A&M volleyball sweeps Georgia in SEC opener
Published: Sunday, September 29, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 30, 2013 13:09
The A&M volleyball team (9-3, 1-0 SEC) entered the conference season with lofty expectations, as the Southeastern Conference coaches voted A&M the favorite to bring home a West Division title.
In the Aggies’ league opener Sunday against the Georgia Bulldogs (11-3, 1-1 SEC), A&M showed why it’s favored to win the division this season, sweeping the Bulldogs in three sets 25-20, 25-17 and 25-12 at Reed Arena.
Head coach Laurie Corbelli said the opportunity to focus on Georgia all week allowed A&M to generate confidence heading into the matchup.
“I think we had a lot of an advantage being at home, not having played Friday and getting a chance to prepare all week,” Corbelli said. “It makes a big difference because everybody is good these days. When you get a chance to focus on only one team for the weekend, it does make a big difference.”
A&M started off hot in the first set and would hold an 11-5 advantage before the Bulldogs surged back for a 19-18 lead. In a momentum-swinging series, though, the Aggies went on a 7-1 run and closed out the set for their first victory.
The second set would feature an early Georgia lead, only to have the Aggies knot the score 9-9 midway through the set. Successive A&M points would hold off the Bulldogs down the stretch, allowing the Aggies a 25-17 victory and 2-0 lead.
In the third, the Aggies dominated right out of the gate, hitting .560 before finishing the sweep in a 25-12 win.
Corbelli said the suffocating A&M defense was vital to the sweep, noting the Aggies’ ability to transition well-played defensive possessions into offensive points.
“Defense is the cornerstone of our program,” Corbelli said. “We want the ball handled beautifully to make it ‘pretty volleyball.’ We want players that are getting after it on defense all the time and not only digging balls but also putting them where we can do something with them offensively. We are pretty hard on them with defense.”
Texas A&M hit a total of 47 kills with sophomore Sierra Patrick leading the Aggies with 13, followed by senior Allie Sawatzky’s 11. The Aggies would out-block the Bulldogs 12-7. A&M would also generate two aces in the match from Patrick and senior Mariah Arge.
Patrick said the victory to open conference play will serve as a foundation for good play going forward, a factor especially important considering the Aggies starting their SEC slate.
“It just sets the tone,” Patrick said. “Playing bad is contagious and playing well is contagious. It’s good to know what level we are expecting ourselves to be at every single game. It’s good to start conference this way and we know what it feels like. Let’s make sure we can replicate it. I’m really excited with it. It’s always good to have a good game. The fact that it’s the start of our new season is just perfect.”
The Aggies will be on the road next week as they take on the third-ranked, defending conference champion Florida on Friday, and then travel Sunday to South Carolina to face the Gamecocks. The Aggies will return home Oct. 9, where they will take on the LSU at Reed Arena.