’s most recent outing. She also posted a match-high nine blocks. This marks the second time Babers has received a weekly conference award, having also been named SEC Defensive Player of the Week in September.

·         Babers is second in the SEC and 50th in the nation with 1.27 blocks per set for the full season. Babers, who is fifth in the SEC with 1.30 blocks per set in league matches only, has recorded nine or more blocks in a match four times this season. She is coming off a nine-block performance against Auburn, the second time she has posted nine blocks in a three-set match.

·         Babers had a career-high 11 blocks against No. 7 Michigan on Sept. 13. It is the most blocks by an A&M freshman since Melissa Munsch collected 13 against Colorado on Oct. 24, 2001.

·         Sophomores Angela Lowak and Sierra Patrick have each posted double-figure kills in a team-best 13 matches. Lowak leads the team and is 16th in the conference with 3.00 kills per set in all matches. Patrick, who has seen action on both the left and right sides, is second on the team and 17th in the SEC with 2.95 kills per set for the full season, and the duo is 17th and 18th, respectively, in the league in points per set for the full season, with Lowak averaging 3.29 points and Patrick averaging 3.27.

·         Patrick, a two-time all-tournament selection in 2013, has posted 20 or more kills in a team-leading four matches this season. Lowak, also a two time all-tournament selection, had a career-high 21 kills against Loyola Marymount.

·         Senior setter/defensive specialist Mariah Agre leads the team and jumped to second place in the SEC with 0.34 aces per set for the full season after posting a career-high five aces in the sweep against Tennessee. Agre is fifth in the league with 0.35 aces per set in conference matches only.

·         Senior Heather Reynolds was the designated libero for the first time in her career against Arkansas on Oct. 25 and has now been the libero in each of the last eight matches. She has tallied double-figure digs in seven of the eight matches, including a match-high and season-high 18 digs against No. 5 Florida on Nov. 3. Overall, Reynolds has posted double-digit digs in 10 matches this season, including in each of the last six matches, and now ranks 14th in the league with 3.06 digs per set in SEC matches only.

·         Senior Kelsey Kinley, the libero in the first 18 matches of the season, leads the Aggies and ranks 11th in the SEC with 3.26 digs per set. The College Station native has tallied 10 or more digs in a team-leading 16 matches, including a career-high and team season-high 23 in a 3-1 victory at UTSA. Kinley has taken or tied for team-high honors in digs in 12 matches overall.

·         Freshman Victoria Arenas made her A&M libero debut in the third set against South Carolina on Oct. 6. For the first point of the set, Arenas dug a hard-driven ball that then went over the net and fell in untouched for a kill. It was the first kill of her A&M career. Arenas, who has been a defensive specialist for all but the two sets she played libero, has appeared in 22 matches overall -- starting eight -- and in 67 sets. She had a career-high 20 digs in the 3-1 win against Arkansas on Oct. 25 and is currently third on the team with 2.37 digs per set in SEC matches.

·         Redshirt freshman middle blocker Jazzmin Babers has started every match this season and is one of four freshmen on the team to start a match. Outside hitter/opposite hitter Emily Hardesty has started 12 matches, and defensive specialist/libero Victoria Arenas has started eight. In addition, setter/opposite hitter Kaysie Shebeneck has started five matches. Arenas, Babers and Shebeneck all started against Michigan, marking the first time A&M had three freshmen in the starting lineup this season. The same trio has now appeared in the starting lineup three times overall.

·         Kentucky is 20-6 overall and in third place in the SEC with a 12-3 ledger after winning its last four matches.

·         The Wildcats are 12-1 in home matches with the only loss being a 3-0 setback to Pepperdine on Sept. 13. Kentucky is 6-0 in home conference contests.

·         Kentucky moved up one spot to No. 16 in this week’s AVCA Top 25. The Wildcats are No. 9 in the most recent NCAA Ratings Percentage Index (RPI).

·         Senior Alexandra Morgan is the SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Week after averaging 2.83 blocks per set in sweeps at Mississippi State and Ole Miss last week.  The 6-2 middle blocker, who is third in the league with a .394 hitting percentage for the full season, also averaged 2.17 kills while hitting .419 and averaged 4.00 points per set.

·         Senior 6-2 outside hitter Whitney Billings, a 2012 second-team All-American, leads the team and is sixth in the SEC with both 3.51 kills and 4.19 points per set.

·         As a team, Kentucky is outhitting opponents .255 to .178 for the full season and .279 to .174 in SEC matches only. The Wildcats are third in the league with 2.66 blocks per set in all matches.

·         Ninth-year Kentucky head coach Craig Skinner recorded his 200th career victory in the win at Ole Miss on Sunday and is 200-82.

·         Georgia has won five of its last six matches and is 20-8 overall and 10-6 in SEC matches. The Bulldogs enter the match against the Aggies riding a three-match win streak.

·         Georgia is outhitting its opponents .239 to .195 for the full season but is being outhit .218 to .215 in SEC matches only.

·         The Bulldogs, who reached the 20-win milestone for the first time since 2002 after defeating Mississippi State on Sunday, are 31st in the NCAA RPI and are aiming to make their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2004.

·         Georgia defeated then-No. 15 Kentucky, 3-2, on Oct. 23 in Athens, winning the fifth set 23-21.

·         Outside hitter Brittany Northcutt leads the Bulldogs with 2.75 kills per set for the full season. In SEC matches only, the senior ranks 15th in the league with 2.89 kills and 3.37 points per set

·         Lizzy Stemke (Wisconsin ‘04) is in her third season as head coach of the Bulldogs.


Texas A&M vs. Kentucky

·         Kentucky has won the last five meetings with A&M to even the all-time series at 5-5.

·         Last year in A&M’s first year in the SEC, Kentucky held off the Aggies, 3-2, in College Station and swept A&M in Lexington.

·         A&M is 0-2 all-time in Lexington.

·         The Aggies’ most recent victory against the Wildcats was Oct. 4, 1985, in College Station.

Texas A&M vs. Georgia

·         A&M is 9-3 all-time against Georgia and has won the last four meetings.

·         A&M defeated the Bulldogs, 25-20, 25-17, 25-12, in College Station on Sept. 29 in the Aggies’ 2013 SEC opener. A&M’s Sierra Patrick led all players with 13 kills and tied teammate Kelsey Kinley for match-high honors with 14 digs. Aggie setter Allie Sawatzky dished out 32 assists and pitched in 11 kills with no errors while hitting at a career-high .647 clip. A&M hit .333 as a team while holding Georgia to a .084 hitting efficiency, its lowest of the year. Jazzmin Babers recorded nine blocks, and Patrick added a career-high five blocks to help A&M outblock the Bulldogs, 12-7. Tirah Le’au led Georgia with seven kills.

·         In the only previous SEC match-up in Athens, A&M dropped the first two sets but came back to defeat the Bulldogs, 3-2, last year.

·         A&M is 3-1 in matches played in Athens.

·         Georgia’s most recent victory against the Aggies was Oct. 28, 1994. The 19th-ranked Bulldogs defeated A&M, 15-11, 7-15, 15-7, 15-6, in College Station.

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