COLLEGE STATION, Texas - The Texas A&M volleyball team made sure its five seniors were victorious in their final appearance at Reed Arena as the Aggies defeated LSU, 25-17, 25-27, 25-18, 25-22, in front of 2,604 on Thanksgiving Eve.
It was the sixth consecutive home victory for the Aggies, who improved to 20-8 overall and 14-3 in Southeastern Conference matches with only a Saturday match at Auburn remaining on the regular season schedule. LSU, which had gone home triumphant in three of its last four trips to College Station, falls to 9-19 overall and 4-13 in SEC play.
The Aggies set a school record for digs in an SEC match with 103, with senior defensive specialist Victoria Arenas and junior libero Amy Nettles both posting personal season highs with 25 and 24 digs, respectively. Senior setter Kaysie Shebeneck had a career-high 12 digs and also posted the second double-double of her career by adding 15 sets in two sets played. Junior starting setter Stephanie Aiple dished out 28 assists, appearing in three sets.
Senior middle blocker Jazzmin Babers added a team-high four blocks to give her 549 for her career, putting her within four blocks of breaking the Texas A&M all-time career record of 552 total blocks held by Cindy Lothspeich (1994-97). Sophomore middle blocker Kaitlyn Blake had three blocks, including two block assists to give her 136 blocks assists and put her in fourth place all-time in the A&M season block assist records.
The Aggies used an 11-1 run to open up a 14-5 lead in the first set. The Tigers, who were outhit, .192 to .120, got back within seven points for the second time at 22-15 before the teams began to trade points for the remainder of the frame.
There were 17 ties and four lead changes in the second set, which saw LSU outhit A&M, .177 to .137, to pull off the win and even the match at a set apiece. A&M equaled its largest lead at 14-11 before LSU charged back, scoring four unanswered point to go up, 15-14. A&M tied the score seven times before retaking the lead at 23-22 following back-to-back kills by Babers. LSU got a kill coming out of a timeout to tie the score, but McGee put the Aggies at set point with a cross-court shot, which LSU unsuccessfully challenged that the ball landed wide.
An A&M attack error evened the score, and the Tigers served an ace to go up, 25-24. A&M called a timeout, and LSU served long when play resumed, knotting the score at 25-all. The Tigers' Toni Rodriguez caromed a kill off the Aggie block to put LSU at set point for a second time, and A&M followed with an attack error to end the set.
LSU held a 15-14 advantage in the third set before a dump kill by Aiple marked the start of a 5-0 run by the Aggies. A&M, which outhit LSU, .189 to .026, held the lead for the rest of the set and was ahead, 22-18, when Hans powered the ball through the seam in the LSU block to record her seventh kill of the set. Junior outside hitter Ashlie Reasor followed with a well-placed tip kill, and Hans capped the stanza with an ace.
There were 13 ties and six lead changes in the fourth and final set. The Tigers had used a 3-0 run to take a 12-11 advantage, but Hans countered with a kill and an ace to put the Aggies back on top, 13-12. A&M, which hit .270 while holding LSU to a .158 hitting efficiency, took its largest lead of the frame at 19-15 following three consecutive attack errors by the Tigers. LSU would fight back and tie the score at 21- and 22-all before McGee pounded down a kill on one play and then softly tipped the ball in for a kill on the next play to put A&M at match point. McGee then teamed with Babers for a block to close out the contest.
A&M outhit LSU, .192 to .128, for the match, and led in kills (63-46), assists (57-44) and digs (103-78). The Tigers led in aces (5-2) and blocks (10-7).
All five A&M seniors saw action in their final appearance in front of the 12th Man at Reed Arena, including Katelyn Labhart, who was in the starting lineup as a defensive specialist and Emily Hardesty, who came off the bench to play outside hitter. The seniors were then honored in a postmatch ceremony.
With the victory, Texas A&M finished 8-2 in home matches and also reached the 20-win milestone for the third consecutive year and the 17th time in 24 years under head coach Laurie Corbelli.
The Aggies' match at Auburn on Saturday begins at 12:30 p.m. at Auburn Arena.