After a slow start, the Texas A&M volleyball team finished strong on Friday, defeating the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros 3-1 (21-25, 25-15, 25-17, 25-22) in the final match of the Texas A&M Invitational.
“That's a great team, I mean, they're going to do good things this year,” A&M head coach Laura “Bird” Kuhn said. “For our team to respond the way they did after set one, and then the delay in that match, I was proud of that.”
A medical situation halted the game midway through the third set when UTRGV freshman outside hitter Victoire Nama fell down in the middle of a play. Once taken off the court, Nama continued to display signs of distress from the bench and was taken from Reed Arena in an ambulance. Nama is currently in the hospital and is fine, UTRGV head coach Todd Lowery said.
To open the first set, UTRGV forced the A&M defense to make mistakes, keeping the score close throughout with nine ties and three lead changes. After A&M tied the score at 18, UTRGV began to separate, going on a 6-2 run to set point. Despite getting control of the serve back, the Aggies were unable to capitalize as UTRGV clinched the first set 25-21.
Down 1-0, A&M responded in the second set with a better defensive production. After taking an 11-9 lead, a kill by junior middle blocker Makena Patterson started a run for the Aggies where they won nine of the next 11 points to expand their lead to 20-11. A slam by Patterson clinched the set 25-15 for the Aggies, tying up the game.
Patterson led the team in kills with 12 for the match, including five during the crucial second set.
The Aggies slowly garnered momentum in the third set as they battled to gain a lead on the Vaqueros. Up 18-16, the Aggies started upping the pace to win the third set 25-17 on a slam by freshman Lauren Davis. Senior Hollann Hans led the Aggies during the third set with four kills.
The Aggies continued that fast pace to open the fourth set with a 12-7 lead. UTRGV managed to close the gap, tying the game at 16, but A&M continued its strong offensive performance with a 25-22 win to clinch the game.
The Aggies finished with 10 team blocks, including seven from Patterson.
“The execution and the focus they claimed after set one showed me growth,” Kuhn said. “I know we have areas where we need to grow more and continue to mature with our consistency, but that was big for us as a team.”
With the victory, A&M finished the invitational 3-0. Hans and senior Camila Gomez were named to the All-Tournament team, with Gomez, who finished with 10 digs, winning MVP.
“Camila has always been a huge rock for our team,” Patterson said. “She's always back there, super loud, super talkative. It was really encouraging and it feels really great to be up in the net and know I have her behind me because I really have a lot of trust in her.”
The win improves A&M’s season record to 7-1. The Aggies will finish off non-conference play next week, as they host Oklahoma on Tuesday, before traveling to Austin to face the University of Texas on Thursday. First serve against Oklahoma starts at 6:30 p.m.