After narrowly falling to Baylor and Texas, the Aggies closed out the tournament with a come-from-behind three-set victory against Oklahoma.
A&M began the Baylor match with back-to-back kills by Emily Hardesty and Shelby Sullivan, and the Aggies would lead the entire first set. Reeling off consecutive points several times throughout the frame, A&M would build its largest lead at 23-14 following kills by Angela Lowak and Jazzmin Babers and a Baylor attack error. The teams then exchanged points until freshman Stephanie Aiple put down the 25-16 set-clinching kill.
It was Baylor that would rally in the second set, using a 5-1 run to build its largest lead at 13-6. A&M twice got within two points, the last time coming at 16-14 before Baylor scored five unanswered points, four the courtesy of A&M attack errors, to go up 21-14.
A solo block by Babers ended the run, and the teams traded points until Baylor got a kill off the block and A&M hit long to end the set, 25-17, and force a deciding third set.
A&M jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the final set to 15 points, but Baylor fought back and took its first lead at 7-6. A&M tied the score five times, but was unable to retake the lead. Tied at 12-12, the Bears scored two to go up 14-12. Hardesty fought off one match point by tooling the block for a kill, but Baylor countered with a kill on the ensuing play to clinch the win.
A&M built a 9-5 advantage in the opening set against Texas, but the Longhorns later took their first lead, using a five-point run to go up 16-13. Sullivan ended the run with a kill, and two consecutive kills by Angela Lowak capped a four-point rally that returned the lead to A&M, 17-16. The lead was short lived as Texas, an NCAA semifinalist in 2013, won the next four points to go ahead, 20-17. A&M was unable to get closer than two points, and the Longhorns closed out the 25-20 opening-set win with back-to-back kills.
A&M used a four-point run to open its biggest lead of the second set at 15-12. Texas tied the score at 17-17 before A&M’s Darby Graff put down two kills during a 3-0 rally as the Aggies matched their largest lead at 20-17. A&M held a 21-18 advantage before Haley Eckerman led the Longhorns on 7-0 run to close out the match.
In the final match of the day, Oklahoma jumped out to a 7-2 lead in the first set. Although the Aggies managed to take an 11-10 advantage following a 4-0 run, Oklahoma regained the lead at 14-13 following two kills and an ace. A&M tied the score six times, the last at 21-21 before the Sooners used a 4-1 surge to close out the set.
A&M never trailed in the second set and used a 6-1 run to double up the Sooners, 16-8. A&M later used an 8-1 run, including back-to-back kills by Aiple and Lowak to close out a commanding 25-14 win.
There were four lead changes in the final set, with Katelyn Labhart serving an ace to return the lead to the Aggies at 12-11. Oklahoma tied the score at 12 and again at 13 before Sullivan posted a kill to put the Aggies at set point. Oklahoma’s next attack sailed wide, giving A&M the 15-13 victory to wrap up the tournament.
Texas A&M closes out is spring schedule with a home match against Houston, to be held at the Reed Arena volleyball practice gym. The match has been moved to Friday, April 11, at 4 p.m.
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Texas A&M Head Coach Laurie Corbelli quotes:
On the Baylor match:
“I think Baylor was still sleeping, and when set two rolled around, they started changing their approach against us and we did not respond well. Basically they started to really attack different parts of our court. We backed off a little bit from doing what we had been doing, and that was really disappointing. I think the team was getting frustrated, and they let the frustration carry over into their execution.”
On the Texas match:
“Before the Texas match, the team had a really good discussion about the changes they wanted to make. I felt like we did some really, really good things against Texas, but we didn’t have enough fire power. We didn’t have hitters in position to create the kind of power we needed. We had a tough time stopping Haley Eckerman. She was very, very good, and we were up 21-19 in set two, and I really felt like we were on a roll to get that set and hopefully go to three. Then we had a total collapse, and that was disappointing. But hey, if it is going to happen, the spring is when we need that stuff to come at us and we need to get it figured out now.”
On the Oklahoma match:
“I challenged the team right away to go into the Oklahoma match and not let that (collapse) happen again and find a way -- figuring things out from a team perspective and handling things together. And to get that win, I hope that it is significant to them, because it really was significant to me. I told them I not going to accept anything less than that. I saw their demeanor change. I saw their focus narrow, and they just started to execute better in the tough times, and that is really what we have to do.”
On serving and serve receive:
“Our serving was a little bit tougher, and we didn’t shoot ourselves in the foot as often as we did last weekend. We missed less and we served a little tougher, but it can still improve a ton. I felt like our serve receive was a major problem against Baylor, but I felt like the team got more comfortable and confident the more we played, and it started to become more fluid for them. Our serving has to improve a ton, and our passing has to be more consistent from the beginning of the match.”
“We had some real blocking issues against Baylor. It just seemed like we were really slow starting. Even though we won the first set against Baylor, we did ok, but Baylor did not play well at all. And so when they made changes and started to play really well, we backed off and that is when our blocking really noticeably started falling apart. But we got it back together as the day went on, so I think that is one of my least concerns for the season.”
On the left-side attackers:
“Using two different setters (Aiple and Kaysie Shebeneck) a whole lot, those two outsides (Hardesty and Lowak) are the ones who notice it the most because of the different pace of the ball, the different height of the set. Each setter has her own ways of delivering the ball, and it can really cost you some attacks for your outsides, but I loved getting them swings. They both really want the ball. They have a good mindset, so I’m looking forward to see what they bring to us the next season.”
On the liberos:
“I thought all of our three liberos (Victoria Arenas, Hannah Hood and Katelyn Labhart) that we rotated in and out with the DS’s did a really steady job. They have been working so hard in the gym. From Arenas to Hood to Labhart, those three compete every day in the gym against each other, and that is helping each one of them get better and it is really helping our team.”
On freshman setter/right-side hitter Stephanie Aiple:
“Steph played great. She’s an extremely focused player with a lot of experience at a really good level for as young as she is, and brings every bit of it and more to our court, so we are really happy to have her.”
2014 TEXAS A&M VOLLEYBALL SPRING SCHEDULE/RESULTS
Sat., March 29 at Rice Tournament, Houston (Tudor Fieldhouse)
Texas A&M vs. Rice, 26-24, 20-25
Texas A&M def. TCU, 25-23, 25-22
Texas A&M def. Sam Houston State, 25-14, 25-20
Sat., April 5 at F.A.S.T. Collegiate Invitational, Houston (Reliant Center-Hall E)
Baylor def. Texas A&M, 16-25, 25-17, 15-13
Texas def. Texas A&M, 25-20, 25-21
Texas A&M def. Oklahoma, 22-25, 25-14, 15-13
Fri., April 11 vs. Houston, College Station (Reed)
Texas A&M vs. Houston, 4 p.m.