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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

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A&M volleyball exits NCAA Tournament after 3-1 loss to Texas

Photo by Ishika Samant

Junior S Nisa Buzlutepe (11) saves the ball from falling out of bounds during the second set of Texas A&M’s game against Texas on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023. The Longhorns took the second set 25-13. (Ishika Samant/The Battalion)

Texas A&M volleyball traveled to Gregory Gym in Austin to take on the Texas Longhorns in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday, Nov. 30.

The Aggies made their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2019, while Texas entered the matchup looking to defend its 2022 national title. The last time the two rivals faced off was Sept. 17, 2021, which resulted in a 3-1 Longhorn win at Reed Arena. This time around was no different as A&M fell to Texas, 3-1.

The Aggies took the first set, 25-21. The set was marked by an early 12-1 Aggie run, led by sophomore middle blocker Morgan Perkins and graduate outside hitter Caroline Meuth.

In that run, Meuth had two kills and a block. A&M also had a block from freshman opposite hitter Ital Lopuyo. Perkins was responsible for 4 of the points with three blocks and a kill during the run to give A&M a 15-7 lead.

The Longhorns went on their own run to bring the Aggies’ lead to 18-14. Senior Texas middle blocker Asija O’Neal had two blocks on sophomore opposite hitter Logan Lednicky during the run. A timeout by coach Jamie Morrison proved to be the right call with A&M going on a 5-1 run as sophomore middle blocker Ifenna Cos-Okpalla and Meuth each tallied two kills.

O’Neal then had two straight kills and another block during a 5-point Texas run to bring the score to 23-20. A&M got to set point after a Texas service error and Meuth bounced back from an attack error to give the Aggies the first set.

“I thought what we came out and did in that first set was incredible,” Morrison said. “We were able to stay calm and take a breath and play good volleyball throughout the match.”

The Longhorns showed no mercy in the second set, opening with a 10-0 run and winning 25-13. O’Neal was the star of the set for Texas and was responsible for 8 of the 25 points. She had a block and seven kills with three of those kills being a part of the 10-0 run.

A Morrison timeout finally settled A&M into the set and the Aggies and Longhorns split the next 10 points. Meuth and freshman outside hitter Bianna Muoneke then had back-to-back kills to bring the score to 15-7, but O’Neal had three kills during a 6-2 Longhorn run that gave Texas a 21-9 lead. A run didn’t materialize for A&M and the 10-point hole was too much to overcome with junior outside hitter Madisen Skinner ending the set in favor of Texas.

Neither team found a way to extend its lead until late in the third set, with the largest lead being just 2 points for most of it. Skinner and O’Neal combined for the first 5 points for Texas while kills by Lopuyo and Muoneke, along with two Texas service errors, gave A&M its first 5 points of the set.

A&M got an early 7-5 lead and went back-and-forth with the Longhorns, but a service error and a kill by freshman setter Ella Swindle evened the score at 12 all. Texas took its first lead of the set, 17-16, after an attack error by Lednicky and a kill by Skinner, assisted by Swindle.

The Longhorns took their biggest lead of the set at 22-17. The stars showed up late in the set with two kills by Skinner and an O’Neal block as Texas went on its way to a 25-20 win after back-to-back service errors by the Aggies gave the Longhorns the final 2 points.

The trio of O’Neal, Skinner and Swindle continued to dominate for the Longhorns in the fourth set. Skinner accounted for 5 of the first 8 points of the set that gave Texas an early 8-5 lead. A&M closed the gap to one after an attack error by Skinner, but the Longhorns went on a 8-2 run to take a late lead.

O’Neal and Swindle combined for blocks on Meuth and Perkins to take a 18-12 lead. O’Neal then had back-to-back kills to bring the score to 20-12. The teams split the next 6 points as a kill by Lednicky sparked a 5-0 Aggie run. Three-straight kills by Muoneke brought the score to 23-19 and a block by Cos-Okpalla closed the gap to just 3.

However, a service error by A&M killed all momentum and the Longhorns took the match and set, 25-20, after a kill by O’Neal, who finished the night with 14 kills and a .538 hitting percentage.

Skinner led the way offensively for Texas, accounting for 23.5 points. She had 20 kills, adding to her season total of 422. She also added five block assists, her second-highest total of the season.

Meuth finished off her final year of college with 14 kills, bringing her season total to 321. She also led the Aggies in points and digs at 16 and 12, respectively. For A&M, this loss marked the end of the first season under Morrison. The Aggies finished 16-13 on the year and made their first tournament appearance since 2019.

“This team is very young, and I know we will learn from it,” Morrison said. “I’m fired up that we can get the experience now, so in the future we can take this even further.”

Meuth’s departure hurts, but Morrison will bring everyone else back, barring transfers, heading into his second season in charge.

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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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