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No. 1 Florida holds off Texas A&M, 3-1

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Texas A&M gave top-ranked Florida a scare as the first three sets were decided by the minimum two points, but the Gators remained the only undefeated team in the nation after pulling away for a 26-24, 25-23, 25-27, 25-10 victory tonight at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

Florida improves to 12-0 overall, including 4-0 in Southeastern Conference matches. Texas A&M, facing its fifth opponent ranked in the top six in the nation, falls to 4-7 overall and 1-3 in SEC matches.

In the opening frame, the Gators took their largest lead at 14-9 before a Florida ball handling error sent Amy Houser to the service line for the Aggies. The defensive specialist brought the Aggies back, getting two aces and forcing the Gators’ offense out of system during a 7-0 scoring run that put Texas A&M up, 16-14. Florida later regained the lead at 18-17, but a kill by Aggie freshman opposite hitter Samantha Sanders knotted the score. The Gators got back-to-back kills and continued to hold a two-point cushion at 21-19 when A&M senior outside hitter Kiara McGee ended a long rally with a kill. Florida’s Carli Snyder hit long on the next play, and Aggie sophomore outside hitter Hollann Hans followed with a backrow roll shot that fell in for a kill to tie the score, 22-22. The Gators called a timeout and came back with three unanswered points to go up, 24-22, but then served into the net at set point. A&M fought off another set point as Hans got another kill from the back row to tie the score for the ninth time. Florida regained the lead, 25-24, on a kill by Snyder and A&M was unable to attack a tight pass to the net, giving the Gators the 26-24 win.

A&M pushed the Gators to the brink again in the second set. Florida had built its largest lead at 14-10 when the Aggies began a comeback, outscoring the Gators, 7-3, and tying the score at 17-17 on a block by freshman setter Camille Conner and junior middle blocker Kaitlyn Blake. The score was tied two more times as the teams exchanged points. Rhamat Alhassan then gave the Gators the lead, 20-21 with a kill and A&M was unable to counter and lost a challenge on a no-touch call on Hans attach that landed long. The Gators went up 22-19, forcing A&M to call a timeout, but the Aggies came back with three unanswered points, including a kill off the block by Hans that tied the score for the seventh time.

Florida called its second timeout and came back with a kill and a block to be at set point, 24-23. A&M stayed alive and fought off one set points as Florida’s serve sailed long, but Alhassan closed out the 25-23 win with a kill.

The teams continued to battle in the third set as there were 16 ties and six lead changes. Neither team held more than a three-point lead throughout the frame. A&M took its largest lead at 22-19 as Florida committed a service error and an attack error. The Aggies maintained the three-point margin at 23-20, but Florida cut the lead to 23-22 with a kill and a block. Hans then brushed a kill of the Florida block to put the Aggies at set point, but the Gators racked back, scoring three consecutive points to regain the lead, 25-24. McGee answered with a kill and Florida hit out on its next two attacks to give A&M the 27-25 win, marking the first time the Aggies won a set in Gainesville since 1988, when A&M suffered a 3-1 loss in the first-ever meeting between the two teams.

Florida ran away with the fourth set. The Gators held a 6-5 edge before using an 8-0 run to pull away. Florida, which outhit A&M .583 to .038, continued to widen the gap and used a 4-0 run to close out the match.

Hans led A&M 12 kills and McGee added 10. Senior libero Amy Nettles finished with a team-high 14 digs, giving her 1,254 for her career, moving into ninth place in the A&M career records. Houser tied her career-high with three aces.

Florida, which outhit A&M .295 to .170 for the match and led in blocks, 12-3, had three players post double-digit kills, including Snyder who led all players with 16.

The Aggies return to Reed Arena on Sunday to play host to Mississippi State. First serve is at 1:30 p.m. It is Take a Kid to the Game, and up to four kids can get in free with the purchase of one adult ticket. It also is Volleyball Camper Reunion Day, and all returning campers and their friends and family receive free admission. Kids Court, with inflatables, crafts, balloon animals and more, will be going on in the volleyball practice gym prior to the match.

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 and Instagram by following @AggieVolleyball.

TEXAS A&M POSTMATCH QUOTES:

HEAD COACH LAURIE CORBELLI

Opening statement…
“This was one of the best starts we have had. I thought the first two sets, we had every opportunity to win. Six aces to four errors is maybe one of the best serving nights we have had. That’s really, really exciting. The execution kind of broke down in our serving and passing in set four. We kind of backed off a little bit. I know they didn’t mean to, but we started to back off and allow them to attack wherever they wanted. We backed off with our serving. I think they also came at us hard with their serve, and our passing started to break down as well. It all starts with those two skills, and any team that starts to let that slip gets into trouble, and we let it slip.”

On what the team learned from the match…
“I know they are aware that we aren’t finishing well enough. When we have leads, when we have great opportunities, we’ve got a couple little details that are breaking down and we have got to identify them and fix them fast. They are very fixable. So I think if anything it’s the awareness that they need to be fixed and the motivation to go into the gym and get it fixed. They are disappointed in the result. I think they recognize that they did some really good things and can play some really high quality volleyball. We just have to raise our level when it’s on the line, or at least keep ourselves at the same level, and not let things break down.”

Closing comments…
“I thought Amy Nettles had a phenomenal night, not only with passing and defense, but her leadership. She was consistently keeping everyone inspired and focused. She was giving instruction, and giving encouragement. It was really fun to watch her lead tonight. I thought Camille Conner also did a beautiful job. For us to start three freshman versus their four or five seniors…our freshmen could have very easily just come in and froze but they didn’t. They just really fought through that, including Camille. She’s got ice in her veins. It seems like nothing really upsets her or flusters her. I loved the game she played tonight. I thought she did a really beautiful job.”

Story courtesy of Texas A&M Athletics

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Posted by on Oct 5 2017. Filed under Sports.

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