TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Texas A&M sophomore middle blocker Shelby Sullivan had a career-high 15 kills while hitting .636, but the Aggies came up short in a 33-31, 25-22, 25-23 loss at Alabama tonight at Foster Auditorium.
The teams battled through 20 ties and eight lead changes in the opening set, working overtime before the Crimson Tide pulled away for the 33-31 victory. Alabama had the momentum early, jumping out to an 8-3 lead before A&M coach Laurie Corbelli called a timeout. The teams traded points during the first four plays coming out of the timeout before Aggie setter Allie Sawatzky and Sullivan led A&M on a 6-0 charge to give the Aggies an 11-10 lead.
Neither team mounted more than a two-point advantage until Alabama notched three consecutive kills to go up, 24-21. With the Tide serving for the set, freshman Jazzmin Babers kept the Aggies alive with a kill on the slide attack. Alabama followed with back-to-back attack errors, hitting wide and then into the net as A&M tied the score at 24-all. Sophomore outside hitter Angela Lowak then blasted a kill off the Alabama block to put the Aggies at set point.
The teams exchanged kills until an A&M ball handling error put the Tide ahead, 27-26. Babers tied the score with a kill and Aggie freshman Emily Hardesty followed with a kill as A&M retook the lead at 28-27. The teams, both hitting .333 in the frame, again began trading kills before Alabama had back-to-back kills to go up 31-30. Sullivan tooled the block for her seventh kill of the set, but despite A&M scoring its most points in a set this season, the Aggies came up short of getting the win as Alabama countered with a kill and a block to close out the set.
Alabama used a 6-1 run to build a 9-6 lead in the second set. A&M managed to tie the score following a 3-0 rally, which included two kills by Hardesty and an ace by senior libero Kelsey Kinley, but the Maroon and White was unable to sustain the momentum. Alabama, which outhit A&M, .438 to .364, countered with three consecutive kills and a block to go up 14-10. The Tide went on to build its largest lead at 18-12 and equaled the margin at 24-18. A&M then made a late rally with Sullivan getting three kills during a 4-0 run, putting the Aggies within 24-22 before Krystal Rivers put down her 13th kill of the match to give Alabama a 2-0 lead.
Alabama built a 10-6 lead to begin the third set when A&M began a comeback. Trailing 12-9, Sawatzky got a kill on a second-ball attack, marking the beginning of a 5-0 run by the Aggies and giving A&M its first lead since 1-0. The lead was short lived, however, as Alabama outscored A&M, 6-1, to retake the lead and build an 18-15 advantage. The Tide kept its three-point margin at 19-16 before sophomore outside attacker Sierra Patrick got a kill off the Alabama block and Sawatzky followed with a kill. Sullivan then forced a kill down the Alabama block to knot the score at 19-19. A&M’s next serve sailed out, but Patrick and senior outside hitter Ashley Vrana connected on back-to-back kills to give A&M a 21-20 lead. Alabama tied the score at 21- and 22-all before an A&M attack error returned the lead to the Tide, 23-22.
Sawatzky posted her fifth kill of the set and her 12th of the match following an A&M timeout to tie the score for the ninth time in the set, but Rivers, who hit .750 on the night, tipped the ball in for her match-high 16th kill to put the Tide at match point. A&M then misconnected on its next attack attempt to end the match.
A&M, which was outhit .322 to .301 in the match, drops to 10-7 overall and 2-4 in the SEC. Alabama improves to 15-5, 3-3.
A&M concludes a two-match road swing Sunday at Auburn. The match at Auburn Arena will begin at 2 p.m. and will be televised by SportSouth with Pete Pranica and Phil Bush calling the action.
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Texas A&M Head Coach Laurie Corbelli Quotes:
(On the difference in the match)
“Defense. The difference was defense. We knew what they were going to do, had our players in the right spots and couldn’t dig a thing. That is the most disappointing game. We work so hard at defense. I just expect better. We have to make a big change here or we’ll be digging ourselves into too big of a hole.
“I was really disappointed in our blocking. We were everywhere. We were all over the place, and that is not even close to what we typically do. We’ve got to pick up our droopy faces and get ourselves back out there and get back to playing some great volleyball.
“We never really got into a rhythm. I’m not allowed to comment on the officiating, so I won’t. However my team, I guess it’s just resilience, a bad play or a bad something else, we didn’t recover from it. We couldn’t get into a flow. When we got our passing going, our defense wouldn’t do anything. We’d dig a few balls and then we couldn’t put the ball away. That was the name of the game tonight.”
(On the offensive play of the middles on both teams and the positive aspects of the match)
It kind of evened things out with both sides attacking behind the setter really well. We just can’t rely on our middles to take us through the whole season without much production from our outsides. That really hurts us. Shelby Sullivan and Jazz Babers I thought were phenomenal, and I felt like (Allie) Sawatzky did her best to keep attacking them. She had the most number of attacks and hit .350, so that’s pretty darn good.”