AUSTIN, Texas - The Texas A&M Aggies saw their 2016 campaign come to a close with a 3-0 loss to the SMU Mustangs in the first round of the NCAA Championship at Gregory Gym. The Mustangs completed the sweep by scores of 25-23, 25-23 and 25-18.
Making their sixth consecutive and 24th NCAA Championship appearance, the Aggies ended the season with a 21-9 record.
Sophomore middle blocker Kaitlyn Blake led the Aggies' attack with a .500 attack percentage and 11 kills. Senior middle blocker Jazzmin Babers posted a .304 attack percentage and 11 kills, and freshman outside hitter Hollann Hans notched a team-high 13 kills while hitting .250. Junior setter Stephanie Aiple closed out the match with 38 assists and nine digs.
SMU (26-7) started the first set on a 7-3 run with kills by four different players. After trading points to get to 9-5, the Mustangs extended the lead out to 13-5 after a pair of attack errors by the Aggies. Texas A&M, which outhit the Mustangs, .244 to .224 in the frame, went on a 6-1 run to stabilize the match and cut the SMU lead to 14-13. The spurt featured two kills apiece by junior hitters Kiara McGee and Ashlie Reasor.
The Mustangs stretched the advantage back to five points at 18-13 with a surge bracketed by Janelle Giordano kills. The squads exchanged the next four points to give SMU a 20-15 edge. The Aggies went on a 5-1 run with two kills by Babers and one kill each by Hans and Blake to pull within one point again at 21-20. The Mustangs extended the lead to 24-21 when Blake fought off a set point with a pair of kills before Lauren Mills put down the final kill of the stanza for SMU.
The second set was tightly contested with the largest margin for either team being three points. The squads played on an even keel for the first 18 points with the score tied on nine occasions before SMU went on a 3-0 run to take a 12-9 lead. Babers and Blake each put down two kills as the Aggies drew even at 14-14, and Reasor floored a spike as the Maroon and White staked claim to a 15-14 margin.
The score was knotted six more times in the second set on the way to a 22-22 tally. In the waning moments of the set, SMU, which outhit A&M, .239 to .204 in the set, took advantage of two attack errors by Texas A&M to take a 24-22 lead. Hans fended off one set point with a kill before Mills' successful attack handed SMU the set, 25-23.
The third set was once again a teeter-totter affair early on with teams playing to nine tie scores en route to a 10-10 score. The Mustangs broke away with a 7-1 run featuring two kills apiece by Kristen Stehling and Katie Hegarty. The Aggies, who were outhit, .289 to .075, made a run with two kills by Hans on a 4-0 run to cut the gap to 17-15. It would be the last time the Maroon and White would be within two points of the Mustangs and SMU's Giordano ended the match with a kill.
In her last career match, Babers moved past Amy Cumings (1987-90) for 12th place on Texas A&M's career kills list with 1,139. Junior libero Amy Nettles, who led the Aggies with 18 digs, passed Kelsey Black (2008-11) for 15th place on the career digs list with 1,113.
Blake led A&M with four blocks, including three block assists to give her 145 for the season, tying for the third most in a season in program history and only nine short of the all-time record
In addition to Babers, the all-time career leader in both total blocks and block assists, the match also was the last for senior outside hitter Emily Hardesty, defensive specialists Victoria Arenas and Katelyn Labhart and setter Kaysie Shebeneck.