Northwestern 3, Texas A&M
Northwestern 3, Texas A&M 2Dec. 1, 2005
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Chelsey Hyser's four kills in the decisive game helped complete Northwestern's comeback from a 2-1 deficit, as the Wildcats women's volleyball team defeated Texas A&M in a marathon NCAA first-round match - 30-26, 20-30, 28-30, 30-27, 15-12 - to open Thursday's night's action at the Joyce Center.
Northwestern (20-11) moves on to Friday's second round and will face the winner of Thursday's second match between the host team Notre Dame (the No. 6 national seed) and Dayton.
Texas A&M (16-14) - which will serve as one of four hosts in next weekend's regional round - responded to a narrow loss in game one (26-30) by winning the next two games (30-20, 30-28) to surge ahead in the rollercoaster matchup. The Aggies then held a five-point margin (17-12) midway through the fourth game but could not close out the match, as Julie's Purcell's eight kills in game-four helped the Wildcats rally to force the fifth and deciding game.
The team's posted nearly identical totals for attack percentage (NU owned the slim .245-.244 margin) and service aces (5-4 edge for A&M) but the victors finished with the clear blocking edge, totaling 19 blocks to A&M's nine.
Both teams had four players with double-digit kills. Sophomore outsider hitter Courtnie Paulus started strong en route to totaling 18 kills for NU while junior middle blocker Julie Purcell had 17 kills and two others (sophomore hitter Lindsay Anderson and the freshman middle Hyser) added 13 kills each. Hyser led all players with a .500 hitting pct., converting on 13 of her 22 swings with just two attack errors (she put down 4-of-5 attempts in the decisive fifth game).
Sophomore middle Brittney Aldridge led Northwestern's blocking dominance by factoring into 10 of her team's blocks while Anderson had a hand in eight of the NU blocks (both players had two solo blocks).
A&M senior hitter Laura Jones entered the match as the nation's leader in kills per game (6.09) and overcame a slow start to maintain that average with a 30-kill night that included just a .218 attack percentage (well below her .260 hitting during the regular season). Junior hitter Christi Hahn added 19 kills for the Aggies while freshman middle Kelsey Bryant chipped in 13 kills and senior middle Kendra Felder 12.
Northwestern led game-five as the teams changed ends (8-6) but A&M won four of the next five points to claim a 10-9 lead. The Wildcats then called a timeout and Aldridge delivered a huge kill to forge a 10-10 tie (she had eight kills and no errors on 20 swings). The teams exchanged points but NU took the lead for good (12-11) when Jones hit long down the line. Paulus then executed her own chance down the line, Hyser scored on a quick attach for a 14-12 lead and the final point came when the Aggies were unable to dig Hyser's short push from the right side.
A&M held several five-point leads in the fifth game and still clung to a 23-22 cushion before Purcell converted a pair of kills. The Wildcats maintained the one-point lead (26-25) until Hahn was blocked on back-to-back plays, first by Anderson in a solo effort and then by Anderson and Hyser (stopping the slide attack). Hyser later put down a quick set following an A&M serve (for a 29-26 lead) and the final point came moments later when Hahn's serve sailed wide.
NCAA Volleyball Postgame Quotes - Texas A&M vs. Northwestern (Dec. 1. 2005)
Northwestern head coach Keylor Chan - "Our blocking was exceptional tonight, our scheme. [Assistant Coach] Ryan Theis designed our scheme and the last three weeks we've really come a long way with our young kids in the front row. And the blocks in this match were pivotal - it really gave us control of the net."
Northwestern senior libero Lizzie Carlson - "We usually, for some reason, seem to get a lot of momentum at the end of games. Game three was like that, but in game four we were able to take control and gain the momentum we needed for game five."
Northwestern senior outside hitter/libero Christie Gardner - "Our team just thrives off this, especially when you beat a team that you know has never lost in the first round. And we had never won in it, and to beat a team like that - it really gives everyone confidence, especially our younger players who stepped up this year."
Texas A&M head coach Laurie Corbelli - "We're obviously disappointed in our performance. We played a very tough team tonight that matched up well with us. They had five people attacking us and we had four people attacking at them and it ended up working. We just couldn't get our rhythm like we could the last month. ... It was about how we've typically been passing. When we were passing well we got to run the middle a lot more, which we need to do. It has been our nemesis all year and at key times it just wasn't as sharp as it needed to be. If it had been sharp at certain points, we could be happy right now. ... Out blocking became a little bit more effective. They definitely made more errors. They were trying to go at our hands and they made shots that we had adjusted to and our transition offense was in better sync."
Texas A&M senior outside hitter Laura Jones - "I just think that we lose our cool as far as being able to come out of lulls in the game. ... They did a good job of scouting us and knowing where to be and when to be there."
Texas A&M senior setter Kari Kelley - "I think sometimes we give up runs of points at the wrong times. The timing of errors and the timing of mistakes, it's not always bad, it just happens at the wrong times. ... Usually it takes teams a while to get what we're trying to do. They knew that we went to Laura [Jones] a lot and so we had to make some adjustments. We did very well with that in the second and third games, we had our offense spread out. But [in games four and five] it got back down to us having to rely a little bit more on one person."
-- Courtesy Notre Dame