GRAND FORKS, N.D. – Texas A&M fought off a feisty North Dakota team in front of a rowdy crowd of 1,375 to win 25-17, 23-25, 25-16, 25-23 in the final match of the UND Classic at the Sioux Center.
With the win, the Aggies improve to 2-1 and take second place in the tournament. Iowa State won the tournament title with a 3-0 record, and UND (1-2) and South Dakota State (0-3) finished third and fourth, respectively. Aggie senior setter Allie Sawatzky and sophomore opposite hitter Sierra Patrick were both named to the all-tournament team.
A&M used a seven-point run to jump out to an 8-2 lead in the opening set, with sophomore middle blocker Shelby Sullivan posting three kills during the rally. The Aggies went on to build a 13-5 advantage before UND began chipping away at the lead. UND got within four points three times, the last coming at 17-13 before the Aggies reeled off six consecutive points to take a 23-13 lead. UND made a late rally, scoring three straight points to get within 23-16 but was unable to defend an attack by sophomore outside hitter Angela Lowak, which put the Aggies at set point. UND got a kill off the block to stay alive before redshirt freshman middle blocker Jazzmin Babers tipped the ball in for a kill, giving A&M a 25-17 first-set win.
UND held an 11-9 lead in the second set when Sullivan and freshman outside hitter Emily Hardesty posted a block and Lowak followed with a kill to tie the score at 11-11. UND hit long on the next play to give the Aggies their first lead since 3-2. The teams began to trade point for point until A&M scored two to go up 18-16. UND then went on a 4-1 run to retake the lead at 20-19. A&M tied the score at 20-20 and 22-all but was unable to regain the lead. UND served into the net at match point to put A&M within 24-23, but the Aggies hit long on the next play to end the set.
A&M built a 7-3 lead in the third set, but UND rallied to take its first lead at 9-8. A&M retook the lead at 11-10 on an ace by senior setter Mariah Agre. UND followed with a block to tie the score once again, but Sullivan posted a kill on the slide attack to give the Aggies a lead they would not lose. Holding an 18-15 advantage, A&M went on a 7-1 run to close out the set, with Patrick clinching the win with her sixth kill of the frame and her 12th of the match.
Aggie head coach Laurie Corbelli tweaked the lineup to start the fourth set, moving Patrick from the right side to the left side and inserting freshman setter/opposite hitter Kaysie Shebeneck on the right. UND jumped out to a 4-0 lead before the Aggies began to get on into sync. A&M first tied the score at 8-8 and took its first lead at 11-10 as Patrick tooled the block for a kill. Shebeneck and Patrick then traded kills to put A&M ahead, 13-10, which would equal the Aggies’ largest lead in the set.
UND eventually tied the score at 21 on back-to-back kills, but Sullivan ended the rally with a kill on the slide attack, and Patrick followed with consecutive kills to put A&M at match point. After several great saves on both sides, UND got two kills to get within 24-23, forcing Corbelli to call a timeout. Patrick came out of the timeout and put down her 20th kill of the match to clinch the win for the Aggies.
It was Patrick’s second consecutive 20-kill performance, having initially reached the career mark against Iowa State earlier in the day. Lowak and Sullivan also posted career highs in kills with 16 and 13, respectively.
Senior libero Kelsey Kinley led the Aggies in digs with 15, and Agre and Sawatzky also reached double figures with 11 and 10, respectively, to lead A&M to a 71-64 advantage in digs. A&M also outhit UND, .238 to .219, but UND outblocked the Aggies, 14-6.
Lexi Robinson led UND in kills with 14.
The Aggies return to action Thursday and Friday, Sept. 5-6, at the USTA Classic at the Convocation Center in San Antonio. A&M plays two matches on Thursday, opening the tournament against Loyola Marymount at 1:30 p.m. and then returning to the court to face Lamar at 7 p.m. The Aggies conclude the tournament Friday at 7 p.m. against the host Roadrunners.
Visit AggieAthletics.com for more information on Texas A&M volleyball. Aggie fans also can keep up to date with the A&M volleyball team on Facebook and on Twitter by following @AggieVolleyball.
Texas A&M Head Coach Laurie Corbelli quotes:
(On coming away with the win)
“I had to take a lot of deep breaths during that match. It was incredibly tight and that was a team that passed beautifully to their setter, so they were almost always in system. It just put a lot of pressure on our block. We didn’t get very many blocks, so we had to really dig down deep for our defensive play to pick up. It didn’t start out so great, but I was really proud of the total team effort that we showed tonight, especially on a visiting court with a good crowd against a team with all juniors and seniors. This was UND’s premiere match for the weekend. This is the one they really wanted, and we took it from them, and that feels really good for this young group.”
(On the long rallies and overcoming bad calls)
“This team really is recognizing how strong they are together. They are just really doing a nice job of communicating and not blaming anyone. They are taking responsibility for their own play and they are working on getting refocused once things go badly and just really trying to even out their play. This morning’s match we had a lot of lulls, some highs and some low lows. After a rough start coming off the loss to Iowa State, I thought the team started to gain some confidence and got settled in and started to get some rhythm, and our passing got better as well.”
(On the tweaking the lineup in the fourth set)
“We decided to have Sierra get some swings on the left and one of our best blockers is a freshman, Kaysie Shebeneck. We thought if we were going to go to Sierra a lot on the left, then we should have Kaysie go in and do some blocking. All of the girls made the adjustment really well. It is a lineup we haven’t used much in practice and it is early in the season, having been in the practice gym for only three weeks. If we’ve learned a lot today from these two matches in which we were really challenged – we definitely didn’t walk over teams – that’s what we really needed and we are able to identify a lot of things. You see your team grow during the match. You see them learning and so it is really exciting from that standpoint.”
(On the UTSA Classic)
“Next weekend will be another opportunity for us to play in front of family and friends and be in Texas but not at home, so it will be a little bit of a road experience against a variety of level of teams. I think it will be pretty similar to this tournament in terms of strength. UTSA has some dynamic attackers, and they would love a chance at us on their home court, and that is going to be tough. Loyola Marymount is receiving votes, and if they are not they will be soon I have a feeling. They are a talented team with a lot of returners, kind of like what we experienced tonight, so kind of a repeat of this weekend’s tournament, and we will see if we can apply the things that we hope we learned this weekend.”