Texas A&M moves to 9-5 overall and 1-2 in Southeastern Conference play. South Carolina improves to 10-6, 2-2, and earns its first victory in the five-match all-time series against the Aggies.
The Gamecocks never trailed in the first set, jumping out to an 8-3 lead to open the match. The Aggies, who equaled South Carolina with a .333 hitting percentage in the set, managed to get within 10-9 following a 4-1 run, but South Carolina responded with three consecutive kills to keep the lead. The Gamecocks would equal their largest lead at 17-12, but once again the Aggies chipped away at the deficit. Trailing 22-20, Babers posted one of her four kills of the frame and then teamed with freshman Emily Hardesty for a block to knot the score for the first time since 1-1. South Carolina called a time out and then got back-to-back kills from Darian Dozier and Juliette Thevenin to go up, 24-22. Sullivan kept the Aggies alive with her fifth kill, but another kill by Dozier closed out the Gamecocks’ 25-23 win.
A&M managed to tie the score five times in the second set but once again was unable to take a lead. Babers tied the score for the last time at 12-12 with a kill, but South Carolina got a kill by Dozier, as well as a block by Dozier and Dessaa Legros to put the Gamecocks ahead, 14-12. South Carolina, which outhit A&M .438 to .355, later built its largest lead at 23-18 on back-to-back kills by Dozier. A block by Babers and Hardesty followed by a South Carolina attack error put A&M within 23-20, but A&M was unable to score again. Dozier hammered consecutive kills, with an A&M overpass setting up her seventh kill of the set, as well as the set-clinching kill that gave the Gamecocks a 2-0 lead in the match
Freshman Victoria Arenas was switched to libero for the first time this season to begin the third set and immediately provided a spark as her dig of a hard hit ball went over the net and fell in for a kill on the first play of the set. South Carolina tied the score four times, but like the Aggies in the first two sets, the Gamecocks were unable to ever gain a lead in the third set.
A&M built its first five-point lead at 17-12 following a kill by Sullivan and a ball handling error by the Gamecocks. South Carolina called a timeout and then came back with three unanswered points to get within 17-15. The Gamecocks were called for reaching over then hit into an A&M block and hit into the net on the next three plays to once again spot the Aggies a five-point lead, 20-15. South Carolina got within 21-18 but could get no closer. Babers registered a kill on the slide attack, and a Gamecock attack sailed wide to put A&M ahead, 23-18. The teams then traded kills, with Ashley Vrana’s kill putting A&M at set point, 24-19. South Carolina, which was outhit, .412 to .244, put down a kill to stay alive before Sullivan got a kill on the slide play to give A&M the 25-20 victory.
The fourth set was back-and-forth with five lead changes and eight ties. A kill by Hardesty had given the Aggies a 14-10 lead when South Carolina erupted with six straight points. The Gamecocks later held a 17-15 advantage before a Sullivan kill marked the start of a four-point run by the Aggies, forcing South Carolina to call a timeout. The Gamecocks came out of the timeout and scored three successive points to retake the lead, 20-19. A&M tied the score three times, the last coming at 22-22 before South Carolina tooled the block for a kill and then registered an ace, with the ball clipping the top of the net and falling in on A&M’s side put the Gamecocks at match point. A&M, which was outhit .268 to .179, fought off one match point with a ferocious rally, including another spectacular dig by Arenas, before South Carolina hit wide to end the play. Trailing 24-23, A&M’s next attack sailed out, giving the Gamecocks the victory.
Sullivan led A&M with 13 kills while hitting a career-high .632. Angela Lowak added 11 kills, and Babers, who hit at a career-high .474 clip, and Sawatzky finished with 10 kills each. Hardesty came off the bench to tie her career with seven kills.
Sawatzky dished out 40 assists to move into third place in the A&M records with 3,929 career assists. She also tied Mariah Agre with a team-high 10 digs, and Babers and Sullivan tied for team-high honors in blocks with four apiece as A&M outblocked South Carolina, 9-8.
Thevenin spearheaded South Carolina’s offense with 23 kills, and Dozier added a career-high 18 kills while hitting .571. Gabrielle Rubeis led all players with 19 digs, pacing the Gamecocks to a 64-56 overall lead.
Although A&M outhit South Carolina .315 to .312 for the match, the Gamecocks’ hitting percentage was the highest by an A&M opponent this season, as were their 71 kills. A&M finished with 59 total kills.
Texas A&M returns to Reed Arena on Wednesday to battle LSU in an ESPNU nationally televised match. First serve is slated for 7 p.m. at Reed Arena. It will be “Fish Camp Night” and members of the Class of 2017 will be admitted free by wearing their Fish Camp T-shirt.
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Texas A&M Head Coach Corbelli Quotes:
“We certainly didn’t come up with as many digs as we have in the previous matches. This weekend in general was really just poor performance by our group, just a low energy, low production, mostly on our floor defense. The middles kept us in the match today. I thought (Allie) Sawatzky also kept us in the match, but our serving and our defense both really need a lot of improvement.
“(Angela) Lowak had an okay day, but we were really missing another outside position. Some days you have matches like this. We tried everything we could, and it just wasn’t meant to be today. We definitely have a lot of parts of our game that are starred and need immediate attention. We’ll guarantee that we will take care of it, but it was a very disappointing weekend, and we have no choice but to turn things around. We need to spunk up and get people’s heads back into the right place.”