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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 falls short in last SEC match against Alabama, jeopardizing NCAA tournament appearance

Senior+OH+Caroline+Meuth+%2816%29+spikes+the+ball+during+Texas+A%26amp%3BMs+match+against+Ole+Miss+on+Wednesday%2C+Nov.+22%2C+2023+at+Reed+Arena.+%28Ishika+Samant%2FThe+Battalion%29
Photo by Ishika Samant

Senior OH Caroline Meuth (16) spikes the ball during Texas A&M’s match against Ole Miss on Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023 at Reed Arena. (Ishika Samant/The Battalion)

Texas A&M looked to wrap up an expected conference play with a win against Alabama on the road, but instead risked its potential NCAA tournament bid. With a loss against a No. 221 team, they will now stand unsure of a tournament appearance.
Alabama on the other hand clinched its first conference win of the season. After a rough ride going 0-17, it looked to end on a high note by challenging the A&M offense to avoid being the fifth winless SEC team, and they did just that.
With the NCAA tournament on the horizon the Aggies looked to get more touches and fine tune their game, but this time with some newer faces on the court. This included sophomore outside hitter Lexi Guinn, who contributed to the offense and had eight kills against Ole Miss on Wednesday.
Coach Morrsion also changed the back row defense as senior libero Lauren Hogan started, and freshman defensive specialist Alayna Pearson looked to lead the defense and serve-receive from the back row.
Missing a big piece of the puzzle, sophomore middle blocker Ifenna Cos-Okpalla, who still leads the country in blocks per set, was missing until the second set, per coaches wishes. The Aggies needed to learn how to adjust to changes while keeping consistent play.
A&M is the No. 1 blocking team in the SEC and set the tone with a block against the Alabama offense to start the match. The Crimson Tide got their offense rolling and graduate outside hitter Alyiah Wells brought in three kills against the Aggie defense and pushed ahead 11-5.
The Crimson Tide defense had 17 digs before hitting 20 points in the first set attributed to block touches. Alabama pushed ahead 18-10 forcing a timeout by Morrison but the Aggies couldn’t seem to put the ball to the floor. Alabama capitalized on mistakes to go on a 6-1 run therefore clinching a resounding 25-13 victory for the Tide.
Contrary to the first set, sophomore opposite hitter Logan Lednicky found rhythm with freshman setter Margot Manning to get herself involved in the A&M offense. On the opposing side leading the Crimson Tide in kills, senior outside hitter Kendyl Reaugh had to adjust to the lefty in order to slow down Lednicky’s momentum.
In a back-and-forth set, 12 of Alabama’s points were credited to A&M’s 12 hitting errors that could have swayed the game in favor of the Aggies early on in the second set.
Alabama junior outside hitter Sami Jacobs hit .154 and brought in eight kills which tied her season high and complemented Alabama offense. Graduate outside hitter Caroline Meuth was hitting .211 and seemed to be the offensive answer for Texas A&M bringing in 18 kills.
The final points in the second set were credited to freshman outside hitter Bianna Muoneke who led the match with 18 kills and a big kill by a late substitution, sophomore middle blocker Ifenna Cos-Okpalla who was fourth in hitting percentage between both teams. They closed the set in favor of A&M 25-23.
If A&M can manage to secure a NCAA bid, they will look to these two players to bring efficiency and consistency to the offense just like they did today.
The thrilling third set was a challenge for the Aggies who were behind 2-5. The Alabama block came alive credited to true freshman middle blocker Jordan towns setting the tone. Despite being out most of the season due to injury she became an offensive weapon for the Tide.
At this time, both teams had nine service errors, moreover, the storyline for this game seemed to be the service errors that ate the teams up as soon as one side would get momentum.
Achieving her eighth double-double, Muoneke played a vital role in a nail biting final five points. Tied at 20, Alabama pushed ahead by two, but resilience by A&M allowed a comeback and tied the score at 23. A service ace by Wells and a kill by Reaugh closed the set 25-23 in favor of Alabama.
In the fourth set, leading both teams with 16 kills, the Texas native, Jacobs was an unstoppable force on the net by changing her shots and finding the holes in the A&M defense. This allowed her to efficiently score for her team.
Long rallies were rewarded with momentum, but the story continued with a cumulative 26 service errors between both teams despite the athleticism to keep the ball alive on both sides of the net.
Veteran Mueth achieved her fifth double double this year, stopped the 3-0 run, and brought the momentum to the Aggies, but again a service error gave the ball right back to the Tide.
A&M got too far in a hole, hitting .195 and couldn’t hang with the Alabama offense. Mistakes, momentum loss, and lack of coverage on blocks resulted in a win against Alabama 25-19.
The Aggies will await the news if they officially clinch a NCAA tournament bid. If successful, the first-round opponent and the location is to be decided.

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