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A&M Faces Missouri, Alabama on First SEC Road Trip

September 27, 2012
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Courtesy: Texas A&M Athletics
(photo: Texas A&M Athletics)
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Texas A&M (10-2, 2-1 SEC) embarks on its first conference road trip of the season this weekend, taking on former Big 12 Conference foe Missouri at the Hearnes Center in Columbia on Friday and then taking its first-ever trip to Tuscaloosa, Ala., for a match against the Alabama Crimson Tide on Sunday. First serve against the Tigers is at 6:30 p.m., and the match at Alabama begins at 1:30 p.m. at Foster Auditorium.

Texas A&M, which leads the league in kills, assists and digs per set, as well as opponent hitting percentage for the full season, will be looking to get back into the win column after suffering its first SEC loss of the year, a 3-2 setback against Kentucky on Sunday at Reed Arena in College Station. The loss snapped the Aggies' nine-match winning streak and put them in a tie with Arkansas for second place in the Western Division, a half-game behind Auburn.

Missouri, the top blocking team in the conference, is 11-3 overall and in second place in the SEC Eastern Division with a 3-1 record after defeating preseason Western Division favorite LSU, 3-1, Sunday in Baton Rouge.

Alabama enters the weekend 12-4 overall and 1-3 in the league after dropping its last three matches. The Crimson Tide hosts Ole Miss on Friday prior to welcoming the Aggies.

TEXAS A&M (10-2, 2-1 SEC) VS. MISSOURI (11-3, 3-1 SEC)
Friday, Sept. 28, 2012
6:30 p.m., Hearnes Center
Columbia, Mo.

TEXAS A&M VS. ALABAMA
Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012
1:30 p.m., Foster Auditorium
Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Live Audio: AggieAthletics.com (free)
Live Stats: AggieAthletics.com
In-Game Updates: Twitter.com/AggieVolleyball

UP NEXT:
The Aggies return to Reed Arena Oct. 5 and 7 for a pair of matches to be televised live by Fox Sports South. A&M faces South Carolina Friday, Oct. 5 at 8:30 p.m. and then hosts Mississippi State, Sunday, Oct. 7 at 3 p.m.

RECENT RESULTS:
In Texas A&M's only match of the week, the Aggies were unable to avenge last year's NCAA second-round loss to Kentucky, falling to the Wildcats, 3-2, on Sunday in College Station. The loss snapped A&M's nine-match winning streak, and it marked the Aggies' first SEC loss. A&M, which dropped the opening set for the first time this season, was playing in its first five-set match of the year. Senior opposite Alisia Kastmo led all players with 19 kills and also had a career-high 15 digs. Senior outside hitter Tori Mellinger added a career-high 18 kills and also pitched in 15 digs. Senior libero Megan Pendergast took match-high honors in digs with a season-high 22, and junior setter Allie Sawatzky dished out a season-high 48 assists.

SERIES HISTORY VS. MISSOURI:

  • A&M leads the all-time series against Missouri, 23-12, going 21-11 against the Tigers in Big 12 matches.
  • Missouri has won four of the last five meetings and holds a 9-7 series advantage in matches played in Columbia.
  • The teams split the two-match series last year with each team winning on its home court.
  • A&M, whose last victory at Hearnes Center came in 2008, snapped a three-match losing skid against the Tigers in the final meeting as members of the Big 12, coming from behind in each set to sweep Missouri 25-17, 25-22, 25-30 on Nov. 12, 2011, at Reed Arena. Although A&M had no players in double figures in kills, the Aggies got nine kills apiece from outside hitters Tori Mellinger and Kelsey Black, as well as right-side hitter Alisia Kastmo. In addition, setter Allie Sawatzky added seven kills. A&M outhit Missouri, .268 to .167, and posted a 10-4 advantage in blocks. Lisa Henning led the Tigers with 11 kills.

SERIES HISTORY VS. ALABAMA:

  • A&M is 2-0 all-time against Alabama, with both victories coming with Laurie Corbelli as head coach of the Aggies.
  • The teams first met Sept. 24, 1993, at the Southern Premiere Tournament, hosted by Texas State in San Marcos. A&M won, 15-5, 15-13, 10-15, 15-3 en route to capturing the five-team tournament championship.
  • A&M and Alabama last met on Sept. 14, 1996, in College Station. The Aggies defeated the Tide, 15-6, 15-8, 15-5, at G. Rollie White Coliseum to go 4-0 at the Post Oak Mall Lady Aggie Invitational.

AGGIE QUICK HITS:

  • Texas A&M has won nine of its last 10 matches and is tied for second in the SEC Western Division with a 2-1 record.
  • A&M's 10-2 record equals the second best start in school history after 12 matches.
  • The Aggies are receiving votes in the AVCA Top 25 Poll and are tied for 31st.
  • A&M has historically struggled in its first conference road match of the season, having gone 11-19 since 1982, including 1-3 in road openers at Missouri.
  • A&M leads the SEC in four of seven statistical categories: assists (13.46), kills (14.61) and digs (17.27) per set, as well as opponent hitting percentage (.149) for the full season.
  • In SEC matches only, A&M is second in the conference with 13.67 assists, 14.42 kills, 1.17 aces and 17.25 digs per set and ranks third with a .202 opponent hitting percentage.
  • Junior setter Allie Sawatzky directs an Aggie offense that ranks 11th in the nation and No. 1 in the SEC with 14.61 kills per set. In addition, Sawatzky, who averages 9.46 assists per set, has A&M listed 17th in the country and first in the SEC with a 13.46 assist average.
  • A&M lists six players who average 2.00 or more digs per set for the full season. Senior libero Megan Pendergast leads the team with 3.75 digs per set for the full season, as well as in conference matches only. She has had a team-best nine double-digit dig performances this season, including a season-high 22 digs in the loss to Kentucky.
  • A&M had won the first set in every match this season until suffering a first-set loss against Kentucky, the Aggies' most recent opponent, in the 12th match of the season.
  • Senior middle blocker Lindsey Miller, who has taken team-high honors in blocks in 10 of 12 matches this season, leads the team, is third in the SEC and ranks 74th in the nation with 1.19 blocks per set. She currently ranks eighth in the A&M career records with 389 total blocks and needs only two more blocks to move into seventh in the A&M records.
  • Senior outside hitter Tori Mellinger moved into ninth in the A&M records for career digs following her 15-dig performance against Kentucky. Mellinger, who is averaging 3.08 digs per set this season, has 1,241 digs for her career and needs only 13 more to move into eighth place in the Aggie records.
  • Senior opposite Alisia Kastmo has had double-figure kills in each of the last five matches and a team-leading nine matches overall this season. She leads the team and ranks ninth in the SEC with 3.49 kills per set.
  • Aggie freshman Shelby Sullivan and Missouri sophomore outside hitter Katie O'Brien are first cousins and were teammates at J.J. Pearce High School in Richardson, Texas. O'Brien has been out this year with an injury.
  • A&M has used the same starting lineup in all 11 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.
  • Each of A&M's starters was named to at least one all-tournament team in the three tournaments A&M played this year. Kastmo, the MVP of the Delaware Invitational, and Sawatzky have appeared on two all-tournament teams. Minnerly, the MVP of the Yale Classic, Mellinger, Miller and Reynolds have each appeared on one all-tournament team.
  • 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 104 consecutive matches. Sawatzky has started in 73 matches throughout her career.
  • 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 509-302 for her career and 409-196 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.
  • Kastmo and 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.

MISSOURI NOTES:

  • Missouri (11-3, 3-1 SEC) has won four of its last five matches, including an SEC opening 3-2 victory over then No. 17 Tennessee, as well as a 3-1 victory at LSU in its most recent outing.
  • The Tigers are hitting .288 for the season, ranking second in the SEC.
  • Preseason All-SEC selection Lisa Henning leads the Tigers and ranks third in the SEC with 4.29 kills per set for the full season and third in the league with 4.07 kills per set in SEC matches only.
  • Sophomore Whitney Little is the top blocker in the league and is 56th in the nation with 1.26 blocks per set. Her average jumps to 1.93 per set in SEC contests. In addition, Little is hitting .414 in SEC matches after posting 15 kills and no errors in 34 attempts, along with seven blocks (4 solo) in the four-set win at LSU on Sunday. She had 10 blocks (5 solo) in a three-set loss at No. 13 Florida.

ALABAMA NOTES:

  • Alabama is 12-4 overall and 1-3 in the SEC entering a match against Ole Miss on Friday. Most recently, the Crimson Tide fell, 3-1, at Auburn on Sunday.
  • Senior outside hitter Kayla Fitterer leads the Tide and is fifth in the SEC with 4.06 kills per set in league matches.
  • Alabama has lost its last three matches. The losing skid was preceded by an 11-match winning streak.
  • The Crimson Tide has proved to be tough to defeat at home, as it is 7-1 in matches played at Foster Auditorium.
  • Alabama, picked to finish sixth in the SEC Western Division according to a preseason poll of the league coaches, is currently tied for fifth.
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