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A&M sports updates for week of Oct. 4

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Photo by Graphic by Robert O’Brien

Six head coaches spoke to the media earlier this week on Monday, Oct. 4.

Worlds collided at Kyle Field.
The head coaches of six different Texas A&M athletics teams met for a press conference on Monday, Oct. 4. Each recapped their respective program’s progress through the semester while previewing goals and expectations of what is yet to come.
Here is an update on each sport:
Football
After starting with a three-game undefeated streak, the A&M football program has fallen, losing two consecutive games to the Arkansas Razorbacks and the Mississippi State Bulldogs and falling out of the AP Rankings entirely. With the Alabama Crimson Tide looming in the near future, A&M must get back on track if it has dreams of saving its season.
Head coach Jimbo Fisher said the pair of losses has taken its toll on the maroon and white’s athletes.
“Obviously, we’re very disappointed and down,” Fisher said. “But understand that there’s a lot of football left, work we can do and room we can get better. When you lose, you’re evaluating everything.”
The Aggies still have hope, however, with seven games still guaranteed on this year’s schedule, giving A&M hope to correct its trajectory. To do this, the Aggies must stop trying to “overperform” and instead place an emphasis on small, personal improvements during practice each day, Fisher said.
“We’ve got to go back to fundamentals,” Fisher said. “I wish … there was some magical formula or potion, but it’s about going back and being fundamentally sound in the things we do, our concepts and schemes. We’ll get back to that.”
Volleyball
The A&M volleyball program is fresh off its highest-calibre win of the season, taking down the No. 20 Tennessee Lady Volunteers in Knoxville, Tenn., on Sunday, Oct. 3. The Aggies finished their 2020 campaign with five consecutive losses, but already have 10 wins in 2021 — one more than the total notched last season — showing great improvement for the team.
Head coach Laura “Bird” Kuhn said the team’s win over ranked Tennessee was well-deserved. The Aggies’ constant perseverance was indicative of what she believes they have accomplished all season, she said.
“Any time a team earns a good, solid road win against a great team … that’s huge,” Kuhn said. “We had people step up and sub into different positions. Our team is always ready when they’re called on. I’m proud of the way they fought and finished.”
Even still, Kuhn said she is confident the maroon and white can further improve and prepare before continuing with the remainder of its SEC schedule.
“We need to keep building on where we finished,” Kuhn said. “There is still some consistency we need to work on, and we’re going to play some pretty good teams. The SEC is strong. We still have to move forward and keep focusing on executing.”
Soccer
Under head coach G Guerrieri, the A&M soccer program has struggled as of late, losing four consecutive games for the first time in program history, though all six of the team’s losses this season came at the hands of ranked opposition. In addition to the maroon and white’s rigorous schedule, the Aggies were also plagued by a minimized roster, having lost sophomore midfielder Barabara Olivieri and freshman forward Maile Hayes to injury. Three other players spent multiple games in quarantine after being exposed to COVID-19.
With all of these players back, Guerrieri said the team is finally set to return to the “grind” of top-level play while once again striving toward the program’s high expectations.
“Getting ourselves back into who we are and being us is really the best thing that can happen,” Guerrieri said. “We have to be ready for playing against mature, physical, gifted players, which is what you’re going to find in this league.”
Guerrieri said the losses experienced by the Aggies so far do not determine the team’s season. Instead, the maroon and white must put the past behind it while focusing on the upcoming SEC and NCAA Tournaments. The road to these contests is highlighted by three more home matches at Ellis Field and a trip to Baton Rouge to take on the nationally ranked Louisiana State Tigers.
“The season is clearly not sunk, but we’re in unprecedented territory,” Guerrieri said. “We still play teams that will be pelts on the wall. Those can be really good wins — great statement games. For us, it’s focusing on what we do every day so we can get these results and help our resume.”
Cross country
A&M’s cross country program struggled in 2020, with neither the men’s nor women’s team securing a first-place finish at any point in their campaign. The 2021 iterations of both rosters has looked completely different, with the women’s team sweeping all three meets in which it has competed thus far; the men have medaled twice as well, captained by redshirt junior Eric Casarez’s multiple record-breaking runs.
Even with the success enjoyed by the programs, head cross country coach Wendel McRaven said his athletes must stay diligent to ensure they do not get “too comfortable.” There is too much “solid competition” left on the schedule to believe the teams are guaranteed any more wins, he said.
“I really don’t know how good we are,” McRaven said. “We won’t know that for a fact until we face some nationally ranked type teams. We’re enjoying [the success] while we can, but we understand that we’ve still got work to do.”
Now, the Aggies can use this cautious optimism as motivation, McRaven said. The maroon and white has just one meet left — the Arturo Barrios Invitational on Saturday, Oct. 16 — before the SEC Championships. A&M must set its sights on the highest level of competition in the future, McRaven said.
“Our SEC season is one day,” McRaven said. “It’s championship time of the season. Everything we do is preparing for that time of year. Our SEC season is one day. We’re always thinking that far ahead.”
Baseball
After officially starting its fall training regimen on Tuesday, Sept. 21, the A&M baseball program spent its time adjusting to the leadership style of new head coach Jim Schlossnagle. Because the roster is almost entirely made up of freshmen and transfers, there was much uncertainty surrounding the program’s capacity for immediate improvement.
Schlossnagle said this has not negatively impacted practices. Instead, having players from various coaching and learning backgrounds has allowed the team to make good use of its first two weeks as a unit.
“Every single kid has just been super hungry to be a big part of developing culture — a big part of learning the way we like to do things,” Schlossnagle said. “Guys come to the ballpark every day excited. The effort and the attitude — the two things they can control — have been outstanding. It really, really has [been].”
The maroon and white will first implement this development in gametime situations when the Aggies host the Houston Cougars in an exhibition game at Olsen Field on Friday, Oct. 8. Because there is no official campaign resume “on the line,” A&M can focus on improvement without fear of failure, Schlossnagle said.
“The stuff we have in the fall is what I like to call ‘inexpensive experience,’” Schlossnagle said. “In the [spring] season, that’s super expensive experience. It’s going to gain us a win or cost us a loss. But the stuff we have in the fall is inexpensive. You learn about your team, and we have a lot … to learn.”
Men’s basketball
The A&M men’s basketball team had its first official practice of the semester on Sunday, Oct. 3, kicking off the team’s hopeful redemption arc. After winning just two SEC games in their 2020-2021 campaign, the Aggies must adjust to heightened expectations.
The team’s offseason, spent lifting weights, running drills and improving personal fitness, was the first step in its journey, head coach Buzz Williams said.
“We had a very productive September, as far as what we typically do,” Williams said. “It was good to be in the gym. All of the guys have done great relative to what we’re asking them to do. We have October planned out, and hopefully we can stay in a groove like we did in September.”
Time will tell if this groove is enough to put the Aggies back on track, as the team has its first exhibition game in less than a month. Having lost the majority of last season’s starters, the program has the opportunity to craft an entirely new identity for itself, Williams said.
“Every day has a spirit of newness,” Williams said. “[We have] more new players, and we’re changing what we do on both sides of the ball. That’s how we’re coaching, that’s how they’re responding and that’s the intensity at which they’re working. Everything is kind of new.

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