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A&M volleyball continues hot start at 6-0 with sweep of Utah State

The+volleyball+team+celebrates+after+scoring+a+point+in+Texas+A%26amp%3BMs+game%26%23160%3Bagainst+Utah+State+on+Thursday%2C+Sept.+7%2C+2023+at+Reed+Arena.+%28Julianne+Shivers%2F+The+Battalion%29
Photo by Julianne Shivers

The volleyball team celebrates after scoring a point in Texas A&M’s game against Utah State on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023 at Reed Arena. (Julianne Shivers/ The Battalion)

Home sweet home.

After a win over Loyola-Chicago at the Falcon Invitational, Texas A&M volleyball returned to Reed Arena on Thursday, Sept. 7, to take on Utah State in a battle between Aggies.

The win over the Ramblers marked the Maroon and White’s best start since 2011, when the Aggies started 9-0.

Coming into this game, A&M had an intriguing matchup versus a Utah State team that came into the match 5-1 on the year, with its lone loss being to No. 5 Nebraska.

First-year head coach Jamie Morrison and A&M continued their hot start to the season with their third straight sweep to improve to 6-0 on the young season.

The 12th Man was a factor all night, Morrison said, adding that they were a big reason why he came to A&M.

“I thought we could build something where people are interested and active in what we’re doing,” Morrison said. “Getting that student section has been one of our biggest priorities. I’m going to beg and plead to please come back and hopefully we’re putting an entertaining product on the floor.”

The first set started off in a back-and-forth affair. Morrison called a successful early challenge, bringing the score to 5-3 in A&M’s favor.

After the challenge, A&M brought the score to 7-3, but Utah State did get a point back.

After a kill by freshman outside hitter Bianna Muoneke, the Fightin’ Farmers went on a 6-2 run to bring the score to 14-6. Both teams would trade points, but the Maroon and White maintained control of the set 19-11. A block assist by graduate outside hitter Caroline Meuth and sophomore middle blocker Ifenna Cos-Okpalla forced a Utah State timeout, with the score 20-11.

A&M stayed in the driver’s seat, taking a 23-13 lead. A service error by senior Utah State outside hitter Tatum Stall was quickly followed by a service ace by Meuth, which ended the set 25-14 in favor of A&M.

The Maroon and White stayed hot to start the second set. Back-to-back kills by Muoneke and sophomore middle blocker Morgan Perkins brought the score to 2-0. Back-to-back blocks forced Utah State to call their first timeout of the set with A&M up 7-1.

Both teams traded points for 10 plays, with the score 13-7 A&M. The Maroon and White regained control of the set thanks to a kill by Muoneke and an attack error by senior Utah State middle blocker Kelsey Watson. Utah State was then forced to call their second and final timeout of the set down 17-8.

A&M rattled off 3 more points thanks to blocks from Cos-Okpalla and freshman opposite hitter Ital Lopuyo. Utah State answered back with 3 points of their own, but a kill by Cos-Okpalla brought the score to 22-13.

Morrison then called a timeout late in the set while A&M held onto a 23-15 lead. Utah State fought back to bring the score to 24-19, but a kill by sophomore opposite hitter Logan Lednicky ended the set 25-19 in favor of the Maroon and White.

Utah State took an early 3-1 lead in the third set, but back-to-back kills by Lednicky evened things at three a piece, at least that’s what Aggie fans thought. Utah State challenged the play and was successful, but A&M fought back to tie the score at five all, thanks to Cos-Okpalla’s tenth block of the match.

Utah State regained control, bringing the score to 13-11, but a kill by Cos-Okpalla and a service ace by freshman setter Margot Manning evened things at 13-13. A&M then fell behind 15-13 heading into a media timeout.

The Fightin’ Farmers went on a quick 3-1 run to tie things back up at 16 a piece, forcing a Utah State timeout. Both teams continued going back and forth, but a kill and block by Lednicky gave A&M a late 23-21 lead, which forced Utah State to burn their final timeout.

Out of the timeout, Utah State brought the score back 23-22, but a kill by Muoneke brought the match to match point. After a hit out of bounds by graduate Utah State outside hitter Jill Schneggenburger, A&M claimed the set 25-22 and a 3-0 sweep.

Utah State came into the night ranked No. 7 in total team blocks. Tonight, Cos-Okpalla out-blocked the entire Utah State team, 14-8. Cos-Okpalla also set a three-set record with her defensive performance tonight.

Cos-Okpalla said she wouldn’t have been able to have a record-setting night without the rest of the team.

“Getting that many blocks is insane,” Cos-Okpalla said. “I’m super proud of the work I’ve put in and my team’s put in. They challenge me every day in practice.”

Cos-Okpalla said that the great home atmosphere and student section meant so much to the team and her.

“[The fans] have to trust us with a new coach, new program and new system,” Cos-Okpalla said. “Them being there supporting us really helped us with our win tonight, so shout out to the 12th Man.”

Next for the Aggies is a matchup against Northern Iowa in Game 2 of the Aggie Invitational. First serve is set for 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 8.

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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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