COLLEGE STATION, Texas â No. 24 Texas A&M used a balanced offensive attack and solid defensive play in a stunning 25-22, 26-24, 17-25 25-16 victory over 16th
-ranked Kentucky today at Reed Arena.A&M, which snapped a seven-match losing skid against the Wildcats, improves to 14-6 overall and 6-3 in Southeastern Conference matches with its third consecutive victory. Kentucky drops to 18-4, including 8-2 in SEC play.
Freshman opposite hitter Ashlie Reasor had a career-high 15 kills to lead a contingent of four Aggies who posted double-figure kills. A&M had five players reach double figures in digs, including freshman libero Amy Nettles who scooped up 26 digs, the most by an A&M player in a four-match set this season. Sophomore middle blocker Jazzmin Babers, who contributed 10 kills without an error, had a match-high seven blocks to lead the Aggies to a 12-6 advantage in blocking, and freshman setter Stephanie Aiple, who set A&M to a .295 to .189 advantage in hitting percentage, had her team-leading fifth double-double of the season, dishing out 50 assists and tallying 11 digs.
There were 10 ties in the opening set, and neither team held more than a two-point lead before A&M went on a 6-1 run to build a 20-17 cushion and take its first lead since 4-3. The Wildcats later got within 22-21, and A&M called a timeout. Reasor recorded her fifth kill of the set coming out of the timeout, but Kentucky countered with a kill to stay within a point. The Wildcats were whistled for reaching over the net on the ensuing play, putting A&M up 23-21. Aiple and junior middle blocker Shelby Sullivan then posted back-to back kills to close out the frame and snap a 10-set losing skid against the Wildcats. Nettles, the opening-set libero for the first time this season, finished with seven digs, and her passing was instrumental in leading the Aggies to a .500 to .255 advantage in hitting percentage in the set.
Kentucky was positioned to even the match at a set apiece as the Wildcats used a 4-0 run to equal their largest lead of the second set and were serving for the set at 24-21. Sullivan kept the Aggies alive with a kill and then teamed with junior outside hitter Angela Lowak for a block to put the Aggies within 24-23. Following a Kentucky timeout, the Wildcats thought they had clinched the set on an attack by Anni Thomasson, but the there was no touch called on the block and the ball sailed long, tying the score for the 15th time. After A&M had fought off three set points, the lead changed hands for the 10th time as Aggie sophomore outside hitter Emily Hardesty served an ace to put the Maroon and White at set point, 25-24. Sullivan then stuff blocked the Wildcatsâ next attack, clinching the come-from-behind win that gave A&M a 2-0 lead in the match.
A&M spotted Kentucky a 4-0 lead to start the third set but came back to twice tie the score before the Wildcats exploded with a 13-2 run to take a 21-10 lead. A&M, which was outhit, .244 to .116 in the frame, later trailed 24-14 and fought off three set points before a kill by Shelby Workman secured the win for the Wildcats. Â
Lowak and Company quickly put the third set behind them, and A&M would never trail for the remainder of the match after Lowak pounded down a Kentucky overpass to give the Aggies a 2-1 lead in the fourth set. A&M used an 8-2 run, which included two kills apiece by Reasor, Hardesty and Sullivan as well as an ace by Katelyn Labhart, to build a 14-6 lead. Kentucky was unable to get closer than seven points and trailed 22-14 when Lowak got a kill down the block. Kentucky answered with a kill, but Lowak came back with another kill to put A&M at match point. A&M had a service error on the next play, but Lowak was not to be denied, putting down her sixth kill of the set and her 14th kill of the match â one shy of her season high — to clinch the victory for the Aggies.
Labhart, a sophomore defensive specialist who drew the first start of her career, had 13 digs for the second consecutive match to tie her career high and help the Aggies to an 82-67 advantage in team digs. Lowak added 11 digs to complete her second double-double of the year, and Hardesty pitched in 14 digs. Â
Sullivan finished with 11 kills, marking the fourth consecutive match she has reached double figures in kills.
Senior outside hitter Lauren OâConner led the Wildcats with 19 kills, and libero Jackie Napper led the team in digs with 20.
A&M is on the road next weekend, taking on Alabama on Friday, Oct. 31 in Tuscaloosa and facing Missouri on Sunday, Nov. 2 in Columbia.
Visit 12thMan.com for more information on Texas A&M volleyball. Aggie fans also can keep up to date with the A&M volleyball team on Facebook and on Twitter by following @AggieVolleyball.Â
Texas A&M post-match quotes:
Texas A&M Head Coach Laurie Corbelli
On the big winâ¦
âThis was a really important win for us. Not just for the volleyball world of rankings and position in the country, but for us as a team. Â What we really wanted to achieve just never seemed to come together at the right time. I feel like the Arkansas loss really helped us. Itâs too bad that it has to happen like that. But I truly believe losses, especially in the middle of the season, are a wake-up call. Not just losses but poor performances or squeaking by. I totally credit the team for this. They have worked so hard to identify what they needed to change. None of this has to do with volleyball, like passing, digging, blocking. They identified what they needed to change, they talked about how they could change it, and then they decided to put that into action. And thatâs exactly what they did. Iâm really proud to be their coach. The leadership the captains have shown. The composure and the maturity that they showed today was a huge step forward to us. The volleyball was a product of the things theyâve changed as a team.â
On going more to the outside this matchâ¦
âI think it was a combination of knowing that we have to trust everybody on our court. Our opponents know that we like to go to our middles. I just think everybody took it upon themselves to take their jobs and do what they know how to do and feel freedom to be able to do that. It was maturity; the team grew. They just knew they could execute. They know what theyâre capable of, and they challenged themselves to get it done. I guess thatâs as simple as I could put it.â
On transitioning from the third set to the fourth setâ¦
âI liked the way we were going into this next set. Itâs a momentum shift, set three after you are up 2-0. At this level it can be challenging. Subconsciously, youâre letting up and you donât even realize it. Itâs a crazy aspect of this kind of sport, and you play in sets. It was really important that we started to get rolling more with our offense. We started to get some tough serving at the end of set three. But with losing a set, it was so easy for them to just shrug it off. I almost looked forward to set four. âLetâs get this started. Letâs go!â I can tell you I wasnât worried at all. I think they knew what they were missing. We lost a little bit of that swagger, confidence and maturity. We kind of went backwards just for a moment, and they realized it. And then they jumped back into the mode they were in previously.â
On Kentucky senior Lauren OâConnerâ¦
âShe does an awesome job. Itâs the last time we play her, not that Iâm counting down. She does a beautiful job. For all the tools that she has, sheâs been consistent throughout her career. Sheâs been a really mature, strong and compassionate competitor. Iâve really had nightmares coaching against her, so Iâm glad her graduation is approaching. â
Texas A&M Angela Lowak
On her turnaround from Friday against Georgiaâ¦
âWhen I think about this win, I just think about what the coaches say. It was just an Aggie win. Everyone was involved off the court, on the court, our coaches. The communication was just so open and free, and that just allowed all of our players to perform to their potential. We really just enjoyed being out there.â
On Stephanie Aipleâs fast-tracked enthusiasmâ¦
âWe had talked about a lot of things we needed to change and improve upon on our team. We all knew that we wanted to execute those plans. This match wasnât just about beating Kentucky. It was a huge win for our team, and I think Stephanieâs excitement came from that- just the desire to execute.â
On confidence in blocking coverageâ¦
âEven if they donât necessarily get it up, the effort and knowing that your team is behind back gives us a lot more confidence. Â Itâs instrumental to our success.â
Texas A&M Ashlie Reasor
On her high-kill performance this matchâ¦
âHonestly I wasnât t even thinking about the block when I was hitting. I was just hitting and I knew that I could trust my teammates to cover me. The trust between me and Stephanie was good- always trusting the setter. You could tell weâve done a 180 from Arkansas to this game. Weâre just more of a team now. We love each other. It was a good win for us today.â
On her previous not-so-good performance against Kentuckyâ¦
âI know that I didnât play my best, but that pumped me up a lot more for this game. I think I talk for all hitters: If you donât have a good game and you play the same team again, youâre going to come back fighting. Youâre going to come back even harder. That was my mindset for this game.â
Story courtesy of Texas A&M Athletics