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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 University System Chancellor John Sharp attends the Class of 1972 50-year reunion in Kyle Field on April 20, 2022.
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A&M sweeps Mississippi State 3-0 as Morrison earns first SEC victory

Chris Swann/ The Battalion

Sophomore MB Ifenna Cos-Okpalla (1) and Freshman OH Bianna Muoneke (13) jump to block the ball during Texas A&M’s game against Mississippi State at Reed Arena on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023.

During his weekly media availability on Monday, first-year coach Jamie Morrison made an admission about SEC volleyball as a coach that’s new to the conference.
“The SEC is tougher than I thought it would be,” Morrison said. “If you look across the conference, they’ve done a really good job of hiring. That’s not to toot my own horn, but I think the majority of coaches they brought into this conference are gonna pick their teams up. I think it’s a testament to just how deep and difficult this conference is gonna be.”
In spite of those challenges, Morrison’s first match in SEC play was one to remember, as Texas A&M swept Mississippi State 3-0 in front of a raucous Reed Arena crowd on Wednesday, Sept. 20. The Aggies improved to 9-2 with the win, their best start to the season since 2019, when they reached the third round of the NCAA Tournament. A&M also snapped a six-match losing streak to Mississippi State after dropping both matches to the Bulldogs last year.
“Going in, we talked about making a statement about who we are in the SEC,” Morrison said. “This first time through with each team that we play, it’s our chance to say, ‘This is what Texas A&M is.’
“The first one’s really cool, and then all of the sudden you’re in a really good conference,” Morrison said. “I didn’t think about it beforehand, but all of the sudden my eyes kind of lit up. It’s really cool to be here in this conference playing to be successful. I hope it’s the first of many to come.”
Graduate outside hitter Caroline Meuth and sophomore opposite hitter Logan Lednicky paced A&M on offense with 12 and 11 kills each, while sophomore libero Ava Underwood added 10 digs. Sophomore middle blocker Ifenna Cos-Okpalla added 10 blocks, including seven in the third set, as the Aggies displayed a balanced offensive attack.
“Everyone shines at different moments and it also very much depends on what the other team is doing,” Lednicky said. “We started off winning with the serve and pass game and then we finished off with the blocking game … I think it just shows everyone can step up in different moments and we can all work together to win.”
The sweep looks great on paper, but it didn’t come without its challenges, with set wins of 25-20, 25-22 and 25-18. The Bulldogs remained a thorn in the Aggies’ side for the entirety of the match and didn’t allow A&M to build up any significant leads.
Mississippi State showed that fight from the get-go, jumping to a 4-0 lead in the first set with a pair of attack errors and a service ace from graduate setter Alexa Fortin Goede. The Aggies picked up a 9-8 lead they wouldn’t lose, riding it to a set victory. After a 14-12 lead, A&M maintained a cushion of at least 3 points for the rest of the way.
“Jamie talks a lot about being comfortable with being uncomfortable,” Lednicky said. “That’s where we almost thrive now, and we’re getting to where we play even better in those types of situations, we’re able to come out of it way faster.”
Mississippi State lost a key piece of its defense when graduate middle blocker Zoe Gonzales went down in the first set with a leg injury. After being helped off the court, the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Week didn’t return for the remainder of the match.
The Bulldogs bounced back with a 12-9 lead to begin the second set behind kills from five different players. A&M kept things close as Mississippi State clung to a mere 15-14 lead at the set’s commercial break.
Amid a 6-3 A&M run, Mississippi State used its two timeouts of the set, albeit to no avail. The Aggies grabbed a 16-15 edge and held on for the win while warding off the Bulldogs, who stayed persistent and brought things as close as 23-22 with a 4-1 streak.
A&M took a 5-2 advantage at the onset of the third and final set, but Mississippi State refused to let up. The Bulldogs took a brief 10-9 lead with a kill from senior outside hitter Karli Schmidt, one of her team-high nine kills. The Aggies broke a 12-12 deadlock thanks to a service error before an 8-1 rally carried them to a match victory.
A&M continues the gauntlet of the SEC with matches on the road against No. 16 Arkansas and No. 3 Florida on Sept. 24 and 27.
“[We need to] take control of the space that we’re playing in,” Cos-Okpalla said. “We have to bring that [energy] ourselves as players, as people on the bench, as people on the court, so I feel like it’s our responsibility to do that.”

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