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A&M Defeats Missouri, 3-1, in First SEC Road Match

September 28, 2012
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Courtesy: Texas A&M Athletics
(photo: Texas A&M Athletics)
COLUMBIA, Mo.  - Playing its first-ever Southeastern Conference road match, Texas A&M posted a 3-1 victory against a familiar opponent, defeating former Big 12 Conference foe Missouri, 25-20, 23-25, 25-23, 25-17, tonight at Hearnes Center.

A&M, which gets its first win in Columbia since 2008, improves to 11-2 overall and 3-1 in the SEC. Missouri drops to 11-4, 3-2.

A&M, the SEC leader in kills per set, used a balanced attack as four players posted double-figure kills, led by senior opposite Alisia Kastmo, who tied for match-high honors with 20. Senior outside hitter Tori Mellinger had 17 kills, and senior middle blocker Stephanie Minnerly pitched in a career-high 15 kills while hitting a personal best .700. Senior middle Lindsey Miller finished with 11 as A&M posted 74 total kills to Missouri's 47 and outhit the Tigers .294 to .221.

A&M also had a 69-55 lead in digs as senior libero Megan Pendergast led A&M with 21. Junior setter Allie Sawatzky, who dished out a season-high 54 assists, contributed 12 digs, and Mellinger and junior outside hitter Heather Reynolds posted 11 digs apiece.

Lisa Henning was the only Missouri player to record double-figure kills with 20. Missouri, the top blocking team in the league, outblocked A&M 13-5 to 9.0, getting five blocks each from Henning and Whitney Little.

A&M never trailed in the opening set as Mellinger and Kastmo combined for three consecutive kills to give the Aggies an early 5-2 lead. The Aggies, who outhit the Tigers, .317 to .189 in the frame, later led 17-13 when a kill and a block by Miller put the Aggies up 19-13. A Missouri attack error on the next play gave the Aggies their largest lead at 20-13, but Missouri began chipping away at the margin, using a 5-1 run to get within 20-16. The Tigers stayed within four points at 23-19 before Minnerly put down a kill using a slide attack to put A&M at set point.

Missouri setter Molly Kreklow posted a kill following an errant A&M overpass to fight off one set point before Aggie freshman Angela Lowak blasted a kill through the Tiger block to close out the set.

A&M jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the second set, but Missouri later used a 3-0 run to retake the lead at 10-8. The Tigers, who outhit A&M, .406 to .220 in the set, went on to build a three-point lead before A&M rallied and tied the score at 14-14 following a Missouri ball handling error. A&M tied the score again at 15-all but was unable to retake the lead as the Tigers scored three unanswered points to go up 18-15 and force an A&M timeout.

Kastmo ended the run with a tip kill, and the Aggies would later get within 21-20 as Mellinger's off-speed shot fell in for a kill. A&M hit wide on the ensuing play and then had consecutive attacks blocked as Missouri took a 24-20 lead. A&M fought off three set points to get within 24-23 before Henning ended the set with a kill.

A&M built a 12-7 lead in the third set before Missouri went on a 6-1 run to get right back into the set. The Tigers later used a 5-1 run to take their first lead of the stanza at 18-16. They kept the lead at 19-17, but they were whistled for reaching over the net and Sawatzky followed with a kill to knot the score at 19-19. Henning then got a kill out of the back row, but Mellinger countered with back-to-back kills as A&M retook the lead at 21-20. Sawatzky continued the scoring, swatting down a ball that had caromed off her own block for a kill. With A&M leading 22-20, the teams traded points for the remainder of the set with Kastmo clinching the set with her seventh kill of the frame, giving the Aggies a 2-1 lead in the match.

A&M appeared in control of the fourth set, building 17-10 advantage. Missouri fought back, using a 4-0 run to get within 17-14 before Mellinger posted a kill and Minnerly and Lowak teamed for a block. Henning ended the run with a kill, but Kastmo answered with a kill out of the middle and Lowak followed with her fourth kill of the match to build a 21-15 lead.

A&M kept the lead at 22-17 when Miller and Lowak got a block to begin a match-ending three point run. Sawatzky posted her seventh kill with a dump to put the Aggies at match point, and Reynolds followed with an ace to clinch the victory.

A&M completes its first SEC road swing Sunday as the Aggies take on the Alabama Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa. First serve is slated for 1:30 p.m. at Foster Auditorium. Live audio of the match will be available for free on AggieAthletics.com, with Chelsea Reber calling the action.

Texas A&M Post-Match Quotes

Head Coach Laurie Corbelli

(Opening statement)

"It certainly was a total team effort. We went in with a really good game plan. You can always have a good game plan and then it is just a matter of execution, and I think the players just showed a lot of confidence in execution tonight. Even when we made a couple of errors that we'd string together, sometimes teams don't recover from that very well, and I thought that is something we did exceptionally well tonight.

(On Sawatzky and the middles being effective)

They were really important. We have been working really hard on that connection and what it takes to get the timing better. We still have a lot of work to do, but I think it is improving and that was a really good stamp of approval on what we have been working on; for them to know that the work they've put in has really paid off in that regard.

(On having four players with double-figure kills despite Missouri's big block)

Sawatzky did a great job of mixing up the offense, but we stayed with our hot hitters. Luckily Mellinger and Kastmo were both really on most of the night. And even when our passing was off, typically we've struggled, but I thought even tonight when we had some passes that didn't allow us to do what we typically like to do, we are finding a new way to become good when being out of system, and that is really important."

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