Aggies extend win streak with victory vs. Vols
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Texas A&M used a school SEC-record 19 blocks to defeat Tennessee 25-19, 25-20, 16-25, 27-25 tonight at Thompson-Boling Arena.
It was the eighth consecutive victory and the 13th win in the last 14 matches for the Aggies, who improve to 19-7, including 13-2 in Southeastern Conference matches. Tennessee drops to 15-13 overall and 5-10 in SEC matches. It was the seventh consecutive loss for the Vols in the series against the Aggies, but they end a streak of six consecutive sweeps.
Senior middle blocker Jazzmin Babers led the Aggies with 18 points as she recorded her second double-double of the season and the fifth of her career with 11 blocks-including a career-high-tying three solo blocks-and 11 kills while hitting .556. Sophomore middle blocker Kaitlyn Blake added 16 points with eight blocks and 12 kills while hitting at a .500 clip. Blake also climbed from ninth to seventh in the A&M season records for block assists in a season, as she raised her total to 129.
A&M outside hitters Hollann Hans and Kiara McGee, who pitched in a career-high six blocks, also had double-figure kills with 13 and 10, respectively, but they were held to a combined .139 hitting efficiency.
Aggie junior setter Stephanie Aiple dished out 44 assists and also added seven kills, one shy of her career high. She also had eight digs. Libero Amy Nettles led the team in digs with 12, and defensive specialists Amy Houser and Victoria Arenas added 10 digs apiece.
As a team, A&M outhit Tennessee, .205 to .162, and led in kills (58-51) and blocks (19-13), while the Vols led in aces (4-0) and digs (67-60).
The opening set was tied at 4-4 when Babers tooled the Tennessee block for a kill, marking the start of a 4-0 run by the Aggies. Texas A&M led the remainder of the set, outhitting the Vols, .341 to .305, although the Aggies never held more than a four-point cushion until the last run to close out the frame. The Vols were within 22-19 following a kill by Tessa Grubbs, but Aiple countered with a kill and then set up Blake for a kill to put the Aggies at set point. Aiple closed out the frame on the next play, posting her fourth kill of the set.
The Aggies led the entire second set and jumped out to a 10-3 lead, including four points that were the result of a block. Tennessee, which was outhit, .229 to .054, later trailed 18-12 following a kill by Hans, forcing the Vols to call a timeout. Tennessee came out of the timeout and blocked A&M on three consecutive plays to get within 18-15 before Hans found the floor for a kill. Tennessee would get within 19-17 before Hans had a kill and McGee and Blake teamed for a block to put A&M up 21-17. The Vols were unable to get closer than three points for the remainder of the set as the teams began to exchange points. The Aggies were ahead, 23-20, when Babers had back-to-back kills to close out the win, giving A&M a 2-0 lead in the match.
Tennessee used a 4-0 run to take a 4-1 lead in the third set, and never looked back. The Vols, who outhit A&M, .407 to .138 in the stanza, went on to build their largest lead of the match at 24-13 after reeling off three unanswered points. A&M fought off three set points before the Aggies hit into the net to end the set.
There were 10 ties and six lead changes in the fourth set. A&M, which outhit Tennessee, .113 to .067, equaled its largest lead at 17-13 when the Vols began a comeback. Tennessee eventually tied the score at 20-20 on an A&M attack error and also managed to tie the score at 21- and 22-all before another A&M attack error gave the Vols a 23-22 lead. Babers and McGee teamed for a block to tie the score at 23-23 before Tennessee got to set point following a block error on A&M. The Vols' next attack sailed long to tie the score once again, and A&M regained the lead on a block by Babers and Aiple. A Tennessee kill tied the score for the final time as Babers and Hans then closed out the match with back-to-back kills.
Erica Treiber led Tennessee with 10 kills, and freshman setter Sedona Hansen had 43 assists and a match-high 20 digs.
Texas A&M returns to the road for a crucial showdown at No. 23 Kentucky on Sunday. The match against the Wildcats starts at 12:30 p.m. (CT) at Memorial Coliseum, and the contest will be televised on SEC Network.
A&M has only one home match remaining, as the Aggies play host to LSU on Wednesday, Nov. 23 (Thanksgiving Eve) at 6:30 p.m. at Reed Arena. It will be Senior Night, and A&M seniors Victoria Arenas, Jazzmin Babers, Emily Hardesty, Katelyn Labhart and Kaysie Shebeneck will be honored in a postmatch ceremony.