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Volleyball Begins Tough Stretch at Arkansas, Kentucky

October 11, 2012
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Courtesy: Texas A&M Athletics
(photo: Texas A&M Athletics)
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Texas A&M (14-2, 6-1 SEC), the SEC Western Division leader, kicks off its toughest four-match stretch of the season this weekend as the Aggies hit the road to take on Arkansas (14-4, 5-2 SEC) and Kentucky, Friday and Sunday, respectively. The first-ever meeting against the Razorbacks, who are one game behind A&M in the West, begins at 7 p.m. at Barnhill Arena in Fayetteville. First serve against Kentucky (10-7, 4-3 SEC), the only SEC team with a win against the Aggies, is Sunday at 12:30 p.m. (CT) at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington.

Texas A&M (14-2, 6-1 SEC) vs. Arkansas (14-4, 5-2 SEC)
Friday, Oct. 12, 2012
7 p.m., Barnhill Arena
Fayetteville, Arkansas

Texas A&M  vs. Kentucky
Sunday, Oct. 14
12:30 p.m. (CT), Memorial Coliseum
Lexington, Kentucky

FOLLOW THE ACTION:
  • Live audio of the match will be available free on 12thMan.TV with Chelsea Reber calling the action and Kelly Stumph providing commentary
  • Live stats will be available on AggieAthletics.com
  • Live updates and other information can be found by following AggieVolleyball on Twitter.

UP NEXT:

The Aggies return to Reed Arena, Friday, Oct. 19, for a match-up against preseason favorite Tennessee. First serve is at 6 p.m. On Sunday, Oct. 21, A&M plays host to league-leader and 11th-ranked Florida in a match that will be nationally televised by ESPNU. First serve against the Gators is slated for 1 p.m.

RECENT RESULTS:

Texas A&M went 2-0 last weekend with sweeps against both South Carolina and Mississippi State in matches that were televised by SPORTSOUTH. A&M tagged the Gamecocks with their fifth consecutive loss, 25-12, 25-16, 25-16, on Friday, getting contributions from 13 different players. Senior middle blocker Lindsey Miller led all players with 12 kills while hitting .500. Senior opposite Alisia Kastmo pitched in 10 kills and setter Allie Sawatzky dished out 33 assists and directed an A&M offense that hit .364. Then-SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Week Megan Pendergast led all players with 10 digs.

On Sunday, A&M defeated a young and short-handed Mississippi State squad in record-setting fashion, holding the Bulldogs to only 32 points in a 25-8, 25-14, 25-10 victory. It marked the fewest points scored by an A&M opponent in a three-set match since the 25-point cap went into effect in 2008. Despite a continuously changing lineup with 15 A&M players seeing action, the Aggies hit .356 while holding Mississippi State to a -.047 hitting percentage. Senior outside Tori Mellinger, one of only two Aggies to see action in all three sets, led A&M with seven kills and 15 digs.

SERIES HISTORY VS. ARKANSAS:

  • This will be the first meeting. Arkansas did not sponsor volleyball when the two schools were members of the Southwest Conference.

SERIES HISTORY VS. KENTUCKY:

  • Although A&M leads the all-time series against Kentucky, 5-4, the Wildcats have won the last four meetings, including a hard-fought 3-2 (25-23, 24-26, 25-18, 20-25, 15-12) victory in the teams' first-ever meeting as SEC foes on Sept. 23, 2012, in College Station.
  • Also still fresh on Aggies' minds is a 3-0 (25-18, 25-21, 25-19) loss to the Wildcats in the second round of the 2011 NCAA Championship at Reed Arena. It marked A&M's first-ever NCAA home loss after going 15-0.
  • A&M is 0-1 in matches played in Lexington.
  • A&M's last win against Kentucky was in 1985 at G. Rollie White Coliseum in College Station.
  • In the most recent meeting, A&M gave up a season-high nine aces and had its nine-match winning streak snapped, while Kentucky got back into the win column after suffering four consecutive losses. A&M had more kills (66-61) but UK led in hitting percentage (.229 to .187) and blocks (12.5 to 7.5) to come out on top. Whitney Billings and Ashley Frazier led the Wildcats with 16 kills apiece, and Lauren O'Conner added 12 kills. Billings and Sara Schwarzwalder had six blocks apiece, and setter Christine Hartmann had 55 assists and libero Stephanie Klefot had 20 digs for UK. A&M's Alisia Kastmo led all players with 19 kills and Tori Mellinger was the only other A&M player with double-digit kills with 18. Libero Megan Pendergast had a match-high 22 digs and setter Allie Sawatzky had 48 assists.

A&M's all-time results vs. Kentucky

Overall:  5-4 H:  3-3 A:  0-1     N:  2-0

Oct. 9, 1982 N W  15-9, 16-14

Oct. 29, 1982  H  W    4-15, 13-15, 15-2, 15-11, 15-12

Oct. 30, 1982  H  W    15-9, 10-15, 16-14, 10-15, 15-11

Sep. 14, 1985  N  W    15-9, 15-6, 15-7

Oct. 4, 1985 H W  15-10, 8-15, 15-5, 15-10

Oct. 31, 1986  A  L      15-11, 8-15, 12-15, 8-15

Oct. 15, 1988  H  L      4-15, 16-18, 12-15

Dec. 2, 2011   H  L      18-25, 21-25, 19-25

Sep. 23, 2012  H  L      23-25, 26-24, 18-25, 25-20, 12-15

AGGIE QUICK HITS:

  • Texas A&M, the winner in 13 of its last 14 matches, including each of its last four, took over sole possession of first place in the SEC Western Division last weekend as the Aggies improved to 6-1 in conference play and former co-Western Division leader Arkansas suffered a 3-0 loss at No. 11 Florida to fall to 5-2.
  • A&M's 14-2 record equals the best start in school history after 16 matches. The 1984 team won 22 matches before suffering its third loss, and the 1996 and 1995 squads won 15 and 14 matches, respectively, before posting a third loss.
  • A&M is No. 24 in this week's Rating Percentage Index (RPI). Stanford is No. 1, and Penn State Nebraska, UCLA and Louisville round out the top five. At No. 13, Florida is the top-rated team representing the SEC, followed by No. 18 Kentucky, No. 20 Arkansas and No. 21 Tennessee.
  • The Aggies are receiving votes in the AVCA Top 25 Poll. Listed at a season-high 26th, A&M is on the cusp of breaking into the Top 25 for the first time since a No. 21 ranking in the final poll of the 2009 season (Dec. 22, 2009).
  • A&M leads the SEC and is ranked third in the nation in both assists (13.83) and kills (15.02) per set. A&M also leads the SEC and is 10th in the nation with a .875 winning percentage.
  • A&M is the SEC leader in opponent hitting percentage (.136) and is second in digs (17.24) and third in aces (1.31) per set for the full season.
  • In SEC matches only, A&M leads the league with 14.36 assists and 15.40 kills per set, as well as a .148 opponent hitting percentage. A&M is third with a .263 hitting percentage and is fifth in aces (1.16) and digs (17.20) and ninth in blocks (2.20) per set.
  • All six A&M players who have appeared in 50 or more sets are averaging at least 2.0 digs per set.
  • A&M has led its opponent in kills in 15 of 16 matches and is 14-1 when leading in kills. Southern California is the only team that has posted more kills (56-48) as the Trojans defeated A&M, 3-1, in College Station in the second match of the season. Kentucky is the only team to defeat A&M when trailing in kills. The Wildcats defeated A&M, 3-2, at Reed Arena on Sept. 23 despite trailing in kills, 66-61.
  • A&M is 13-0 when posting a higher hitting percentage than its opponent.
  • A&M has won the first set in 15 of 16 matches. Only Kentucky has taken the first set off the Aggies. The Wildcats went on to win, 3-2.
  • A&M has used the same starting lineup in all 16 matches thus far: seniors Lindsey Miller and Stephanie Minnerly at middle blocker; senior Alisia Kastmo at opposite; senior Tori Mellinger and junior Heather Reynolds on the outside; and junior Allie Sawatzky at setter. Senior Megan Pendergast has started out every match as the team's designated libero.
  • Texas A&M head coach Laurie Corbelli celebrated the 500th win of her 26-year head coaching career and her 400th victory in her 20th season at the helm of the Aggies in A&M's season-opening victory against Texas State on Aug. 24 at Reed Arena. She is now 513-302 for her career and 413-196 at A&M.
  • Corbelli returns 10 letterwinners - including four starters plus the libero -- from last year's team that went 23-8 and reached the second round of the NCAA tournament. She also welcomes one transfer and seven highly touted freshmen who represent the 20th-ranked recruiting class in the nation.
  • Twelve of A&M's 29 regular season matches will be against teams that appeared in the 2011 NCAA tournament.
  • In their inaugural season in the SEC, the Aggies have been picked to finish second in the SEC West behind seven-time defending west champion LSU. Tennessee is projected to win the East Division and the overall SEC title. A&M finished third in the Big 12 with an 11-5 record in 2011.

PLAYER POINTS:

  • Junior setter Allie Sawatzky, a 6-2 lefty, is averaging 1.94 kills per set, the most among all SEC setters. She has twice led or tied for the team lead in kills in a match this season, and her five double-doubles ties senior outside hitter Tori Mellinger for most on the team.
  • Senior middle blocker Lindsey Miller and Allie Sawatzky have started every match of their careers. The match against Delaware earlier this season marked Miller's 100th consecutive start, and she has now started 108 consecutive matches. Sawatzky has started all 77 matches throughout her career.
  • Lindsey Miller, who has tied or led the team in blocks in 13 of 16 matches this season, leads A&M, is second in the SEC and ranks 81st in the nation with 1.19 blocks per set. The senior from Katy, Texas, has led the team in both total blocks and blocks per set, as well as hitting percentage, every year during her career, and she ranks fifth in the A&M career records with 353 block assists, and she is seventh in the career annals with 403 total blocks and 1,101.5 points.
  • Libero Megan Pendergast became the first A&M player to receive an SEC weekly honor when she was named SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Week on Oct. 1. The senior leads A&M and is ninth in the league with 3.92 digs per set for the full season and 4.12 digs per set in SEC matches only. She has posted double-figure digs in 12 of 16 matches, including three matches in which she had 20 or more digs.
  • Each of A&M's starters was named to at least one all-tournament team in the three tournaments A&M played this year. Senior opposite Alisia Kastmo, the MVP of the Delaware Invitational, and Allie Sawatzky appeared on two all-tournament teams. Senior middle blocker Stephanie Minnerly, the MVP of the Yale Classic, senior outside hitter Tori Mellinger, junior outside hitter Heather Reynolds and Lindsey Miller and have each appeared on one all-tournament team.
  • Tori Mellinger, considered one of the most complete players on the team, is ranked in the SEC top 20 in kills, digs and points per set for both the full season and in conference matches only. She is averaging 3.02 kills, 3.23 digs and 3.41 points per set overall and 3.28 kills, 3.60 digs and 3.78 points per set in SEC contests only.
  • Alisia Kastmo has had double-figure kills in a team-leading 11 matches this season, including two 20-plus kill performances. She leads A&M and ranks ninth in the SEC with 3.55 kills per set for the full season. She is tied for fourth in the league in SEC matches only with 3.75 kills per set. In addition, Kastmo is eighth with 3.98 points per set for the full season and 4.06 points per set in SEC contests only.
  • Allie Sawatzky, who ranks eighth in the A&M records with 2,795 career assists, is averaging 10.00 assists per set for the full season, ranking ninth in the SEC. In conference matches only, she is second in the SEC with 11.08 assists per set.
  • Freshman outside hitter Angela Lowak has appeared in each of the last six matches, and freshman Sierra Patrick has appeared in each of the last five matches. Lowak has been coming in for Heather Reynolds in the front row, while Patrick typically goes in for Lindsey Miller to serve.
  • All 15 designated eligible players saw action in the match against Mississippi State. Four freshmen saw significant action, including Shelbi Vaughan, who came off the bench and had six kills in two sets, and middle blocker Shelby Sullivan, who tied for match-high honors with four blocks.
  • Alisia Kastmo and Stephanie Minnerly both have graduated with bachelor's degrees and are continuing their education as they complete their athletic eligibility. Kastmo graduated in August with a degree in finance and is pursuing a master's degree in real estate. Minnerly, a fifth-year senior, graduated in December 2011 with a bachelor's degree in university studies. She is pursuing a second degree, a bachelor's of science in agricultural leadership and development, and is scheduled to graduate in May 2013.

ARKANSAS NOTES:

  • Arkansas (14-4, 5-2 SEC) has won five of its last six matches with the only loss during the stretch coming at the hands of 11th-ranked Florida on the road.
  • Although A&M and Arkansas have never met, there will be a familiar face on the Razorbacks' bench as assistant coach Carol Price-Torok played for A&M and coach Laurie Corbelli from 2000-03.
  • Most recently, the Razorbacks defeated Ole Miss, 3-1, in Oxford. Jasmine Norton led the Hogs with 18 kills and Amanda Anderson added 16 while hitting at a .625 clip. Arkansas outhit the Rebels, .290 to .168, and led in blocks, 11-5, and in digs, 65-49.
  • The Razorbacks are 9-2 in home contests.
  • Arkansas was picked to finish third behind Texas A&M in the SEC Western Division, according to a preseason poll of the league coaches.
  • Robert Pulliza (Ball State, 1996) is in his fifth season as head coach of the Razorbacks.

KENTUCKY NOTES:

  • Kentucky is 10-7 overall and 4-3 in the SEC entering a Friday contest against Mississippi State in Lexington. The Wildcats are 5-1 in home matches.
  • Most recently, No. 11 Florida overcame a two-set deficit to defeat Kentucky, 22-25, 20-25, 25-22, 25-22, 15-8, in Gainesville, snapping the Wildcats' four-match winning streak. Sophomore Lauren O'Conner had a career high and team-high 18 kills and hit .421.
  • Whitney Billings leads UK with 2.91 kills per set and 3.67 points per set.
  • Kentucky ranks second in the SEC and 33rd in the nation with 2.65 blocks per set.
  • Craig Skinner is 168-72 (.700) in his eighth season as head coach of the Wildcats and has led Kentucky to seven consecutive NCAA tournament appearances. Before being hired at Kentucky, Skinner served five seasons in the Big 12 Conference as an assistant coach at Nebraska.
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