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Volleyball wins epic match over Aggies

Nov. 9, 2010

By Tyler Alley

Baylor volleyball defeated Texas A&M in five sets Saturday night, sweeping the season series against the Aggies for the first time in the 62-match history of the two teams.

"Yeah, it's huge," coach Jim Barnes said. "It's huge for our season. We split with them every year. But it was just a great battle by two teams. Both teams put it all out there."

Senior Elizabeth Graham had 16 kills, a .306 hitting percentage and nine blocks (one solo, eight assisted) and led a Bears' attack that had fewer kills than the Aggies but finished with a better attack percentage.

"In order for middles to hit, we have to have a good pass up to the net," Graham said. "And then the sets were just great. I think that was just an all-around great team effort."

Junior Brittany Ridenour led the Bears with 27 assists and senior Caitlyn Trice led with 31 digs. Texas A&M's Kelsey Black led all players with 27 kills off 85 swings, creating a problem for the Baylor defense.

"We were trying to slow [Kelsey] down," Barnes said. "We stayed at it, and we had to match with some offense."

Baylor took the first set 25-22 despite Texas A&M making a run of five points to draw the game within two points. Graham and Black lead both teams with five blocks each.

Texas A&M responded by taking the next set 27-25. Baylor made a run down 24-19 to tie the set, despite two Aggie timeouts in between. The team forced extra points, but Texas A&M would ultimately take the set. The tone was set early for a very even game.

"We have a lot of great hitters, and defense is awesome on both sides. We're pretty equal. That's what the rivalry has always been for the last several years," senior Ashlie Christenson said.

Baylor would claim a very hard-fought third set 25-20. There were 10 ties and three lead changes in that set.

"We try not to look at the scores," Christenson said. "We know it's going back and forth. [Both teams] are getting kills. We just have to keep level-minded and know that we have faith in each other."

Texas A&M jumped out to an early lead in the fourth set, but Baylor would score five straight points to take a 21-17 lead and nearly close out the game. The Aggies would not go quietly, however, and battled back to take the set 25-23. Texas A&M had 21 kills in the fourth set compared to Baylor's nine.

"... What I love about these ladies, this was a match where I didn't see them tighten up or implode," Barnes said.

Baylor came out firing in the fifth set to take a quick lead and never gave it up, winning 15-8. Junior Briana Tolbert scored the final point with her eighth kill, and the Bears celebrated their sweep of the Aggies.

Baylor volleyball's record moved to 13-12 on the season, 6-8 in the Big 12.

"Well, getting into the NCAA tournament, you have to be above .500," Coach Barnes said. "And so our first goal is to get into that NCAA tournament. We talked about this was a huge win, our biggest of the season. [Texas A&M] just beat Oklahoma, so this does a lot for our resume toward that NCAA tournament."

The Bears' next game is against the University of Texas at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Ferrell Center. Texas is 63-2 all-time against Baylor, and the Bears have not beat the Longhorns since October 2001.