Following cancellations due to COVID-19 developments within the program, Texas A&M volleyball finally had its season opener.
On Wednesday, Feb. 10 in the Carolina Volleyball Center, A&M defeated South Carolina in four sets. This is the Aggies’ first win since losing the last four matches of the fall slate.
A&M coach Laura “Bird” Kuhn said it was great to get the spring slate kicked off with a win.
“It’s always good to start off with a win,” Kuhn said. “But like I keep saying, it's a great foundation and a building block, so we just have to keep learning from things still.”
This was the Gamecocks’ fifth match in 13 days, and the fifth match hit them hard with a loss.
Set 1 saw the Aggies take out a dominant lead early on; however, toward the middle of the first, A&M let the Gamecocks almost tie it up at 16-14. Thanks in part to discipline at the net, the Aggies won the first set with a five-point lead, 25-20.
A leader for the maroon and white in set one was outside hitter Morgan Christon. The 6-foot-1 sophomore posted three kills in the first set, going on to lead A&M at the end of the game with 13. Christon also posted three digs and two blocks.
Early on in Set 2, South Carolina was leading by one at 3-2 but the Aggies won the next point to tie it up. Following this and throughout the set, it was very much a back and forth contest as there were 14 ties with three lead changes. Eventually, A&M was able to regain the lead at 17-16. Christon put the set away at 25-22 on a serving ace.
Junior middle blocker Mallory Talbert, who is second in the SEC in blocks per set, nailed four kills and notched one assist.
The start of Set 3 saw the Gamecocks taking a dominant six-point lead at 10-4. South Carolina kept up its fight and lengthened its lead to 15-6. The Aggies did not go down without a fight, with A&M’s score moving up to 24-16 at the Gamecocks’ set point. Although, the Aggies let South Carolina take the third set and the game moved into a fourth.
Freshman middle blocker and outside hitter Claire Jeter earned her first career start and posted six kills and four digs.
Junior middle blocker London Austin-Roark, who clinched 10 kills, said Claire is a good player because of her aggression.
“Claire is one of our most aggressive players in the gym,” Austin-Roark said. “She’s always really getting after the ball and is trying to better her defense and offense but I think she just leaned on her teammates and we were there to support her. We were like, ‘Hey, we got you, just swing away and be your aggressive self,” so it was fun to see her flourish in this environment.”
A&M won the match off of a kill from Jeter in the fourth set, which saw the score reversed from the previous set with the Aggies taking a 25-16 victory.
Kuhn said she was disappointed with the maroon and white’s performance in the third set, but that the response in the fourth showed the team’s strength.
“The third set, you never want that as a coach but it showed a good response in the fourth. So that’s also something telling,” Kuhn said.
The second game of the doubleheader against the Gamecocks will be played at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 11 at 6 p.m.