COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- No. 19 Texas A&M opened the home portion of its Southeastern Conference schedule with a 26-24, 25-18, 25-19 victory over Auburn today at Reed Arena.
Aggie junior opposite hitter Ashlie Reasor led all players with 14 kills while hitting .391, and freshman outside hitter Hollann Hans reached double-figure kills for a team-leading fifth consecutive match, pitching in 10. Junior outside hitter Kiara McGee and senior middle blocker Jazzmin Babers added eight kills apiece, and junior setter Stephanie Aiple kept the Tigers guessing as she contributed seven kills-one shy of her career-high-and also dished out 34 assists while directing the A&M offense to a 50-36 lead in total kills and a .270 to .123 advantage in hitting efficiency.
Defensively, Texas A&M junior libero Amy Nettles took match-high honors in digs with 16, and senior defensive specialist Victoria Arenas added 14 to help the Aggies to a 56-38 lead in team digs. Sophomore middle blocker Kaitlyn Blake had four blocks as she continued her streak of leading or tying for the A&M lead in blocks in every match this season, and Babers added three blocks to give her 471 blocks in her career, moving her into fifth place in the A&M all-time career records for total blocks.
The Aggies jumped out to an early lead in the opening set, using an 8-1 run to build a 12-5 lead. Texas A&M maintained its seven-point cushion at 17-10 before Auburn came storming back, outscoring the Aggies, 9-2, to tie the score at 19-19. The teams traded points and the score was tied at 22-22 when Auburn setter Alexa Filley got a kill to give the Tigers their first lead since 2-1.
Following an A&M timeout, Blake and Aiple had back-to-back kills to put A&M at set point, but Auburn's Breanna Barksdale got a kill following the Tigers' timeout to tie the score for a 10th time. The Maroon and White caught a lucky break on the ensuing play as Auburn hit an easy A&M overpass into the net to put the Aggies at set point for the second time. Texas A&M, which outhit the Tigers, .220 to .140 in the set, then closed out the frame as Aiple set up Hans for the clinching kill.
Texas A&M never trailed in the second set, although Auburn did manage to tie the score six times, including overcoming a 13-9 deficit by reeling off four unanswered points to tie the score at 13-all. Blake kept the Aggies in the lead, connecting for a kill on a ball that was popped up by Hans, and Aiple followed with a kill as the Aggies continued on a 6-1 rally to pull away.
Auburn, which was outhit, .417 to .257 in the set, got within 20-17 before Babers had a kill and Reasor followed with two of her six kills in the stanza to give A&M a 23-18 lead. Gwyn Jones ended the run with one of her team-high 10 kills in the match, but the Tigers then served into the net to put A&M at set point. McGee closed out the set, tooling the Auburn block for a kill and giving the Aggies a 2-0 set lead heading into the intermission.
A&M hit a match-low .176 in the final set but held the Tigers to a .000 hitting efficiency to complete the sweep. Auburn had tied the score at 8-8 before A&M used an 11-3 run to build a 19-11 advantage. The Tigers, however, fought back, outscoring the Aggies 7-2 to get within 21-18 and forcing an A&M timeout. Babers got a kill coming out of the timeout, and Auburn's next attack sailed out to put the Aggies up, 23-18. The Tigers connected on a kill to get within 23-19 before Reasor got a kill from the left side, and McGee followed with the match-winning kill.
Texas A&M improves to 7-6 overall and 1-1 in SEC play, while Auburn falls to 7-8 overall and 1-1 in SEC action.
Texas A&M now begins a three-match road swing starting Sept. 30 at LSU. First serve is at 7 p.m. at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge, La. The Aggies continue their road swing at Arkansas on Oct. 5 and at Ole Miss on Oct. 9 before returning to Reed Arena on Oct. 14 to play host to South Carolina.