COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Texas A&M got a momentous victory in its season opener as the Aggies defeated Texas State, 25-16, 25-15, 25-16, at the Texas A&M Invitational today at Reed Arena. The victory marked the 500th win for A&M head coach Laurie Corbelli, as well as her 400th victory as head coach of the Aggies.
"It means I've been coaching a really long time," Corbelli said when asked about the landmark victory. "I don't know when it will sink in. I just take them like it is another 100, or section of 100, because it's just my life and that's all I do and after 27 years, I knew that I'd get to 500 somehow, someway, somewhere and it's here.
"I'm really proud and excited," added Corbelli who entered her 20th season as head coach at A&M. "And it was really meaningful for the team to come and jump on me, just because I'm kind of the bad guy a lot of times. I have to lay down the law. I know that they appreciate me, but it really is fun to have them pile on. It was really cool. I don't think I've ever had a team do that before. I'll never forget that."
Senior middle blocker Lindsey Miller, who tied a career-high with a .611 hitting efficiency after tying for the team lead with 11 kills along with no errors in 18 attempts, also commented on the meaningful win.
"It was really exciting knowing that Laurie had a chance for win No. 500 today," Miller said, "and it's cool in this program because all of us playing wanted to give that to Laurie. We wanted to be the group that was there when she accomplished that, so it was definitely a big deal for all of us."
The teams were tied at 7-7 in the opening set before A&M went on a 9-1 run to build a commanding lead. The Bobcats later used a three-point run to get within 22-16 before senior opposite Alisia Kastmo had back-to-back kills. Miller and junior outside hitter Heather Reynolds, who drew the first start of her career, then teamed for the set-winning point.
A&M jumped on the Bobcats for six points to begin the set and continued to extend its lead to 10-1. The Aggies went on to build their biggest lead at 20-9 following a five-point rally sparked by two aces by senior libero Megan Pendergast.
Junior setter Mariah Agre, who made her A&M debut late in the frame, set Miller up for the kill that put the Aggies at set point, 24-13. Texas State staved off two set points before Agre and Miller connected again, and the senior captain put down her fifth kill of the set.
A&M, which outhit Texas State .333 to .233 in the first set, held the Bobcats to a .000 hitting efficiency in the second set en route to the 25-15 win.
The teams were tied a 5-all in the third set when a kill by senior outside hitter Tori Mellinger marked the start of a 6-0 run by the Aggies. Kastmo had three kills and a block during the run.
Leading 12-8, the Aggies used 6-1 run, which began with freshman middle blocker Shelby Sullivan notching the first kill of her A&M career. With the Aggies holding a comfortable 18-9 lead, Corbelli inserted freshmen outside hitters Angela Lowak and Sierra Patrick for the first time.
Lowak later posted her third kill of the set to put the Aggies at match point. The normally raucous crowd then was totally silent in anticipation as Agre went to serve. The celebration quickly ensued as Texas State committed an error to give the Aggies the match-clinch point.
"(We are) excited to get our first win of the season and kick it off with a solid performance," said Corbelli, who was also coaching the 800th match of her 27-year head coaching career. "It's nice to have a lot of returners with experience. They showed that, especially in the first set and second set. We didn't have a lot of fluctuations in our play and our execution in our court presence, and that was really nice to see. We played together as a unit, and that allowed me to get some new players in a little bit of set 2 and set 3. Just getting kids on the court and in front of the 12th Man, in a game situation, kids that really are the future of Aggie volleyball, I've really wanted to get them out there if at all possible, and I was able to do that. So that was good."
Kastmo tied Miller for team-high honors with 11 kills and hit at a .400 clip as A&M outhit the Bobcats, .297 to .127. Pendergast led in digs with 13 and Reynolds also reached double figures with 10 digs. Miller led all players with five blocks. Junior setter Allie Sawatzky finished with 26 assists.
Alexandra Simms led the Bobcats with 13 kills and Caleigh McCorguodale had a team-leading 12 digs.
A&M returns to the court tonight at 7:30 p.m. to take on No. 5 USC, coach by former long-time Texas coach Mick Haley. Earlier today No. 5 USC defeated a pesky North Dakota team, 25-20, 25-23, 25-21.