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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 to compete in Omaha Invite

Photo by Luca Yaquinto

Graduate OH Caroline Meuth (16) serves during the Aggies’ game against Sam Houston State at Reed Arena on Tuesday Sept. 6, 2022.

Off the back of a 3-1 exhibition loss to No. 15 Baylor, Texas A&M volleyball looks to start the new season strong at the 2023 Omaha Invite. The tournament will mark the beginning of the Jamie Morrison era as head coach after serving as an assistant at Texas.

Hosted by the University of Nebraska-Omaha, the maroon and white are slated to play the Mavericks on Friday, Aug. 25, and Pepperdine on Saturday, with first serves scheduled for 7 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. respectively.

There’s a first time for everything

The Aggies’ first match versus the Mavericks will be the first ever meeting between the two programs.

Omaha is coming off its second consecutive 20-win season that included an appearance in the Summit League Tournament Finals and the program’s first appearance in the National Invitational Volleyball Championship.

The Mavericks were recently ranked third in the Summit League Preseason Poll behind South Dakota and North Dakota State. Omaha was also one of three teams to receive a first place vote.

Leading the way for the Mavericks are senior middle blocker McKenna Ruch and junior outside hitter Shayla McCormick. Last season, Ruch became the second Maverick in the Division I era to earn American Volleyball Coaches Association All-American honors. Named First Team All-Summit, Ruch ranked top 10 in the conference in kills (305), hitting percentage (.341) and blocks (145).

As for McCormick, she ranked fifth in the Summit League with 438 kills and finished fourth in aces with 43. Finishing last season with 28 double-digit kills matches and 20 double-doubles, McCormick was named to the American Volleyball Coaches Association All-Midwest Region team and First Team All-Summit.

Another Maverick the Fightin’ Farmers will need to be wary of is the reigning Summit League Freshman of the Year, Kali Jurgensmeier. Jurgensmeier finished last season leading all newcomers with 225 kills, a .263 hitting percentage and 64 blocks.

Hang ten

In the second matchup of the invitational, the maroon and white face off against the Pepperdine Waves in the 10th matchup between the two, with the Waves leading the series 5-4.

Pepperdine finished last season with a record of 19-11 and 10-8 in conference play to place fourth in the West Coast Conference. The Waves earned the program’s 26th NCAA Tournament berth, their fourth appearance in the last five years.

The Waves return 10 players, including six starters. Leading the way are All-WCC first teamers senior middle blocker Meg Brown and junior outside hitter Grace Chillingworth. Brown finished last season with 312 kills, averaging 2.81 kills per set with a .365 hitting percentage. Chillingworth led the team in kills with 318. She also totaled 17 matches with double-digit kills and tallied 251 digs and 67 blocks.

Pepperdine also returns the West Coast Conference Freshman of the Year in outside hitter Emily Hellmuth. The Dallas native saw action in all 30 of the Waves’ matches as a freshman, starting in 19. Hellmuth finished third on the team in kills with 305 while also tallying 53 blocks, 38 digs and averaged 2.85 kills per set.

The Waves also brought in experience in the transfer portal. Senior Birdie Hendrickson transferred from Florida, where she played three seasons with the Gators. Colorado graduate middle blocker Sterling Parker recorded 501 kills and 159 blocks during her time with the Buffaloes and she earned All-Pac 12 Freshman Team Honors.

Farmers fight!

The Aggies look to start the new season strong after finishing last season 13-16 overall with a conference record of 5-13.

Leading the way for the Fightin’ Farmers is graduate outside hitter Caroline Meuth. Last year, Meuth started in all 29 matches and played every set for the Aggies. She led the maroon and white with 439 total kills and 508.5 total points. Meuth also had a strong showing in the exhibition match versus Baylor, recording 12 kills with three service aces.

Defensively for A&M, sophomore middle blocker Ifenna Cos-Okpalla looks to build off her solid freshman season where she contributed 54 total blocks, 31 kills and 61 points in 14 match appearances. Cos-Okpalla had a fantastic defensive match versus Baylor with 11 total blocks.

Two more Aggies to watch for are the freshman pair of Margot Manning and Bianna Muoneke. Both Manning and Muoneke started the match against Baylor at setter and outside hitter, respectively.

Coming out of St. John’s School in Houston, Manning was named a prep volleyball top-150 recruit and was named an American Volleyball Coaches Association phenom in 2019, 2020 and 2021. Manning also surpassed the 400-assist mark during her freshman and junior years.

Muoneke graduated from Cypress Ranch in Cypress. As a three-year starter, Muoneke was named a First Team All-American by MaxPreps, Prep Volleyball and the American Volleyball Coaches Association. She also received back-to-back District 16-6A MVP honors as well as being named the Vype Preseason Player of the Year before her senior campaign.

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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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