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A&M Hosts South Carolina on "Senior Day" in Regular-Season Finale

November 26, 2013
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Courtesy: Texas A&M Athletics
(photo: Texas A&M Athletics)
Texas A&M (17-11, 9-8 SEC) vs. South Carolina (12-18, 3-14 SEC)
Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013
4 p.m., Reed Arena
College Station, Texas

College Station, Texas -- Texas A&M (17-11, 9-8 SEC) celebrates “Senior Day” Wednesday as the Aggies play host to South Carolina (12-18, 3-14 SEC) in both teams’ regular-season finale. First serve is at 4 p.m. at Reed Arena, and A&M’s five 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.

The Aggies, winners in six of their last seven matches, will be looking to avenge a disappointing 3-1 loss at South Carolina in early October and also are hoping to improve their position for receiving an at-large invitation to the 64-team NCAA tournament field, to be announced Sunday. A&M moved into a tie with Arkansas for seventh place in the SEC standings following a crucial 3-2 victory at fifth-place Georgia on Sunday. Sophomore outside hitter Angela Lowak had a career-high and team-season high 23 kills while hitting .351, and senior libero Heather Reynolds tallied 35 digs, the most digs in a match by an A&M player since rally scoring began in 2001, to lead the Aggies to the victory against the Bulldogs.

South Carolina features one of the top attackers in the SEC and in the nation as 6-2 senior outside hitter Juliette Thévenin leads the league and ranks ninth in the nation with 4.62 kills per set. She also leads the league and is ranked 16th nationally with 4.95 points per set. The Gamecocks, who list 14 underclassmen on their 17-man roster, have lost seven consecutive matches since sophomore starting setter Kellie McNeil (10.17 assists per set) suffered a season-ending foot injury. Most recently, South Carolina fell to LSU, 3-0, Sunday in Columbia, S.C., dropping the Gamecocks into a tie with Ole Miss for 10th place in the league.

FOLLOW THE ACTION:

·      Live video (fee) and free audio will be available on AggieAthletics.com with Chelsea Reber and Casey Richardson calling the action

·      Live stats: AggieAthletics.com

·      Updates and other information can be found by following @AggieVolleyball on Twitter.com

UP NEXT:

A&M awaits the announcement of the 64-team NCAA Championship bracket to see if it will receive one of 33 at-large berths. The selection show will air Sunday, Dec. 1 at 8:30 p.m. on ESPNU, and first- and second-round matches will be played Dec. 5-6 or Dec. 6-7 at 16 participating campus sites. The Aggies have appeared in 20 NCAA tournaments all-time and have made 16 appearances since Laurie Corbelli was named head coach in 1993.

RECENT RESULTS:

Texas A&M went 1-1 last week, falling by the minimum two points in all three sets in a 26-24, 25-23, 26-24 loss at No. 16 Kentucky on Friday, and holding off Georgia, 25-22, 21-25, 25-19, 20-25, 15-9, Sunday in Athens. Sophomore outside hitter Sierra Patrick led A&M with 10 kills and 12 points against Kentucky. Senior libero Heather Reynolds had a match-high 18 digs, the most digs by an A&M player in a three-set match this season, and senior setter Allie Sawatzky added 15 digs and also recorded 26 assists to tally her league-leading 18th double-double of the year. Freshman defensive specialist Victoria Arenas also reached double figures in digs with 10. Redshirt freshman Jazzmin Babers took team-high honors in blocks with five, and sophomore middle blocker Shelby Sullivan had eight kills while hitting at a .412 clip and added two aces to finish with 11.5 points. Kentucky narrowly outhit A&M .171 to .161 in the match in which there were 39 ties and 22 lead changes.

A&M closed out the road portion of its regular season schedule with a crucial 25-22, 21-25, 25-19, 20-25, 15-9 victory at Georgia on Sunday. Aggie sophomore outside hitter Angela Lowak paced the Aggie offense with a career-high 23 kills and Reynolds spearheaded the team’s defense with a career-high 35 digs, the most digs by an A&M player in the rally scoring era and tying for fourth all-time. Lowak hit .351 for the match, and both her 23 kills and career-high 23 points are the most by an A&M player this season. Sawatzky and Sullivan also finished with double-digit kills with 13 and 10, respectively, and A&M outhit the Bulldogs, .236 to .207, for the match. Sawatzky, who hit .406 for the match, accounted for 44 assists to complete her league-leading 19th double-double of the season. Babers finished with nine kills and 14 points and led all players with nine blocks as A&M outblocked the Bulldogs, 12-8, and won its first five-set match in four attempts.

TEXAS A&M TEAM NOTES:

·         Texas A&M moved up three spots to 32nd in the NCAA Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) with one match 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. South Carolina is 123rd in the latest RPI listing, released Monday.

·         Texas A&M ranks third in the SEC and 23rd in the nation with 14.28 kills per set.  The Aggies also are third in the SEC and 26th in the nation with 13.27 assists per set.

·         In SEC matches only, A&M ranks third in both assists (13.10) and digs (15.49) per set and is fourth in both hitting percentage (.262) and kills per set (14.10).

·         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 3.51 points per set for the full season and 3.79 points per set in SEC matches only. Sophomore outside hitters Angela Lowak and Sierra Patrick are averaging 3.30 and 3.21 points per set, respectively, in all matches, while redshirt freshman middle blocker Jazzmin Babers (2.67 pps) and senior lefty setter Allie Sawatzky (2.62 pps) round out the top five scorers.

·         A&M has used 12 different starting lineups in 28 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 101 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 (1162 of 1442) and 80 percent of the team’s total points (1424.5 of 1788.5). In addition, the underclassmen are responsible for 94 percent or 46 of 49 of the team’s solo blocks and 323 of 335 (87 percent) of the team’s block assists.

·         Seven of A&M’s losses have been to ranked opponents. The Aggies, who lead the SEC with eight matches against Top 25 opponents, are 1-7 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, No. 16 Kentucky 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 were 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 will finish the regular season 5-6 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.

AGGIE PLAYER NOTES:

·         Senior setter Allie Sawatzky leads the SEC with six triple-doubles, including three in conference matches. Arkansas setter Raymariely Santos has one triple-double in a non-conference match and is the only other SEC player to register a triple-double this season. Sawatzky also leads the league with 19 double-doubles for the full season.

·         Sawatzky, a 6-2 lefty who averages 9.93 assists and also accounts for 15.6 percent of A&M’s total kills with 225 overall (2.23 kills per set), has recorded 10 or more kills 13 times this season. She is hitting a combined .451 when posting 10 or more kills.

·         Sawatzky is second on the team and 12th in the SEC with a .322 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 .335 in SEC matches only, ranking ninth in the league.

·         Sawatzky has started every match of her career (120) at setter and has played in 442 of 445 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 4,443 career assists, also ranks 10th in the career records with 920 points.

·         Middle blocker Shelby Sullivan is second in the SEC with a .441 hitting percentage in conference matches only. She also is listed 11th in the league with 3.79 points per set in SEC matches and ranks 11th with 3.03 kills per set in conference matches only. Sullivan has posted double-figure kills in nine conference contests -- tying Sawatzky for the team lead -- and is hitting an impressive .473 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 39th in the nation with a .376 hitting percentage for the full season.

·         Jazzmin Babers was named the SEC Freshman Player of the Week on Nov. 18 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 on Nov. 17. She also posted a match-high nine blocks against the Tigers. 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 39th in the nation with 1.31 blocks per set for the full season. Babers, who is fourth in the SEC with 1.36 blocks per set in league matches only, has recorded nine or more blocks in a match five times this season. She is coming off a nine-block performance at Georgia.

·         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 14 matches for the full season. Lowak leads the team and is 15th in the conference with 3.03 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 2.87 kills per set for the full season, and the duo is 18th and 20th, respectively, in the league in points per set for the full season, with Lowak averaging 3.30 points and Patrick averaging 3.21.

·         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 team season-high 23 kills at Georgia, her second 20-plus kill performance of the season.

·         Senior setter/defensive specialist Mariah Agre leads the team and is eighth in the SEC with 0.29 aces per set in conference contests. She posted a career-high five aces in the sweep against Tennessee, the most aces by an A&M player in an SEC match in A&M’s two years in the league. Agre also is eighth in the league with 0.31 aces per set for the full season.

·         Senior libero Heather Reynolds was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Week on Monday after totaling 53 digs in only two matches last week for an impressive 6.62 per-set average. In the Friday match at No. 16 Kentucky, Reynolds led all players and tied her then-season high with 18 digs as A&M fell 3-0, losing by the minimum two points in each set. Reynolds then posted a career-high and match-high 35 digs in a clutch 3-2 victory at Georgia on Sunday. Her 35 digs against the Bulldogs is the most by an A&M player in the rally scoring era, including when the 30-point scoring cap was in effect from 2001-07. It also ties Erin Gibson (35 digs vs. Colorado, Sept. 23, 2000) for the fourth most digs in a match in school history.

·         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 10 matches. She has tallied double-figure digs in nine of the 10 matches, including each of the last eight matches, and is averaging 4.67 digs per set since changing positions. She ranks 10th in the SEC with 3.59 digs per set in conference matches only.

·         Senior Kelsey Kinley, the libero in the first 18 matches of the season, leads the Aggies and ranks 13th in the SEC with 3.15 digs per set. The College Station native has tallied 10 or more digs in a team-leading 17 matches, including a career-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 24 matches overall -- starting eight -- and in 75 sets. She had a career-high 20 digs in the 3-1 win against Arkansas on Oct. 25 and is third on the team with 2.27 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 13 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, and Arenas, Babers and Hardesty have appeared in the same starting lineup four times.

SCOUTING SOUTH CAROLINA:

·         South Carolina enters its final match 12-18 overall and tied with Ole Miss for 10th in the SEC standings with a 3-14 record.

·         The Gamecocks are aiming to snap a seven-match losing skid, as well as a nine-match losing stretch in SEC play. South Carolina’s most recent victory was against Coastal Carolina on Oct. 30, 3-2. The Gamecocks, who have been swept in each of their last nine SEC matches, last won a conference match on Oct. 20, defeating Ole Miss, 3-1, in Oxford.

·         South Carolina has been without the services of redshirt sophomore setter Kellie McNeil in each of the last seven matches. The transfer from Minnesota was averaging 10.17 assists, 1.96 digs and 0.94 blocks per set following the victory against Coastal Carolina before suffering a season-ending foot injury.

·         Senior go-to outside hitter Juliette Thévenin leads the SEC and ranks ninth in the nation with 4.62 kills per set. She also leads the league with 4.95 points per set.

·         Thévenin enters the match against the Aggies with 1,581 kills and 999 digs. With one dig in the A&M match, Thévenin will become the second player in program history to reach the 1,000-kill, 1,000-dig milestone and will be the first to accomplish the feat since 1994.

·         Two active players are listed in the top 15 in the SEC for blocks per set: Jacqy Angermiller, a 6-2 middle blocker/right-side hitter from Dallas (L.D. Bell High School), who leads the squad and is seventh in the SEC with 1.09 blocks per set for the full season; and sophomore 6-1 middle/right-side Darian Dozier, who is second on the team and ninth in the league with 1.08 blocks per set. Injured setter Kellie McNeil is listed 13th with a 0.94 block average.

·         South Carolina lists 10 freshmen and four sophomores on its 17-man roster.

·         The match against the Aggies will be the final college match for senior fourth-year letterwinners Juliette Thévenin and Lindsey Craft.

·         As a team, South Carolina is hitting .172 and averaging 11.93 kills, 11.27 assists, 0.62 aces, 12.88 digs and 1.94 blocks per set in conference matches only. SEC opponents are hitting .285 and averaging 14.14 kills, 13.07 assists, 1.48 aces, 13.91 digs and 2.28 blocks per set against the Gamecocks.

·         Scott Swanson (Arizona State, 1995) is 44-48 in his third season as head coach of the Gamecocks.

ALL-TIME SERIES RECORD:

·         Texas A&M is 4-1 all-time against South Carolina, including 2-0 in matches played in College Station.

·         A&M won the first four meetings in straight sets.

·         South Carolina picked up its first win against A&M on Oct. 6, 2013, defeating the Aggies, 25-23, 25-20, 20-25, 25-23, in Columbia. Aggie senior setter Allie Sawatzky had a triple-double for the Aggies with 10 kills, 40 assists and 10 digs, and sophomore middle blocker Shelby Sullivan led the Aggies with 13 kills while hitting at a .632 clip. The Gamecocks were led by Juliette Thévenin’s 23 kills. Darian Dozier added 18 kills while hitting .571 as South Carolina hit .315 for the match.

·         The teams first met Oct. 10, 1993, in Columbia, where A&M defeated the host Gamecocks, 15-7, 15-8, 15-7, in Laurie Corbelli’s first season as head coach of the Aggies.

·         Last year in the first meeting as SEC opponents, A&M defeated South Carolina, 25-12, 25-16, 25-16, at Reed Arena on Oct. 5, 2012. A&M completed the series sweep with a 25-19, 25-16, 25-23 victory on Oct. 28 in Columbia.

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