Aggies Stun No. 6 Nebraska
Sept. 24, 2009
Courtesy of Texas A&M Athletics
COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Sarah Ammerman had 18 kills and Mary Batis added 14 to lead Texas A&M to a stunning 28-26, 17-25, 25-19, 25-19 victory over No. 6 Nebraska at Reed Arena in a match that was nationally televised on ESPNU.
A crowd of 1,867 cheered on the two senior outside attackers and the rest of the upset-minded Aggies as they won their Big 12 Conference home opener and snapped a 19-match losing skid against the perennial powerful Huskers, who reached the NCAA Final Four last season. The signature win also marked the first time A&M had defeated a No. 6-ranked team or higher since defeating No. 6 Wisconsin in the NCAA Sweet 16, on Dec. 7, 2001, the last time A&M reached the Elite Eight.
It was the sixth consecutive win this season for the Aggies, who improve to 9-1 overall and 2-0 in the Big 12. Nebraska drops to 9-3, 2-1.
"The timing was right for us. It's our turn," A&M coach Laurie Corbelli said. "It has been our turn for a while. We have been really close for several years, last year 15-13 in the [fifth set]; you can't get closer than that. It seems like the team has really been scratching and clawing their way to reach their goals. It's obvious we want a shot at the tournament, which we feel like has eluded us somehow."
After spotting Nebraska a 4-0 lead in the opening set, A&M came back and fought off three set points to win the frame. Trailing 10-9, Ammerman posted back-to-back kills in between a Batis kill and ace to give the Aggies their first lead. The Huskers countered with a 5-1 run to regain the advantage and eventually built a 20-17 lead following a Nebraska kill and consecutive kill errors by the Aggies. A&M, however, managed to tie the score at 22-all on an ace by freshman libero Tori Mellinger. The teams exchanged point for point before Corbelli called a time out with Nebraska leading, 24-23. The Huskers came back from the timeout and served into the net, but A&M then served long to put Nebraska up, 25-24. Freshman middle blocker Alisia Kastmo kept the Aggies alive with a kill that tied the score for the 12th time. Brooke Delano put Nebraska at set point again with a kill, but the Huskers then had an attack sail long on the next play to tie the score at 26-26. An errant overpass by the Huskers set Batis up for the kill to give A&M the lead. Senior setter Kristen Schevikhoven and freshman middle blocker Lindsey Miller clinched the win for the Aggies as they then blocked an attack by All-American Tara Mueller.
"We made some bad critical errors in that first game but we hung in there and stayed aggressive," Corbelli said. "In volleyball the momentum shifts so quickly. They missed a few serves there in game one that kept our hopes alive, so we just took it and ran. We took advantage of those opportunities."
Batis began the second set with a kill from the back row, but Nebraska quickly put the set out of reach by reeling off the next 10 points. The Huskers hit .343 in the set while holding A&M to a .057 hitting efficiency to even the match at a set apiece.
"We went into the locker room between games two and three and recognized we weren't playing our game yet, and there was still a little pressure we were feeling to perform," Ammerman said. "So we recognized that and we knew that once we started getting on our game, we were going to blow up and take [sets] three and four.
"That's the best thing about this group, is that everyone is on the same page. We did a really good job of recognizing, adjusting and making that change. We knew once we would do that, we would take games three and four."
A&M hit .333 in each of the next two sets, and although Nebraska outhit A&M, .253 to .236 and led in kills, 63-54, and blocks, 8.5-7, for the match, the Aggies held the Huskers to a .238 hitting percentage in the third and .211 in the fourth.
The third set was tied at 4-4 when a dump kill by Schevikhoven sparked a three-point run and gave the Aggies the lead for good. Leading 18-15, A&M erupted for five consecutive points as Nebraska's serve reception broke down, allowing Ammerman two aces and Kastmo a kill on an overpass during the stretch. A&M later was serving for the set at 24-16 when Nebraska put down three consecutive kills to get within 24-19. The run was all for naught, as Nebraska then served into the net to give the Aggies the winning point.
A&M carried the momentum into the fourth set, jumping out to a 14-6 lead. The Huskers chipped away at the lead, however, and cut the gap to 20-17. Kastmo and Batis kills bookended a Nebraska kill error, putting the Aggies ahead 23-17. The Huskers then got a kill, and A&M was whistled for a ball handling error before senior right side hitter Jennifer Banse put down her seventh kill of the match and Batis followed with the match-winning kill.
Mellinger led the all players with a career-high 21 digs, and Batis and Ammerman added 15 and 14 digs, respectively. Kastmo and Miller had seven kills apiece, and Miller led the Aggies with five blocks.
"[The freshmen] did such a great job and we can really rely on them, which is amazing to say that we can rely on freshman blockers and libero at this level," Batis said. "They have been doing great, and getting to where we can trust them so quickly has really been great because once you can do that, you can focus more on your game and not having to worry about them so much. We have each been able to play our part. Those freshmen coming out in the fourth game was awesome."
Mueller led Nebraska with 21 kills, and Lindsey Licht added 13. Kayla Banwarth led the Huskers in digs with 20, and Kori Cooper finished with five blocks. The Huskers, however, committed 11 service errors to A&M's two.
"This [win] feels great," Batis added. "The past two years, the reason why we haven't made it into the tournament is because we haven't beaten a ranked opponent. So coming into this match, we set goals and we aren't going to take the next game any different from this one. We came in knowing we were going to win, there was no room for doubt. It's just amazing to see that we carried through and we just played so well and we have so much more to give."
The Aggies are on the road for the next two matches, taking on Missouri on Saturday in Columbia and No. 2 Texas in Austin on Wednesday, Sept. 30.