No. 14 Texas A&M suffers setback to No. 6 Minnesota
BAYAMON, Puerto Rico -- Facing its second consecutive top-20 opponent and its third ranked opponent in the last four matches, No. 14 Texas A&M fell to No. 6 Minnesota, 25-18, 25-23, 25-19, tonight at the Puerto Rico Clasico.
The Gophers (2-1), who return all six starters from last year's NCAA Final Four team, used a 4-0 run to separate from the Aggies (2-3) and take a 7-3 lead in the opening set. Texas A&M was unable to close the gap, and Minnesota went on to build an eight-point spread five times, the last coming at 24-16. Sophomore middle blocker Kaitlyn Blake kept the set going with a kill and then teamed with freshman outside hitter Hollann Hans for a block to put Texas A&M within 24-18. Minnesota, which outhit A&M, .333 to .037 in the frame, closed out the set with a backrow kill from Sarah Wilhite.
The Aggies spotted Minnesota a 4-0 lead to start the second set, but Texas A&M used a 6-1 run to take its first lead of the match at 7-6 with Blake and junior outside hitter Kiara McGee posting a go-ahead block. Junior opposite hitter Ashlie Reasor had two kills and a solo block during the Aggies' run.
Minnesota countered with a three-point run to go up 9-7, and the Gophers maintained a two-point lead at 11-9 before back-to-back kills by fifth-year senior middle blocker Jazzmin Babers and junior setter Stephanie Aiple knotted the score at 11-11. Minnesota then reeled off four unanswered points, and the Aggies were unable to make up the difference.
The Gophers, who were outhit .234 to .219 in the stanza, equaled their largest lead at 23-17 before Texas A&M began a comeback, getting four kills during a five-point run that put the Aggies within 23-22. The rally ended after A&M's serve sailed long, but Hans staved off a set point with a kill. The comeback attempt fell short, however, as Texas A&M was whistled for a controversial reach-over call at set point.
Minnesota never trailed in the third set while outhitting Texas A&M, .320 to .212. The Gophers built their largest lead at 21-14 and again at 22-15 before a kill by McGee, a block by Hans and Babers, and an ace by junior defensive specialist Gabby Litwin put the Aggies within 22-18. Wilhite then posted her match-high 16th kill of the match to end the run and put the Gophers up, 23-18. Babers countered with her team-leading 10th kill before Minnesota got a block and a kill to close out the set and complete the sweep.
Junior setter Stephanie Aiple dished out 33 assists and had four kills and six digs in the loss. Babers and Blake tied for team-high honors in blocks with three apiece, and junior libero Amy Nettles led all players with 11 digs.
Minnesota outhit Texas A&M, .287 to .178 for the match, and led in blocks, 13-7, behind Molly Lohman's eight-block performance.
The Aggies wrap up the tournament Saturday against Virginia Tech. First serve against the Hokies is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.