COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Texas A&M overcame a 2-1 set deficit to defeat a feisty South Carolina team, 27-29, 25-23, 22-25, 25-21, 15-4, today at the Carolina Volleyball Center.
Junior redshirt middle blocker Jazzmin Babers and sophomore opposite hitter Ashlie Reasor propelled the Aggies, each posting career highs in kills with 23 and 19, respectively. Reasor also posted a personal best .615 hitting efficiency, and Babers hit at a .486 clip as sophomore setter Stephanie Aiple orchestrated the offense to an overall .247 team hitting percentage while dishing out 56 assists.
A sluggish start with multiple unforced errors proved costly for A&M in the opening set. The Aggies found themselves behind by as much as 17-8 before making a late comeback to set up an intense finish. Babers, who had six kills in seven attempts in the set, began the comeback charge, getting a kill on the slide attack to set off a run of four consecutive points as the Aggies climbed back within 19-16. A&M later got within 20-18 following a kill by senior middle blocker Shelby Sullivan and a block by Sullivan and Aiple. The teams then exchanged points and the Gamecocks held a 23-20 lead when South Carolina had a setting error and Reasor put down a kill.
South Carolina hit long on its next attempt to knot the score at 23-23 before Sarah Blomgren put the Gamecocks at set point, 24-23, as she tooled the Aggie block for a kill. Reasor countered with a kill, but Blomgren came right back with another kill as the teams had to work overtime to determine the winner. Babers fought off another set point, crafting a kill off the South Carolina block to tie the score at 25-all, but A&M then served wide to put the Gamecocks at set point for the third time. Sullivan registered her fourth kill of the frame to continue the set, and junior outside hitter Emily Hardesty followed with a kill to give the Aggies their first lead since 2-1 and put A&M serving for the set, 27-26. South Carolina, hungry for its first SEC win, then reeled off three unanswered points, including a serve that hit the tape and rolled over for an ace and a solo block to close out the set, 29-27.
It would be the Aggies who would get a three-point run to close out a narrow 25-23 victory in the second set. South Carolina once again build an early lead and was ahead, 8-5, lead when A&M began closing the gap. Babers tipped in a kill to the sideline and Aiple followed with an ace, tying the score for the first time, 9-9. The Gamecocks went on a 3-1 spurt to retake the lead at 12-10 before A&M reeled off six consecutive points, with Reasor pounding three kills and teaming for a block to rally the Aggies.
South Carolina continued to fight and would use runs of four and three points to eventually take a 22-20 lead before Reasor tied the score for the seventh time with back-to-back kills. South Carolina answered with a kill to go up 23-22, but Babers, nearly unstoppable on the slide attack, notched her sixth kill of the set with a hard shot down the line. Reasor put the Aggies at set point as she connected for her sixth kill in six attempts in the frame. Following a South Carolina timeout, the Gamecocks were charged with a hitting error to give A&M the 25-23 win, tying the match at a set apiece.
South Carolina used a 7-0 run to build a 10-4 lead in the third set. The Gamecocks, who outhit A&M .194 to -.032 in the frame, continued to pull away, building their largest lead at 20-11 following a 3-0 run. Babers and Reasor ended the run with back-to back kills to spark the Aggies. The Gamecocks began to falter, committing six consecutive errors -- including a block error on an A&M attack that sailed long -- as A&M extended its scoring run to eight consecutive points to pull within 20-19. A&M, however, was unable to cut the deficit. Trailing 23-22, A&M was whistled for being in the net on a block attempt and then hit out on the next play to close out the stanza.
South Carolina jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the fourth set, but A&M later used a 7-0 run - including three kills by Reasor - to take an 11-7 lead. South Carolina could get no closer than two points and trailed 21-17 when Babers put down two kills during a 3-0 run that put the Aggies at set point. The Gamecocks fought off four set points to get within 24-21 before Babers put down her seventh kill of the set to secure the win and even the match at 2-2.
A&M carried the momentum into the fifth set, outhitting the Gamecocks, .533 to -.133 en route to the 15-4 victory. The Aggies, who entered the match 3-0 in five setters but 0-5 when losing the first set, held a 10-4 cushion when freshman Kaitlyn Blake, playing on the outside, unleashed a kill through the seam of the South Carolina block and then blasted a kill off the high hands of the block to put A&M up, 12-4. Aiple continued the rally, teaming with Sullivan for a block and then getting a dump kill to put the Aggies at match point. Blake and Sullivan then punctuated the victory with a stuff block to close out the contest.
Sophomore libero Amy Nettles led the Aggies defensively with 14 digs. Hardesty pitched in 12 digs, and sophomore defensive specialist Gabby Litwin finished with a career-high 10 digs. Freshman defensive specialist Amy Houser also set a career high, scooping up nine digs.
Sullivan tied her season high with a team-leading six blocks.
Dessaa Legros led the Gamecocks with 20 kills and 25 points, and Darian Dozier had a match-high eight blocks.
A&M, which improves to 10-6 overall and 3-2 in SEC matches, outhit the Gamecocks, .247 to .194 in the match, leading in kills (67-57), assists (62-55) and digs (60-46). South Carolina, which suffers its seventh consecutive loss and falls to 7-12 overall and 0-6 in conference play, led in blocks (12-9) and aces (7-5) but committed 11 service errors.
The Aggies return home Friday, Oct. 16 to host Alabama. First serve is at 6:30 p.m. at Reed Arena. The match, which marks the start of a three-match home stand, will be the Aggies' "Dig Pink" match. Go to the volleyball page on 12thMan.com to learn more about joining the Aggies as they help raise awareness in the fight against breast cancer.