Texas A&M Holds off Northern Colorado, 3-1
The Aggies, who had four players reach double figures in kills and four players reach double-figure digs, improve to 8-3. Northern Colorado falls to 5-7.
Sophomore outside hitter Sierra Patrick, who missed the match at No. 22 Colorado State on Saturday to attend a funeral, returned to the lineup and led the Aggies with 17 kills. Senior outside hitter Ashley Vrana came off the bench and tallied a career-high 12 kills, including the match-clinching kill, and sophomore middle blocker Shelby Sullivan and senior setter Allie Sawatzky finished with 10 kills each as A&M lead the Bears in kills, 66-53. In addition, Sawatzky posted her third triple double of the season as she also dished out 43 assists and pitched in 10 digs.
Senior libero Kelsey Kinley led the Aggies with 18 digs, and seniors Mariah Agre and Heather Reynolds also recorded double figures in digs with 11 and 10, respectively. Freshman defensive specialist Victoria Arenas contributed nine digs as A&M led UNC in digs, 76-63, for the match. Sullivan and redshirt freshman Jazzmin Babers tied for team-high honors in blocks with five apiece.
The Aggies opened the match by jumping out to a 3-0 lead on two aces by Agre and an UNC attack error, and the Bears quickly burned their first timeout. It would be A&M’s largest lead of the set as the Bears came out of the timeout and chipped away at the lead. They tied the score four times before taking their first lead at 13-12 after blocking an A&M attack. The Bears, who outhit A&M .213 to .106 in the set, had a ball handling error on the ensuing play but broke away from the 13-13 tie by scoring the next three points. A&M twice got within a point, the last coming at 17-16, as the Aggies were unable to regain the lead.
The Bears then outscored the Aggies, 4-1, to take a 21-17 lead, forcing A&M to call a timeout. Vrana got a kill coming out of the timeout and Sullivan and Patrick followed with a block to get within 21-19, but they could not get any closer. With UNC leading 22-20, the Bears got a kill and a solo block to go up 24-20. Patrick staved off one set point with her fourth kill of the set before Brianna Strong countered with her fifth kill to clinch the win for the Bears.
A&M equaled its largest lead of the second set at 16-12 as freshman opposite hitter Kaysie Shebeneck got a kill down the line. The Bears, however, overcame the deficit and knotted the set at 22-22 on a kill by Strong, forcing A&M to call a timeout. UNC got a block coming out of the timeout to put the Bears up, 23-22, giving them their first lead since 2-1, but Babers got a kill on the slide attack to tie the score for the sixth time in the frame. The 6-2 middle blocker then teamed with Reynolds for back-to-back blocks to close out the set.
Patrick had six kills and Sullivan added five kills as A&M outhit the Bears .455 to .324 in the set and tied the match at 1-1.
A&M held a 14-10 lead in the third set before UNC reeled off four consecutive points to tie the score. The Bears tied the score three more times before taking the lead at 21-20 after A&M committed back-to-back attack errors. After an A&M timeout, the Bears increased their lead to 22-20, getting a kill off the block before Vrana ended the 3-0 run with a kill off the high hands of the blockers. UNC hit long on the next play and Patrick followed with a kill to return the lead to the Aggies, 23-22. The Bears, who were narrowly outhit .096 to .095, tied the score for the 10th time with a kill, but Patrick got her sixth kill of the stanza with a strategically placed ball to the deep corner to put A&M at set point. Patrick then teamed with Babers for a block that clinched the set and gave the Aggies a 2-1 lead.
A&M never trailed in the fourth set, outhitting the Bears, .324 to .146. The Aggies broke away from a 6-6 tie with a five-point run that including two kills by Sawatzky. UNC got within 13-10 before Babers got an off-speed kill and Sullivan and Shebeneck followed with a block. Sullivan then got a finger-tip kill to put the Aggies ahead, 16-10 and force a UNC timeout. The teams then began to exchange sideouts until UNC followed a kill with a block that put the Bears within 20-16.
After an A&M timeout, the Bears hit long and Vrana posted a kill to put A&M ahead, 22-16. UNC got a block, but Vrana put down one of her four kills in the set to give A&M a 23-17 lead. UNC then hit into the net to give the Aggies their largest lead and also put them at match point, but the Bears fought off three match points to get within 24-20 before Vrana sealed the A&M victory with a kill.
A&M opens SEC play at Reed Arena, Sunday, September 29 against Georgia. First serve is set for 1 p.m.
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Texas A&M Quotes:
Head Coach Laurie Corbelli
“We got off to a very slow start once again. It was quite challenging to get into sync, and it is hard to really determine why that is. I know it was really evident in our serve receive and first touch and our ball control. It was not near the level that it has been, and so I have a feeling that plays a large role in how off the team feels offensively. But overall, it was a struggle and we fought back to win three sets.
“I don’t think there was a play where we didn’t fight to come back and get the win, and for that I’m really, really proud of the team. They kept their composure, and I was putting a lot of pressure on them as well to get their jobs done. So basically we’ve got our work cut out for us this week in practice, because we easily saw in the last two matches the areas of our game that still really need improvement. I know they will be coming to practice eager to fix these issues that we had this weekend, and so we are excited about getting ready for SEC play on Sunday.”
(On having Sierra Patrick back in the lineup and Ashley Vrana stepping up)
“It is very nice to have Sierra back, if anything for some depth and more bodies that can get up and swing nice and hard. She came prepared and did a very nice job for us. I thought Ashley Vrana also came in and did a really nice job for us. That was really nice to have. And overall our middles are really working hard at improving their shot selection and timing, and so I felt like the things that we have been emphasizing in practice lately they made happen more and more in each game.”
(On Sawatzky’s triple-double)
“We always tell them it might not be pretty but we are going to fight, scratch and claw our way to a victory. It was a challenge for sure, and I was really proud of Allie’s leadership and her triple double that includes defensive play. Her blocking was really good, and overall, she really leads with a lot of consistency.”