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The Battalion

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A&M volleyball chomps the Gators

The+Texas+A%26amp%3BM+volleyball+team+huddles+up+during+their+game+against+Mississippi+State+at+Reed+Arena+on+Wednesday%2C+Sept.+20%2C+2023.
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The Texas A&M volleyball team huddles up during their game against Mississippi State at Reed Arena on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023.

Off the back of an away loss to No. 16 Arkansas, Texas A&M volleyball traveled to Gainesville, Florida on Wednesday, Sept. 27, to close out a two-game road trip. Despite the Gators’ offensive prowess, the Aggies were able to drain the swamp, taking down Florida in five sets off of impressive performances from sophomores opposite hitter Logan Lednicky and middle blocker Ifenna Cos-Okpalla.

The Aggies came into the matchup looking to bounce back after falling to 1-1 in SEC play. In their way was No. 4 Florida, who came into the match boasting a 10-1 record with its lone loss being to No. 1 Wisconsin.

The Gators got off to a fast 5-0 start in the first set and forced coach Jamie Morrison to call an early timeout. Graduate outside hitter Caroline Meuth was able to get the Aggies on the board out of the timeout.

The Aggies rattled off 2 more points thanks to Lednicky and Cos-Okpalla.

The Gators continued to put pressure on the Aggies, as Florida took a 11-5 lead. Both teams traded points, but kills by Meuth and Cos-Okpalla closed the gap to 13-10 in Florida’s favor.

The Gators took their first timeout after the Aggies brought the score to 14-13, and the Aggies took the lead for the first time after back-to-back kills by Lednicky. Florida then took a late 21-19 lead, forcing Morrison to call another timeout.

A&M was able to tie the score at 22 after an attack error by Florida senior outside hitter Sofia Victoria. Both teams traded points, but Florida ultimately closed out the set 26-24 after a block by graduate middle blocker Anna Dixon.

The Maroon and White went up 3-0 to start the set after two-straight aces by sophomore libero Ava Underwood. Florida battled back, but A&M held onto a 3-point lead after a service ace by junior setter Nisa Buzlutepe made the score 9-6.

Later in the set, a block by Cos-Okpalla brought the score to 18-15 in A&M’s favor, but the Gators ended up tying the score at 19. Like the first set, both teams traded points late, but Florida took a timeout after A&M went up 23-22.

A kill by Cos-Okpalla brought the Aggies to set point, and Lednicky closed the second set out 25-23 to tie the match at a set a piece.

The third set started with both teams going back-and-forth, but Florida took a 9-6 lead after a kill by senior middle blocker Nnedi Okammor.

Cos-Okpalla earned her 10th kill of the match to bring the score to 14-13 in Florida’s favor. The Gators grew their lead to 17-13 and continued to hold a lead late into the set. The Maroon and White fought back to a 21-19 scoreline, but Florida was able to close out the set 25-21.

The Aggies jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the fourth set. Florida evened the score, but a Lednicky kill gave A&M a 3-2 lead.

Both teams traded points as A&M maintained a 1-point lead, but a kill by sophomore outside hitter Brooke Jeffrey gave the Aggies a 8-6 lead. However, Florida answered back, taking a 11-8 lead and carried its momentum to a 14-10 lead after a kill by Victoria.

Later in the set, a kill by Meuth brought the score within two, but another kill by Victoria gave Florida a 16-13 lead. A&M scored the next 2 points and went up one after back-to-back kills by sophomore outside hitter Brooke Jeffrey.

With the score 18-17, a failed challenge by Florida gave A&M a 2-point lead, but a service error by Buzlutepe gave the Gators the serve. A&M then called timeout after Florida evened things at 19.

With the Aggies up one late, a kill by Lednicky and service ace by Underwood made the score 23-20. The Aggies pushed the set to set point twice, but Florida’s Victoria had back-to-back kills to even the score at 24.

A service error by Florida freshman outside hitter Kennedy Martin brought A&M back to set point. After a fantastic rally, A&M won the set 26-24 to even the match at 2-2, sending the game to a fifth set.

Early in the fifth set, Florida took a 2-0 lead but A&M battled back to take a 5-4 lead. Florida then went on a 4-0 run to take a 8-5 lead. A&M went on a quick 3-1 run and a Lednicky block forced Florida into a timeout with a 9-8 lead.

The set went back-and-forth, but A&M took a late 13-12 lead after a service error by senior setter Elli McKissock. Florida’s Victoria then hit the ball out to bring the Aggies to a 14-12, match point.

A service error by freshman setter Margot Manning gave the Gators another shot, but a kill by Meuth gave the Aggies a 15-13 set win and a 3-2 match win.

For A&M, this not only marked an upset win over a top-5 team, but it’s the Aggies’ first win in Gainesville. The Maroon and White improved to 2-1 in conference play and handed Florida its first conference loss.

Next for A&M is a home matchup against Missouri. First serve is set for 3 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 1.

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About the Contributor
Eli Meschko
Eli Meschko, Sports Writer
Eli Meschko is a journalism senior from Boerne, Texas, and is minoring in communication and sports management. Eli has covered football, men's basketball, baseball, softball, hockey and track & field. Eli also writes for Dave Campbell's Texas Football as an intern. After graduation, Eli plans on pursuing a career in sports media or public relations.
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