Aggie Volleyball beats OU for third straight win

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Junior outside hitter Kelsey Black had a match-high 23 kills while hitting .314 to spark Texas A&M to a 22-25, 25-21, 25-19, 25-20 victory over Oklahoma in front of 1,354 at Reed Arena tonight in a match that was nationally televised on ESPNU.

Black, who also pitched in 15 digs and four blocks – including two solo blocks — had a strong supporting cast as Lindsey Miller and Elise Hendrickson contributed 10 kills apiece, and Tori Mellinger and Chelsea Ringel led the A&M in digs with 24 and 17, respectively. Freshman setter Allie Sawatzky dished out 52 assists, and Stephanie Minnerly also added some crucial kills and finished with seven.

It was the third consecutive win for the Aggies, who improve to 12-11, 6-7 in the Big 12, and earn a season series split against the Sooners, who held off A&M in five sets earlier this season in Norman, Okla.

The Sooners, who are on the cusp of breaking into the Top 25, fall to 17-7 overall and 9-4 in the Big 12.

“It was easier to prepare for them this time,” A&M coach Laurie Corbelli said. “We had played them before in five sets, and we were neck and neck with them the whole time. The sting of the loss was recent for me, and the team as well, and I think it drove us even harder. “

Oklahoma used a four-point spurt to take an 8-5 early in the first set and kept the lead for the remainder of the frame. The Sooners equaled their biggest lead at 21-17 when Miller got back-to-back kills to put A&M within 21-19. The teams then traded points for the remainder of the set with Caitlin Higgins putting down the set-clinching kill.

The Sooners, who outhit A&M, .341 to .316 in the opening set, entered the match with a 13-2 record when winning the first set, while A&M entered the contest 1-11 when dropping the first set, but it was the Aggies who would pull out the victory.

A&M took a lead early and held on to win the second set and even the match. The teams were tied at 7-7 when a block by Miller and Hendrickson and back-to-back kills by Hendrickson and Black gave the Aggies a 10-7 advantage. A&M went on to build its largest lead at 17-12, but OU rallied and got within 21-19. OU then had an attack go into the net, but Higgins came back with a kill to keep the Sooners within 22-20. Black, who had six kills in the opening set, countered with consecutive kills, including one courtesy of an OU overpass, to give her nine kills in the second stanza and put A&M at set point. An A&M attack error kept the Sooners alive, but OU then committed an attack error to end the set.

“One of the things that stood out for me was that we didn’t get flustered,” Corbelli said. “We didn’t make unforced errors at horrible times. Some of the things we have managed to do the past the past two to three weeks that kept us from winning disappeared, and that is really a great feeling.”

A&M used a seven-point run to jump out to a 12-5 lead in the third set. The Aggies then used a three-point rally, which included kills by Miller and Black, as well as a block by Miller and Sawatzky, to build their biggest lead at 15-7. OU could only get within five points and trailed 20-15 before the teams sided out for the remainder of the set, with Minnerly ending the frame with a kill.

A&M, which had outhit OU, .182 to .132 in the second set, hit .225 in the third set while holding the Sooners to a .000 hitting efficiency. The Aggies continued to outhit OU in the fourth set, .150 to .128.

There were 13 ties and six lead changes in the final set. The Sooners held a 16-15 lead when A&M erupted for five unanswered points, including back-to-back solo blocks by Black and Miller. OU later cut the margin to 21-19, but kills by Hendrickson, Black and Minnerly put the Aggies at set point. Suzy Boulavsky, who was the only Sooner to post double figures in kills with 12, ended the run with a kill, but OU then served wide to end the match.

A&M, which entered the match 1-11 when dropping the first set, outhit the Sooners, .216 to .156, for the match, posting 59 kills to OU’s 47. The Aggies also led in digs, 80-65.

“We are seeing more confidence out of our players,” Corbelli said. “They let it flow more and were more relaxed and focused tonight. I especially saw that in Hendrickson, and Ringel’s defense was incredible. She was really focused on defense and putting every dig on the target, and that allowed us to do a lot of good things offensively.

“Defensively, out digging OU is a huge thing because they are really one of the conference’s best defensive teams. I felt like our defense was prepared, ready and intense and that is what we were asking them to be tonight.”

Black, who has led or tied for the team lead in all 23 matches, posted her sixth 20-plus kill performance of the season.

“The dynamic athlete that [Kelsey] is allows us to attack teams all across the net,” Corbelli said, “and tonight we wanted to make sure we were using her with as much variety as possible. She can adapt to anything we throw at her and so we got to put her outside on the right to sideout over there at a defense that maybe wasn’t quite ready for that. She can hit out of the middle, the left, out of the back row. Our wins are in large part due to her big swings and her intensity. When she goes up, she is going to put the ball away.”

The Aggies face a rematch with the Baylor Bears Saturday in Waco. The Bears topped A&M, 3-2, earlier this season in College Station. First serve is slated for 7 p.m. at the Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas