Texas A&M Sweeps Georgia in SEC Opener
Aggie sophomore outside hitter Sierra Patrick led all players with 13 kills and completed a double-double, tying A&M senior libero Kelsey Kinley for match-high honors with 14 digs. Senior setter Allie Sawatzky posted her team leading ninth double-double of the season, dishing out 32 assists and pitching in 11 kills with no errors while hitting at a career-high .647 clip. The 6-2 lefty came within two digs of posting her second consecutive and fourth overall triple-double of the season.
Sawatzky directed the A&M offense to a .333 hitting percentage, marking the team’s highest hitting percentage since hitting .338 in the season opener against South Dakota State. Meanwhile, Georgia, which entered the contest hitting .263 for the season, was held to a season-low .083 hitting percentage as Aggie redshirt freshman middle blocker Jazzmin Babers recorded nine blocks. Patrick added a career-high five blocks to help A&M outblock the Bulldogs, 12-7.
The Aggies appeared to be pulling away in the opening set after reeling off five unanswered points to build an 11-5 lead. The Bulldogs, however, began to chip away and eventually took their first lead at 18-17 following an A&M attack error. The teams traded sideouts before Babers and Patrick rejected a Georgia attack to put the Aggies ahead, 20-19. Patrick continued to score for the Aggies, getting three kills and a solo block as A&M extended its lead to 23-20. Georgia hit into the net on the ensuing play to put the Aggies at set point, and Patrick followed with a kill down the line, giving her seven kills for the set and giving the Aggies a 1-0 lead in the match.
Georgia held an 8-5 lead in the second set before a kill by A&M’s Angela Lowak began a 4-0 run that put the Aggies ahead, 9-8. Georgia managed to tie the score at 9- and 11-all before Patrick powered a kill through the Bulldog block, sparking a 4-0 run that gave the Aggies a 19-12 lead. Georgia ended the rally with a kill, but Patrick countered with thundering kill that marked the beginning of a 6-1 run that gave the Aggies a commanding 21-13 lead. Georgia twice got within six points, the last coming at 22-16. The Bulldogs then hit wide and Sawatzky notched a kill to put the Aggies at set point, 24-16. Georgia, which was outhit .235 to -.029 in the set, stayed alive as A&M served into the net, but Aggie sophomore middle blocker Shelby Sullivan posted a kill to close out the set and give the Aggies a 2-0 lead in the match.
Georgia scored the first point of the third set, but it would be the Bulldogs’ only lead. Kills by Sullivan and Patrick bookended a Georgia attack error and gave the Aggies a 3-1 lead. The Bulldogs twice got within a point before A&M went on a 7-2 run that put the Aggies ahead, 11-5. A&M, which outhit the Bulldogs, .560 to .192 in the frame, continued to widen the gap and built a 21-11 advantage following a 3-0 rally. Georgia’s Tirah Le’au then posted her team-leading seventh kill of the match before a Sawatzky kill and an ace by Mariah Agre put A&M up, 23-12. Sullivan doubled up the score and put the Aggies at match point with a kill and then closed out the match by putting down a Georgia overpass for her fifth kill of the set.
A&M improved to 9-3 overall and 2-0 in all-time SEC openers. Georgia, which had won seven of its last eight matches and entered the contest riding a three-match win streak, falls to 11-3 overall and 1-1 in SEC play. It also marked the Bulldogs’ fourth consecutive loss when playing the Aggies, who improved to 9-3 in the all-time series between the two teams.
The Aggies hit the road next weekend for a pair of SEC matches, taking on third-ranked and defending SEC champion Florida, Friday, Oct. 4 at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Fla., and South Carolina on Sunday, Oct. 6 at the Volleyball Competition Center in Columbia, S.C. First serve against the Gators, who were picked to repeat as SEC champions, is at 6 p.m. (CT), and the match will be televised live by Sun Sports. The match against the Gamecocks is slated for a 12:30 (CT) start.
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 Quotes:
Head Coach Laurie Corbelli
(On winning SEC opener)
“I thought the team played really well. I think we had a lot of an advantage being at home, not having played Friday and getting a chance to prepare all week. It makes a big difference because everybody is good these days. When you get a chance to focus on only one team for the weekend, it does make a big difference. You can do a lot of things in your training sessions that help prepare your kids. We had a great week of practice and I thought we would come out and play really well today.”
(On the team’s defense)
“Defense is the cornerstone of our program. We want the ball handled beautifully to make it ‘pretty volleyball.’ We want players that are getting after it on defense all the time and not only digging balls but also putting them where we can do something with them offensively. We are pretty hard on them with defense. During the first set, I thought our defense needed to pick up. They got an earful from me about defense and blocking. I thought the team responded really well. We made a few minor adjustments that they responded to and it helped us get going.”
(On senior libero Kelsey Kinley)
I thought she did a nice job. I don’t look at numbers of digs because we channel so much to her that we want her getting a ton of balls. I look at the quality and what happens when that ball gets dug, especially when it is not a super-hard driven ball. In my mind, that ball goes to target all the time. If it’s not, that’s when I get riled up. Kinley typically has great quality when she receives balls. We were trying to channel balls to her, and she did a great job.”
(On Georgia’s performance)
Honestly, I think [Georgia right side hitter] Stacey Smith did not have a good night. I have a lot of respect for her. She’s hitting at an incredibly high clip. She has shown she can play the game pretty darn well. She just had a tough night and they couldn’t get her going. They weren’t in system a lot. They weren’t in great offensive rhythm a lot. When they were, they couldn’t get the ball to their middles as much as they like to. Our middle didn’t have to commit and they were able to go over and help on the right side. That helps a lot. I just think she had a not-so-good night, but I don’t anticipate that is going to happen very often. They are coming off of a big win. Also our serving got tougher. I thought we started off serving way too wimpy. When we started to put more heat on our serves, even if it pulled their setter of the middle just a little bit, it was taking their middle out. That helped quite a bit. We could focus on their two outsides.”
(On team depth)
“I feel like we weren’t doing as much switching in and out and subbing. However, a lot of players have gotten so much time on the court in our preconference games that they are ready to go when we need them. We’ve tried six different starting lineups during this season. It is all starting to come together and our bench is really deep. That’s a great feeling.”
(On Sierra Patrick)
“She is very capable. She is capable at the beginning, middle and end. I don’t know how else to put it into words. I am anticipating her to have a great career here.”
(On upcoming match against Florida)
“The only thing I am focused on now is Florida. I feel like we are improving. This match did not highlight our weaknesses. We do have some that we are working on. One thing that separates us from other teams is what our setter (Allie Sawatzky) can do and what it forces defenses to do against her. They all have to come up with some great plan to slow her down or stop her. The only team that I have seen that can do that is Colorado State. They did a great job against her. We are trying to get her prepared for whatever teams do against her. I believe that she will stay aggressive and keep doing what she does as best as she can. It still opens up other attackers. That is the frustrating part for our opponents. I don’t know what Florida will have for us, but I am sure it will be good.”
Sophomore Outside Hitter Sierra Patrick
(On opening SEC with a sweep)
“This whole week in practice we’ve been trying to get our focus ready for the SEC. This is a new section of our season. Preseason is over and we are in conference. Preparing for this game, we really wanted to make a statement. We do have a lot of people that weren’t here from last year, so we really wanted to say who we are as a team. I think we did really well. It was fun to play Georgia. I’ve only been here for two years but both times they’ve been really fun games. It was a good win. I was happy with it for sure.”
(On going forward into SEC play)
“It just sets the tone. Playing bad is contagious and playing well is contagious. It’s good to know what level we are expecting ourselves to be at every single game. It’s good to start conference this way and we know what it feels like. Let’s make sure we can replicate it. I’m really excited with it. It’s always good to have a good game. The fact that it’s the start of our new season is just perfect.”
“That’s what so fun about athletics is it’s so unexpected. You don’t know what’s going to happen. In practice we’ve been focusing on things we need to do to get better. I think it really showed coming into this weekend. As a team, we prepared ourselves well. The coaches are always on us, but it was really team driven. It definitely reflected in our play this weekend in comparison to others.”
(On going on runs to close out the sets)
“It’s always good to get on a run. That goes back to the momentum of the team. Someone does something good and it’s just contagious and catches like wildfire. Jazzmin (Babers) got a nasty block, and then after she got that block, everyone just wanted to do well, too, because we were so pumped. It’s almost inevitable not to do well after your teammate does well. That definitely happened in that set. I was really happy that in the third set we did not let up. I’ve seen this group be ahead by a lot and then let up and then the other team comes back. We might still win, but they get a run. It was nice to see us keep the pressure on them. That’s what we’ve really been working on is keeping the pressure on the other team.”
“We were in control of the game the whole time. It never felt like we were out of control or didn’t know what was happening. Everyone was in sync. Comparing this weekend to our past matches, it was more individual play and today was very team oriented.”
(On Friday’s match against Florida)
“Everyone is excited to play Florida. Playing there is going to be so fun because they are known for having a good volleyball program. It’s really nice to have a game like this going into a team that is ranked. It’s nice to have this momentum going into it. They are a really good team, and everyone loves playing good teams. It’s going to be fun. I’m really excited to play there. We didn’t get to play there last year so we don’t know exactly what to expect, but it’s always fun to get a win on the road.”