COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Texas A&M Volleyball opened NCAA Tournament play with a solid 3-0 (27-25, 25-21, 25-12) sweep of the St. John's Red Storm Thursday night at Reed Arena.
The Aggies earned their 10th sweep of the season. The Maroon & White mounted late rallies to take each of the first two sets, before cruising to a dominating performance in the third.
With Thursday's win, Texas A&M improved to 22-7 overall and 27-24 in NCAA Tournament matches. The Aggies advance to the second round for the first time since 2015. The Red Storm finished their season with a 22-12 mark.
Senior outside hitter Hollann Hans finished the match with 15 kills and 10 digs, marking her 13th double-double of the season. Camille Conner delivered 36 assists, four kills and four digs, quarterbacking the A&M offense to a spectacular .400 hitting percentage.
The Red Storm were paced by Efrosini Alexakou with 13 kills and four digs and Klara Mikelova 11 kills, eight digs, three service aces and two blocks.
After two kills by Mallory Talbert and three St. John's errors to open the match, A&M took an early 6-1 lead. The Red Storm surged back with a 3-0 scoring run, but a Camila Gomez service ace followed by a St. John's error would see the Aggies maintain their five-point lead. A 5-0 Red Storm run forced the Aggies into their first timeout, trailing 15-14. Multiple kills by Hans steadied the Texas A&M offense, but the Red Storm maintained a 22-21 lead. The final points of the frame were closely contested, but a block by Treyaunna Rush would see the Maroon & White come out victorious, 27-25. Hans led the Aggies in the first with six kills and four digs. Conner recorded 13 assists in the set.
The A&M front line commanded attention in the opening points, with Hans and Rush recording multiple early kills. The Aggie offense forced the Red Storm into their first timeout with the Maroon & White leading, 9-5, behind an assault that landed five kills in seven attempts. A back-and-forth battle ensued, but defensive effort coupled with three service aces allowed the Red Storm to take a 17-16 lead. Texas A&M's defense at the net helped the Aggies reclaim the lead, and a Lauren Davis kill sealed the second frame for A&M, 25-21. Rush landed four kills and two blocks in the set, while Conner delivered 13 more assists.
An assisted block by Rush and Makena Patterson helped the Aggies strike first. A&M and St. John's would trade points early on, but a thunderous kill from Conner gave the Maroon & White a 6-3 lead. The frame remained close, but a frontline strike from Hans forced the Red Storm into a timeout trailing 12-7. A&M continued to score out of the timeout, rattling off an 8-0 scoring run on three kills and five Red Storm errors, culminating in a commanding 17-7 lead. The remainder of the set was dominated by the Aggie front line, with Patterson sealing the set and match for Texas A&M, 25-12.
Texas A&M Post-Match Quotes
Head Coach Bird Kuhn
"That was a great way to open the tournament. St. John's is a good team. St John's was rolling into the tournament, beating two ranked teams. The execution was high level. The first set, I think everyone had a little bit of jitters, but they settled in, and we finished that first set. I think that set the tone for the rest of the match, so I'm proud of them. The third set, the way they finished, that sent a message. I'm proud of the way they executed."
On how the team maintained their composure throughout the game...
"I think that everyone had to settle in on both sides. Their team and our team, because it was pretty extreme at the beginning of that first set. That was to be expected in this setting, but that's also where we have a clean slate and refocus. This is what we're doing and this is what they're going to run. We just like to be very black and white."
Texas A&M Defensive Specialist Taylor Voss
On what the strong finish says about the team...
"We always talk about how we're a grinding team, and we work for every single point. If we didn't get the last point, we say, 'Here, we're focusing on this next point.' So I think that's really big. We do a really good job reminding each other to not worry about the past plays and just focused on each play at hand. I think that was a big key to our success."
On the development of Treyaunna Rush and Lauren Davis...
"From the beginning of the season to now, they've developed really well. Not even volleyball wise, but they've grown into leadership roles that I think benefit every single person on this team. I think they control the controllables really well, and then that leads to their success."
Texas A&M Outside Hitter Hollann Hans
On how they were able to shake off a slow start...
"I think going out there we had a little bit of jitters, but we reeled it in and everyone did their jobs. That's what we talked about a lot, and so we were able to pull it back together and create a whole game. Everyone was doing their jobs and it was a really good team win."
On her thoughts about St. Johns' defense...
"They were a really good and scrappy team, all the credit to them for being really great. The defenders were picking up a lot of balls. We expected them to be a good team, and so we had to just control our side of the net and adjust to what they were doing defensively. I think that we adjusted pretty well."
The Aggies battle No. 21 Rice in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday. Match time at Reed Arena is set for 6:30 p.m.