Aggies sweep Vols on the road
COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Texas A&M won its fifth consecutive match and also notched its 10th victory over the last 11 matches as the Aggies defeated Tennessee, 26-24, 25-20, 25-15, Sunday afternoon at Reed Arena. Texas A&M senior middle blocker Jazzmin Babers broke the all-time school record for career block assists during the match, finishing with seven block assists-and a match-high nine total blocks-to give her 458 block assists for her career, breaking the previous record of 456 set by Cindy Lothspeich in 1997. With Babers leading the effort, the Aggies tallied 28 block assists as a team to set a school record for block assists in an SEC three-set match.
Sophomore middle blocker Kaitlyn Blake pitched in seven block assists, and outside hitter Kiara McGee added a personal season-high five block assists while also tying freshman outside hitter Hollann Hans for the team lead in kills with nine. Libero Amy Nettles and setter Stephanie Aiple tied for match-high honors with 10 digs apiece, and Aiple also had 24 assists to complete her third double-double over the last four matches and her team-leading fourth-double double of the season.
Texas A&M, which won its sixth straight match in the all-time series against Tennessee, improved to 16-7 overall and 10-2 in SEC matches. The Vols fell to 15-10, including 5-7 in conference play.
The opening set was a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs by both teams. The Aggies jumped out to an early 9-3 advantage behind the strong serving of defensive specialist Amy Houser. Texas A&M kept its six-point cushion at 14-8 before the Volunteers began to rally with freshman outside hitter Tessa Grubbs leading the charge. Grubbs, who finished the set with seven total kills, had two kills and a solo block during a 4-0 Tennessee run that put the Vols within 14-12, forcing Texas A&M head coach Laurie Corbelli to call a timeout. Aggie opposite hitter Ashlie Reasor got a kill on the first play after the timeout, and Babers teamed with Aiple for a block to put the Aggies up, 16-12.
A&M later held an 18-15 advantage when Tennessee reeled off six unanswered points to take its first lead and go up 21-18. The Vols, who outhit A&M.175 to .108 but committed five service errors in the frame, extended their lead to 23-19 before A&M raced back. Hans got a kill that marked the start of a 5-0 run, with McGee getting a kill off the Tennessee block to put the Aggies at set point, 24-23. Tennessee tied the set for the fifth time with a kill before McGee closed out the stanza with back-to-back kills.
Hans jumped started the Aggies to a 7-0 lead in the second set, starting off the frame with three consecutive aces. Tennessee, which held the Aggies to a .000 hitting percentage, got within 8-6, but an untimely service error ended the run and marked the start of a 6-0 rally by A&M that gave the Aggies their largest lead at 14-6. The Vols later got within 20-16, but their six service errors in the set prevented them from making a viable comeback. The teams traded points for the remainder of the set, with Tennessee fittingly committing a service error to end the set.
After hitting only .064 through the first two sets, the Aggies hit .400 in the final stanza, securing a lead throughout the third set to complete the sweep. Babers notched the record-breaking block assist at 3-0, as she teamed with Reasor to snuff Kendra Turner's attack.
Hans later put down one of her five kills in the set to put A&M ahead, 13-5. Tennessee twice managed to get within four points, the last coming at 19-15 before a kill by Aiple sent Nettles to the service line, where she served out the set, including an ace to clinch the match.
The Aggies got the win despite hitting a season-low .159. Defensively, A&M finished with 16 total blocks, a season high for a three-set match.
Grubbs finished with a match-high 14 kills to help Tennessee to a 36-31 lead in kills, but the Vols were held to a .101 hitting percentage as a team and committed 13 service errors, the most by an A&M opponent this season and more than twice that of any other SEC opponent has committed against the Aggies this year.
Texas A&M wraps up its four-match homestand next weekend, playing host to Mississippi State on Friday at 5 p.m. and Georgia on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Reed Arena.