Texas A&M begins USC Classic by handing hosts first loss of season
LOS ANGELES -- Texas A&M stunned sixth-ranked and previously undefeated Southern California, upsetting the Women of Troy in their home season opener 25-23, 15-25, 25-27, 25-13, 16-14 on the first day of the USC Classic at Galen Center.
It was A&M’s first victory against USC in nine all-time meetings, and it also marked A&M’s highest ranked win since a home victory against No. 6 Nebraska in 2009. It is the Aggies’ highest win away from College Station since 2001, when A&M swept sixth-ranked Wisconsin in an NCAA regional semifinal at Stanford in 2001, and it is A&M’s highest ranked win against a hosting team since the Aggies shocked No. 3 Hawaii in Honolulu in the 1999 NCAA regional semifinals.
A&M outhit USC .319 to .233 and outblocked the Women of Troy 13-7 as both teams move to 6-1 on the season.
A&M freshman setter Stephanie Aiple dished out a career-high 56 assists as she orchestrated a balanced attack, with four A&M players posting double figures in kills. Junior middle blocker Shelby Sullivan hit .462 with 15 kills, one shy of her career high. Junior outside hitter Angela Lowak tied Sullivan for the team lead with 15 kills and added 11 digs to notch her first double-double of the season.
Sophomore middle blocker Jazzmin Babers had a career-high 14 kills with no errors for a .583 hitting percentage, and freshman opposite hitter Ashlie Reasor also pitched in a career-high 14 kills while hitting at a .300 clip.
Defensively, sophomore outside hitter Emily Hardesty tied her career with 19 digs, tying sophomore libero Victoria Arenas for match-high honors. Babers had seven blocks to finish with a career-high 18.5 points, and Sullivan contributed six blocks and led the Aggies with 19.0 points.
Neither team led by more than three points in the opening set as there were four lead changes and eight ties. The Trojans had used a 4-0 run to go up 13-12 and continued to lead 22-21 when Sullivan got a kill on the slide attack to tie the score. She then teamed with Hardesty for a block to give the Aggies a 23-22 advantage, forcing Trojan coach Mick Haley to call a timeout. USC, which was outhit .395 to .220, got a kill coming out of the timeout, but Hardesty got a crucial out-of-system kill off the block to put the Aggies at set point. Lowak then followed with her fifth kill of the frame to clinch the set and hand the Trojans their second first-set loss of the season.
There were 10 ties and two lead changes early in the second set before USC erupted for 10 unanswered points behind the serving of national ace leader Samantha Bricio, who had three aces during the stretch. A&M, which was outhit .310 to .138 was unable to recover as the Trojans handily won the set 25-15 to even the match 1-1 heading into the intermission.
A&M let a six-point lead get away in the third set as Bricio led the Trojans to a 27-25 come-from-behind win and a 2-1 lead in the match. The Aggies held a 19-13 advantage following a USC attack error. The Trojans called a timeout and then got five consecutive kills to get within 19-18. USC later tied the score at 21-21, but Aiple was credited with a kill on the ensuing play as USC was whistled for reaching over the net. Aiple then teamed with Sullivan for a block to put A&M up 23-21. The teams exchanged kills, with Hardesty putting A&M at set point 24-22. The Trojans, however, countered with back-to-back kills, and then took the lead as A&M’s attack sailed out of bounds. Sullivan staved off one set point with a kill, but the Trojans, who outhit A&M .415 to .386, answered with two kills to close out the frame.
A&M led the entire fourth set, outhitting the Trojans .353 to .053 and using a late 9-1 outburst to surge to a 24-12 lead. Babers had put the Aggies at set point, putting down a USC overpass for a kill. The Trojans tooled the A&M block for a kill before Babers and Reasor teamed to record the set-clinching block and force a decisive fifth set.
A&M never trailed in the final frame and built a 10-4 lead before the Trojans made a ferocious comeback. With the Aggies clinging to a 13-12 lead, Sullivan posted a kill to put A&M at match point, 14-12. The Trojans then staved off two match points, getting a kill and then making several incredible saves which eventually led to another kill that tied the score for the first time 14-14. Lowak then got a kill down the line to once again put A&M at match point, and Bricio, who led all players with 20 kills and four aces, hit long on the next play to set off the Aggie celebration.