COLLEGE STATION, Texas – LSU overcame a 2-0 deficit to defeat Texas A&M, 20-25, 16-25, 25-19, 25-18, 15-1,0 tonight at Reed Arena.
A&M had the momentum early in the match, with middle blocker Jazzmin Babers posting three blocks and a kill to spearhead a 4-0 run that put the Aggies up, 15-11. A&M, which outhit LSU .355 to .147 in the frame, continued to pull away, building a 22-16 lead following Babers’ fourth block of the set. The redshirt freshman later put A&M at set point with a kill off the slide attack, but LSU stayed alive as A&M served long and the Tigers posted a kill to get within 24-20. Senior outside hitter Ashley Vrana then closed out the set with a kill down the line to give the Maroon and White the 1-0 lead.
The Tigers spotted A&M a 5-0 lead in the second set and were unable to recover. The Aggies, who hit at a .364 clip while LSU hit .087, built their largest lead at 21-10 as sophomore outside hitter Angela Lowak capped a 4-0 run with her sixth kill of the set. The Tigers later used a 3-0 run to get within 23-15 before Vrana blasted a kill through the block to put A&M at 24-15. A&M served into the net on the ensuing play, but sophomore middle blocker Shelby Sullivan, who hit .571 with five kills in the set, found the floor with her next attack to clinch the 25-16 victory and give gave the Aggies a 2-0 lead in the match going into the intermission.
The momentum began to shift to LSU’s favor early in the third set. The score was tied for the second and final time at 10-10 before A&M committed three attack errors during a 4-0 LSU run. The Tigers, who outhit A&M, .467 to .139, and never trailed in the set, built their largest lead at 19-13 after scoring three consecutive points. A&M could get no closer than four points and trailed 23-19 when LSU defensive specialist Laura Whalen’s desperation roll shot from the back row fell in for a kill. Cati Leak followed with a kill to give the Tigers the 25-19 win.
A&M held a narrow 13-12 lead in the fourth set when LSU caught fire again. The Tigers mounted an 11-3 scoring outburst to take a 23-16 lead. LSU then had a serving error and Babers and Lowak followed with a block that put A&M within 23-18, but Katie Lindelow countered with her sixth kill of the set to put the Tigers at set point. A&M’s next attack sailed long, and the match was tied at 2-2.
The two teams had endured four five-set matches in the previous seven meetings, so in typical A&M-LSU fashion, tonight’s match also would be decided in five. A&M used a 4-1 spurt, including back-to-back kills by sophomore outside hitter Sierra Patrick, to take a 5-3 lead. The cushion quickly deteriorated as A&M committed three attack errors during an LSU 4-0 run that put the Tigers up, 7-5. Vrana ended the rally with a well-timed tip kill, but LSU scored the next five points to double up the Aggies, 12-6. Patrick and Vrana posted back-to-back kills to get within 12-8, but the teams traded sideouts for the remainder of the set, with LSU setter Malorie Pardo getting a match-winning kill.
A&M, which had committed only seven attack errors combined in the first two sets, had seven attack errors in the final frame, while LSU had eight kills and no errors to outhit the Aggies, .400 to .125 in the fifth set.
Patrick led A&M with 15 kills and 17 digs. Lowak tallied 12 kills, and Sullivan added 11. Senior setter Allie Sawatzky came within a dig of registering her fifth triple-double of the year as she finished with 10 kills, 48 assists and nine digs. Kelsey Kinley posted double figures in kills with 12, and Babers finished with a team-high six blocks.
Briana Holman had 18 kills to lead the Tigers, who also had four players post double-figure kills.
LSU, which outhit A&M, .237 to .209 for the match and outblocked the Aggies, 11.0 to 8.5, snapped its two-match losing skid to improve to 11-3 overall and 1-1 in SEC play.
A&M, which led in kills, 64-59, suffered its third consecutive loss and drops to 9-6, 1-3.
The Aggies return to Reed Arena on Friday to play host to the Mississippi State Bulldogs. First serve is slated for 6 p.m. In conjunction with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the match will be A&M’s annual “Dig Pink” match and anyone wearing pink can purchase a ticket for only $3.
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 the team’s performance after the break)
“Not a lot of coaches are a fan of the break unless you are on the bad side of it. There’s no excuse. We got scared of losing. That’s what happens when you are scared of losing. LSU was more spirited and looked more focused. They got a run of three or four points right off the bat. Our reaction, which has been our big issue lately, is that we respond with fear and we start holding back. We start being afraid to swing hard or swing high. They aren’t making the moves like they know how to make them. It catches on like wildfire.”
(On LSU’s runs)
“It’s just managing the match. We are young, so we don’t know how to manage a match. As hard as the older players try, they are not perfect at it but they are trying to understand how to loosen up the other players. It just paralyzes you. Fear paralyzes, and that is what is happening. They just don’t look like my team sometimes. It’s a bit perplexing for me and the coaches as well.
“A lot of times it is a case of trying too hard. Playing not to lose was a big factor in it as well. They were just paralyzed. That’s the best way to describe it in my mind. Looking at the score sheet, so what that we scored more points? It’s not that we can’t produce points. It is our mental game. We get a run of points and we think we are the No. 1 team in the nation. We get three points run on us, and we start to think we are the worst team in the nation. You can’t play a match like that. We just have a lot to learn. Every team responds differently and that is how this team is responding.”
(On team attitude)
“Being on this losing streak has affected confidence and that is troublesome. However, I didn’t see that in the first two sets. It was when we came back out. It’s not like it is unusual for set three to be a letdown if you are up 2-0. That’s the set that the team that is up normally loses in a four-set match. I thought it would be temporary, where we would be able to regain our momentum.”