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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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A&M drops five-set match to No. 24 Auburn

Freshman+OH+Bianna+Muoneke+%2813%29+spikes+the+ball+during+Texas+A%26amp%3BMs+game+vs.+Auburn+at+Reed+Arena+on+Sunday%2C+Nov.+5%2C+2023.+%28Chris+Swann%2FThe+Battalion%29
Photo by Chris Swann/The Battalion

Freshman OH Bianna Muoneke (13) spikes the ball during Texas A&M’s game vs. Auburn at Reed Arena on Sunday, Nov. 5, 2023. (Chris Swann/The Battalion)

After putting a halt to its three-game losing streak, Texas A&M volleyball fell short against No. 24 Auburn at Reed Arena on Sunday, Nov. 5.
Finding connections quickly with her hitters, junior setter Nisa Buzlutepe assisted with a big kill by sophomore middle blocker Morgan Perkins.
Sophomore opposite hitter Logan Lednicky got involved from the start, finding gaps in between the block to efficiently make the score 6-5. After an exchange of missed serves by both teams, Auburn closed the gap with a huge defensive play by senior middle blocker Bella Bell.
Auburn sophomore outside hitter Akasha Anderson found rhythm on the pins to score and bring the score to 9-7. Versatile on both pins, Lednicky answered on the outside to allow her team to keep the serve, followed by another kill inside the 10-foot line.
Another service error for the Tigers tied the score at 14, giving the Aggies an opportunity to execute their offense. Graduate outside hitter Caroline Meuth had a side out for the Aggies in an early back-and-forth game.
Auburn had eyes for locating the holes in the defense. Anderson efficiently scored for the Tigers by throwing the defense off and scoring with a roll shot, tying the score at 17.
Back-to-back kills by Lednicky forced a timeout for Auburn, who trailed 22-19. A service error by the Aggies gave the Tigers momentum, but a fast ball in the middle allowed sophomore middle blocker Ifenna Cos-Okpalla to score. Finally, a kill by freshman outside hitter Bianna Muoneke closed the set in favor of the Aggies, 25-21.
The second set looked promising for the Aggies with an ace by Buzlutepe. Sophomore middle blocker Kendal Kemp answered at the net with a block for the Tigers. Lednicky then found space between hands on the defending block and scored.
“We were just finding ways to win,” coach Jamie Morrison said. “I think the disappointing piece is I thought we had to kick into a different gear where we had to win every single point.”
Serve receive mistakes allowed a 3-0 run for the Tigers, making the score 9-5. In hopes of rallying his team back into the game, a forced timeout by Morrison worked as Meuth answered with a perfect pass from the back row.
Lednicky, leading both teams in kills, brought in her 10th kill on the right side. A stack play by Auburn was successful with sophomore outside hitter Madison Scheer finding the backcourt to make the score 14-12.
Utilizing all assets, freshman opposite hitter Ital Lopuyo got herself involved in the game. Trailing by 5, Morrison called a timeout to get the Aggies back into rhythm.
Coming out of the timeout, senior setter Jackie Barrett used the Aggies’ overpass to tally a kill and make the score 23-17. A service error kept the Aggies breathing, but it was not enough as a kill by Tiger graduate middle blocker Kyla Swanson closed the set 25-19.
The third set started slow for the Aggies as they had trouble executing, but back-to-back blocks by Cos-Okpalla gave momentum to the home team. Despite the momentum, Kemp answered with a block for Auburn, tying the score at 6.
Due to an injury on the court, freshman defensive specialist Alayna Pearson came in for the Aggies, but the new dynamics did not mess up the rhythm. The Maroon and White went on a 4-0 run and forced a timeout for the Tigers, making the score 11-9.
“It was cool that Alayna was able to step on the court and make a big difference,” Morrison said.
SEC All-Freshman Kemp led both teams with six blocks and found herself perfectly lined up with the Aggies’ offense to attain a solo block. A huge kill by Perkins put Pearson at the service line and allowed her to put up an ace against the Tigers’ serve receive.
After the timeout, mistakes by Auburn and big kills from the offense allowed the Aggies to go on a 7-0 run to bring the score to 23-20. A powerful kill on the outside by Muoneke finished 25-23 with the Aggies on top.
The fourth set was a rocky start for Maroon and White, but Cos-Okpalla was quick to get the offense rolling with a kill. The Tigers seemed to find their rhythm early on and Bell executed with a kill down the line, pushing ahead 7-6.
Perkins was a vital component in the set, hitting .545 while Bell hit .562.
Swanson used an A&M overpass as an opportunity and scored 17-14. Trailing by 3, the Aggies needed to get back into the right mindset and fall back to the basics. Auburn, on the other hand, found ways to put kinks in the Aggies’ system and it worked.
Mistakes and consistent play by the Tigers led A&M to trail 23-18. Service errors on both sides of the net kept the Aggies alive on Auburn’s set point. Muoneke went behind the service line and tallied an ace, but came up short as the set ended in favor of Auburn, 25-22.
In a crucial fifth set for both teams, Lednicky opened with a kill for A&M. Good block coverage on Auburn’s side of the court allowed many opportunities to score, but the Aggies could not keep the ball in play.
Utilizing the hot hands of Lednicky, freshman setter Margot Manning set her hitters up for success by placing the ball in the right zones. Auburn answered with great defense at the net, forcing A&M to work around the block. Kemp led the Tigers’ net defense with eight total blocks.
Two service errors by Maroon and White got them into a rut, and Morrsion called a timeout. A 2-0 run for Auburn got the Aggies startled, but they answered with a 3-0 run for themselves for a 9-8 game. Trailing by 1, the Aggies needed to hone in on a nail-biting set.
Scheer clinched a much-needed kill for the Tigers to stop the Aggies’ run and swing momentum back on Auburn’s side. A huge block by the 6-foot-4 Swanson made the score 13-8. Cos-Okpalla answered behind the service line with an ace, but a net violation put Auburn at set point 14-10.
“It wasn’t about playing perfect volleyball,” Morrsion said. “It was, ‘We have never been here before, we just gotta figure this out.’”
Perkins kept the Aggies alive with a big kill out of the middle, but Swanson answered with a kill for the Tigers and closed the match in Auburn’s favor, 15-12.
The Aggies will next face Missouri in Columbia, Missouri on Friday, Nov. 10. First serve is set for 6 p.m.

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