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Aggies Open Season, Host Texas A&M Invitational at Reed Arena

August 28, 2014
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Courtesy: Texas A&M Athletics
(photo: Texas A&M Athletics)

 Tournament Schedule

Friday, August 29
10 a.m.             Texas A&M vs. Iowa
12:30 p.m.        UTSA vs. Tulane
5 p.m.               Texas A&M vs. Tulane
7:30 p.m.          Iowa vs. UTSA

Saturday, August 30
12:30 p.m.        Tulane vs. Iowa
3 p.m.               Texas A&M vs. UTSA

 Video Streaming (A&M matches only): SEC Network+ (WatchESPN)
(Play-by-Play: Chelsea Reber; Commentary: Casey Richardson)
Live Stats (all matches): 12thMan.com
In-Game Updates: Twitter.com/@Aggievolleyball

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- The Texas A&M volleyball team opens its 2014 campaign this weekend by hosting the Texas A&M Invitational, Friday and Saturday, at Reed Arena. The Aggies, who return 10 letterwinners -- including four starters -- from last year’s team that went 19-12 after advancing to the NCAA tournament second round for the third consecutive year, open the tournament Friday with a 10 a.m. contest against Iowa of the Big Ten Conference. It is the first of two matches on the day for the Aggies, who return to the court at 5 p.m. to face Tulane. A&M concludes the tournament Saturday at 3 p.m. against defending Conference USA regular-season and tournament champion UTSA. The Roadrunners will be looking to avenge a season-ending loss against the Aggies in the first round of the 2013 NCAA tournament.

TICKETS:
·         Regular-price individual match tickets are $9 for reserve seating, $7 for adult general admission and $4 for youth, high school age and under. A&M students without a sports pass also can purchase tickets for $4 each. Tickets may be purchased at Reed Arena beginning one hour before match time or in advance at 12thManFoundation.com.
·         Season ticket prices start as low as $65 with three easy and convenient ways to purchase: 1) online, 24 hours a day at tickets.12thmanfoundation.com; 2) by phone by calling 979-845-2311 or toll free at 1-888-99-AGGIE; or 3) in person at the ticket office located inside The Zone at the north end of Kyle Field. Ticket office hours of operation are 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. on business days.

FOLLOW THE ACTION:
·         A video broadcast of all 15 Texas A&M home matches will be featured on an SEC Network platform. This weekend, all three A&M matches can be seen on SEC Network +, available only on WatchESPN and through participating TV providers.
·         Live stats for all tournament matches will be available on 12thMan.com.
·         Updates and other information can be found by following AggieVolleyball on Twitter.

TEXAS A&M NOTES:
·         The 2014 season marks the 40th season of volleyball at Texas A&M.
·         A&M is 28-10 in season openers since 1976. (Opening-day results are not available for the 1975 season.)
·         The Aggies are 16-5 in season openers since head coach Laurie Corbelli was hired in 1993. In the 2013 opener, A&M swept South Dakota State, 25-10, 25-12, 25-12, at the UND Classic in Grand Forks, N.D.
·         A&M is 21-0 in home season openers under Corbelli. Last year A&M played its first six matches on the road before debuting at Reed Arena with a 3-0 victory over Siena in the opening match of the Texas A&M Invitational. The Aggies, No. 7 Michigan and No. 16 Florida State all ended the tournament with 2-1 records, but A&M was awarded the championship trophy, winning the tiebreaker by having the highest ratio for total sets won and lost between the three tied teams.
·         Corbelli is entering her 22nd season at the helm of the Aggies and the 29th year of her head coaching career. She is 543-318 overall and 443-212 at A&M, where she has directed the Aggies to 17 NCAA appearances.
·         Corbelli returns four starters -- juniors Angela Lowak (6-0, OH) and Shelby Sullivan (6-2, MB) and sophomores Jazzmin Babers (6-2, MB) and Emily Hardesty (6-3, OH) -- and six other letterwinners from last year’s team that went 19-12 and made a third consecutive appearance in the NCAA second round before being eliminated by Texas for the second straight year.
·         There are eight newcomers on the A&M roster, including a six-person freshman recruiting class that was recognized by both Volleyball Magazine and PrepVolleyball.com. High school All-Americans Stephanie Aiple (6-1, S/OPP), who joined the team in January, and lefty Ashlie Reasor (6-1, OPP), as well as Kiara McGee (5-11, OH), Amy Nettles (5-4, L/DS), Olivia Thorpe (5-11, OH) and Uche Ukadike (5-11, MB) make up the freshman class.

UPCOMING:
·         Following the tournament, A&M plays its next two tournaments, including five matches, on the road before returning to Reed Arena Sept. 19-20 to play host to No. 13 Florida State in a two-match series.
·         On Sept. 5-6, A&M participates in the Baymont Inn & Suites Invitational, hosted by Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. A&M opens against the host Bobcats, an NCAA tournament team in 2013, on Friday, Sept. 5, and takes on Virginia Tech and VCU, Saturday, Sept. 6
·         The Aggies close out their five-match road swing at the USC Classic in Los Angeles, Sept. 11-12. They take on the fifth-ranked Women of Troy on Thursday, Sept. 11 at 8 p.m. (PDT) in a match that will be televised by the Pac 12 Network. A&M then faces No. 14 San Diego on Sept. 12, the second of four consecutive ranked opponents for the Aggies. 

SERIES VS. IOWA
·         A&M is 3-0 all-time against Iowa and has never dropped a set against the Hawkeyes.
·         The teams last met Sept. 2, 2000, at the Hawaiian Airlines Wahine Classic in Honolulu, where A&M won, 16-14, 15-9, 15-9.
·         The teams first met at the San Diego State Tournament on Sept. 20, 1985. The Aggies won, 15-11, 15-8, 15-4.
·         A&M is 1-0 against the Hawkeyes in College Station. The Aggies defeated Iowa, 15-7, 15-3, 15-3 on Sept. 17, 1999, at G. Rollie White Coliseum.

SCOUTING IOWA:
·         Iowa is picked to finish 11th in the Big Ten Conference after ending last season 11-21 overall and 2-18 in conference play.
·         The Hawkeyes lost veteran setter Nikki Dailey and libero Bethany Yeager from last season. Dailey led the team with 600 assists (5.36 per set), and Yeager led the team in digs with 485 (4.01 per set).
·         Senior Alex Lovell returns after leading the Hawkeyes with 405 kills (3.35 per set) a year ago.
·         Bond Shymansky is entering his first season as the Hawkeyes’ head coach. In 12 years as a collegiate head coach Shymansky has registered a 290-109 record while at Marquette and Georgia Tech.

SERIES VS. TULANE:
·         A&M is 2-0 all-time against Tulane, having swept both meetings, 3-0.
·         The teams first met in 1981 and last faced each other in 1987.
·         Although Tulane played all but one of its home matches at G. Rollie White Coliseum in 2005 after evacuating New Orleans due to Hurricane Katrina, this will be the first match played between the Aggies and Green Wave in College Station.

SCOUTING TULANE:
·         Tulane is picked to finish third in the conference by American Athletic Conference head coaches. This marks the first season in the American for Tulane.
·         Last season’s Green Wave finished an impressive 28-4 overall and 12-2 in conference play. Tulane finished runner-up to UTSA for the Conference USA crown.
·         Sophomores Tea Juric and Annie Shurtz were each named to the preseason all-conference team. Juric, the 2013 Conference USA Freshman of the Year, led the Green Wave with 446 kills (3.98 per set) and 489 points (4.37 per set) last season. Shurtz, meanwhile, tallied 351 kills (3.05 per set) and 392 points (3.41 per set).

SERIES VS. UTSA:
·         Texas A&M is 10-0 all-time against UTSA, including 4-0 in matches played in College Station.
·         A&M ended UTSA’s season last year, eliminating the Roadrunners, 26-24, 25-21, 25-18 in the first round of the NCAA tournament at Gregory Gym in Austin. Redshirt freshman middle blocker Jazzmin Babers helped lead the Aggies, posting seven blocks along with 10 kills and a .368 hitting percentage.
·         A&M is 7-0 and has dropped only one set against the Roadrunners since Laurie Corbelli became head coach of the Aggies in 1993.

SCOUTING UTSA:
·         The defending Conference USA regular season champions are picked to repeat this season according to a vote of the 13 C-USA head coaches.
·         The Roadrunners return five starters plus the libero from last year’s championship team that amassed a 24-8 overall record and a 13-1 mark in league play and won both the Conference USA regular season and tournament titles.
·         UTSA received votes in the 2014 AVCA preseason Top 25 and is listed 40th.
·         UTSA is without the 2013 NCAA national kills leader, All-American McKenzie Adams. The 6-3 outside hitter completed her collegiate career last season, having averaged a nation-best 5.78 kills per set in 2013.
·         Sophomores Dajana Boskovic and Jessica Waldrip were named to the preseason all-conference team. Boskovic received first team all-conference and C-USA all-freshman team honors last season. Boskovic recorded 327 kills (3.14 per set) and hit .298 in her first season with the Roadrunners. Waldrip, a setter, led the team with 779 assists (10.53 per set) last season.
·         Laura Groff (Texas 1986) is in her 12th season as head coach of the Roadrunners. The former Laura Neugebauer, an assistant coach at Texas A&M from 1990-92 under former Aggie head coach Al Givens, is UTSA’s winningest head coach with 189 victories. She has compiled a head coaching record of 445-224 (.665) in 19 seasons overall.

TEXAS A&M NOTES:

Freshman Recruiting Class Recognized: Texas A&M volleyball’s incoming freshman class received honorable mention in Volleyball Magazine’s list of the nation’s top 10 recruiting classes. A&M is the only Texas school mentioned in the listing, which recognized 15 classes as honorable mention in addition to the top-10 ranked teams. High school All-Americans Stephanie Aiple (6-1, S), and Ashlie Reasor (6-1, OPP) headline the Aggies’ six-member incoming freshman class, which was ranked 17th in the nation by Prepvolleyball.com earlier this year. Kiara McGee (5-11, OH), Amy Nettles (5-4, L), Olivia Thorpe (5-11, OH) and Uche Ukadike (5-11, MB) complete the heralded class.

SEC Preseason Poll: Texas A&M, which tied for sixth place in the SEC standings last season with a 10-8 mark, is picked to finish sixth this year, according to a preseason vote of the league coaches. Florida is picked to win the team championship, having received the maximum 12 first-place votes for 144 points. Kentucky is projected to finish second, having received 129 points. Defending SEC champion Missouri received the only other first-place vote and is picked to place third with 114 total points, followed by LSU (105 points) and Alabama (102 points). A&M received 89 points and Arkansas is seventh with 87 points. Georgia (65 points), Auburn (54), Ole Miss (50) and Tennessee (33). South Carolina (29) and Mississippi State (13)  round out the 13-team poll. Vanderbilt does not sponsor volleyball.

Sullivan Named to Preseason All-SEC Team: Texas A&M junior middle blocker Shelby Sullivan was named to the 2014 Preseason Volleyball All-SEC Team, announced by the conference office earlier this month. Sullivan, who earned All-SEC Team honors as a sophomore after hitting .386 and averaging 2.75 kills per set, is one of nine members on the star-studded team, which was voted on by the league’s 13 head coaches. Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own players. Preseason league-favorite Florida led all schools with three selected to the team: Alex Holston, Živa Recek and Taylor Unroe. Others named to the preseason team are Carly Kan and Whitney Little of Missouri, Krystal Rivers of Alabama, Brianna Holman from LSU and Kentucky’s Morgan Bergren, who is the only player on the 2014 preseason team who was not on the 2013 season-ending  All-SEC Team.

A Look at the Season Schedule: A&M is scheduled to play nine teams ranked in the top 20 of the AVCA Preseason Top 25 poll, including a four-match stretch against No. 5 USC, No. 14 San Diego and back-to-back matches against No. 13 Florida State during the pre-conference season. A&M will play five matches against SEC teams currently listed in the top 20: No. 10 Florida, and two matches each against No. 15 Missouri and No. 19 Kentucky. Two A&M opponents received votes in the preseason poll: UTSA and Ole Miss.

Setter Situation: A&M coach Laurie Corbelli must find a replacement for setter Allie Sawatzky, a lefty who started every match (123) over the past four seasons and earned AVCA All-America honorable mention as a senior last year after averaging 9.97 assists, 2.14 kills, 2.32 digs and 2.53 points per set. Contending for the vacated position are sophomore Kaysie Shebeneck and freshman Stephanie Aiple, both 6-1 right-handers who earned All-American honors during their prep careers. Shebeneck played in 15 matches in her freshman season at A&M, starting five as an opposite hitter while backing up Sawatzky, who played the setter position in 452 of 455 sets during her illustrious career. Aiple graduated high school in December, joined the Aggies in January and participated in spring drills.

In the Back Row: Corbelli lost the majority of her experienced back row players with the graduation of libero/defensive specialists Heather Reynolds and Kelsey Kinley, as well as setter/defensive specialist Mariah Agre. Sophomore Victoria Arenas saw the most action of the three returning L/DS players, having played in 27 matches, starting nine, and appearing in 84 of 111 sets. Corbelli also will be counting on senior Hannah Hood and sophomore Katelyn Labhart, as well as rookie Amy Nettles, a two-time all-state selection from San Antonio Churchill High School.

Solid in the Middle: Corbelli returns 6-2 middle blockers Jazzmin Babers and Shelby Sullivan, who both started every match last year for the Aggies and were named AVCA All-South Region Honorable Mention. Babers led A&M, was second in the SEC and 40th in the nation with 1.31 blocks per set for the full season as a redshirt freshman. She posted 128 block assists, ranking sixth in the A&M all-time season records, and took or tied for team-high honors in blocks in a team-leading 23 matches, including 11 blocks against No. 7 Michigan. Meanwhile Sullivan, who averaged 0.81 blocks per set, was named to the All-SEC Team and received the team’s Best Offensive Player Award after hitting a team-high .386 for the full season, also returns. A&M’s go-to player on offense, nearly unstoppable on the slide attack, Sullivan’s .386 season hitting percentage ranks second in the A&M all-time season records and is the highest by an A&M player since former All-American Sherri Brinkman hit a school record .400 in 1984. Sullivan’s season hitting percentage also ranked fifth in the SEC and 31st in the nation. Also pushing for playing time is 6-1  redshirt sophomore Darby Graff, who played in four matches last year. Uche Ukadike, a 5-11 freshman, joined the team this week.

To the Left: Junior Angela Lowak and sophomore Emily Hardesty make up the returning corps of left-side hitters. Lowak started 24 matches and appeared in all 31 matches and led A&M with 3.01 kills last year. She also was second on the team with 3.52 points per set. Hardesty started 14 matches and appeared in 27 matches as a freshman. She averaged 1.34 kills and 1.68 points. Newcomers who will be vying for playing time at the position are freshmen Kiara McGee (5-11), Olivia Thorpe (5-11) and senior Sydney Wilhelm (5-9), who is in her first year as a collegiate player. Dual position player junior Shelbi Vaughan, also listed as a middle blocker, has missed much of the preseason with an injury.

Reasor on the Right: Lefty Ashlie Reasor (San Antonio Reagan H.S.) is expected to be a weapon for the Aggies on the right side. The 6-1 high school All-American and MVP of the West team at the 2013 AVCA/Under Armour All-America match was named the 2013 Texas Girls Coaches Association 4A-5A Athlete of the Year for volleyball and also was selected San Antonio Athlete of the Year by the San Antonio Express-News. She finished her senior season with a school record 756 kills. Setters Kaysie Shebeneck and Stephanie Aiple also have experience playing the right side.

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