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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

Texas A&M utility Gavin Grahovac (9) throws the ball during A&Ms game against Georgia on Friday, April 26, 2024, at Olsen Field. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)
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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

A&M looks to begin conference play on a high note against Mississippi State

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Photo by Photo by CJ Smith

Freshman OH Bianna Muoneke (13) and graduate OH Caroline Meuth (16) go to receive the serve during Texas A&M’s game against Liberty on Friday, Sept. 15, 2023 at Reed Arena. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)

Texas A&M volleyball concluded its non-conference play with a win against Liberty this past weekend at Reed Arena. The Aggies are looking to use that momentum going into their first conference matchup against Mississippi State on Wednesday, Sept. 20, with home-court advantage.
The Aggies had a quick turnaround, as they lost 3-1 to No. 22 Houston before facing 7-2 Liberty. Coach Jamie Morrison said the team needed to focus on the rallies themselves and assess point-by-point instead of worrying about the match as a whole. That advice positively affected the team as it swept the Flames.
Sophomore middle blocker Ifenna Cos-Okpalla was recognized as the SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Week last week and has taken the honor with stride. She leads the NCAA in blocks per set, averaging 1.82. She also leads the team with 61 blocks. She has been a huge asset to the team, while sophomore middle blocker Morgan Perkins led A&M with five blocks against Liberty. Both players will look to pose a threat to the Bulldogs on the net.
Freshman outside hitter Bianna Muoneke leads the team with 115 kills and contributes to A&M’s 25th-ranked hitting percentage. Not only does the freshman lead the offense, she is also No. 2 in digs on the team behind senior libero Lauren Hogan.
Hogan has been a team leader in this transition year for the Aggies under Olympic coach Morrison. Being one of three seniors on the team has allowed her to take a leadership approach this season. Her leadership and experience has provided a constant for the team amidst roster and staff turnover. Her stats speak for themselves as she leads the team with 89 digs and is not afraid to take control of the back row emphasizing the importance of the first touch in the game.
Mississippi State is coming off a 7-3 non-conference record and a 3-1 win over Abilene Christian. The Bulldogs are undefeated at home, and are looking to break the streak of losses on the road.
After losing opposite hitter Gabby Waden and libero Lilly Gunter, who led the team with 408 kills and 453 digs, respectively, last season, Mississippi State is seeking to find young players to fill those shoes. After a monumental season in 2021, in which the Bulldogs made their first postseason appearance in program history, their goal is to make it a second time.
Topping Muoneke in kills on the other side of the net is senior outside hitter Karli Schmidt with 133. Mississippi State will look to the Kansas transfer for high level experience following two appearances in the NCAA tournament.
Both teams will lean on senior leadership on the court to battle for its first SEC win. Mississippi State graduate middle blocker Zoe Gonzales was named SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Week on Monday, Sept. 18, and seems to be taking her new position with ease and effectiveness, ranking No. 2 in the SEC in total digs.
Graduate outsider hitter Caroline Meuth will have to work around the potent Mississippi State defense in order to be successful between the pins. The San Antonio native has brought a high volleyball IQ against some of the best defensive teams this season, coming in second on the team with 113 total kills.

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