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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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One step away
June 8, 2024

No pain, no gain: A&M volleyball takes the top despite injuries

Injures
Photo by File
Injures

Despite being riddled with injuries at the beginning of the season, A&M volleyball clinched the SEC Championship last Wednesday for the first time in school history after accumulating a 14-game winning streak.
Within the first two tournaments of the non-conference preseason, the only two seniors on the team had to sit out due to injuries. Senior outside hitter Angela Lowak was the first to suffer an injury after hurting her ankle against Minnesota in A&M’s second match. In the third set of the following match against Wichita State, senior middle blocker Shelby Sullivan succumbed to a knee injury, which forced her to sit out for the remainder of the Texas A&M Invitational home tournament. This snapped her match appearance streak of 64 games, but A&M went on to win its tournament.
“The experience is so invaluable in our sport,” head coach Laurie Corbelli said. “These seniors are so valuable for us. To have the seniors on the floor, they know how to calm the team. They know how to fire up the team, how to talk to the team and how to handle situations.”
The seniors’ return was marked with rust, as the Aggies dropped two games in the Comfort Suite Challenge in Iowa. When A&M returned to College Station for Colorado State, sophomore setter Stephanie Aiple suffered a toe injury in the second set. Junior rightside Kaysie Shebeneck filled in for Aiple to close out the match and helped the Aggies pull the upset of the No. 15 ranked Rams.
Aiple missed out on the final non-conference games of the season as the team lost to an overpowered No. 18 Florida State team and returned to face Arkansas in the SEC-opener a week later. In the opening set of the FSU match, however, Lowak experienced her second, and most serious, injury of the season. Her knee damage has resulted in an indefinite time of return, but the team has taken use of the various outstanding sophomores like outside hitter Kiara McGee and team libero Amy Nettles.
“We take it game-by-game,” Sullivan said. “Every practice leading up to [any] game is to win. We just play Aggie volleyball and just be confident in everything that we do … We’re focusing one game at a time.”
Since Sullivan’s and Aiple’s return, they have both earned their share of SEC honors. Shelby Sullivan showed her dominant return on both sides of the ball, as she earned SEC’s Offensive Player of the Week honors and followed with Week 10’s Defensive Player of the Week. To round out their return, Aiple earned SEC Player of the Year and Setter of the Week honors for five consecutive weeks.
“The consistency keeps rising,” Aiple said. “We are just giving our all, all of the time. Our past few matches have really helped us gain confidence. We’ve gained our composure. I think right now we are ready to dominate. We’re mostly working on going out there and fighting with each other.”
A&M is one of the hottest teams in the nation, with a 14-game winning streak to offset its tumultuous start. The streak included a gauntlet finish to A&M’s schedule with wins against Kentucky, Florida, and Missouri — who are among the top four teams in the SEC. Next up for the Aggies is the NCAA Tournament, and despite an extravagant ending to A&M’s unforgettable comeback season, the postseason holds no prejudice.
The Aggies’ play earned them the No. 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament. At 6:30 p.m. Friday,  A&M will square off with Texas A&M Corpus Christi in Reed Arena.

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