The only suspense in Texas A&M’s lopsided victory over Mississippi State was who among coach Laurie Corbelli’s backups would impress her most under the lights.
After further review, Corbelli was still undecided as the backup outside hitters and middle blockers who have patiently waited their turn all season represented themselves well in the Aggies’ 25-8, 25-14, 25-10 win over the Bulldogs on Sunday at Reed Arena.
A&M remained atop the West Division at 6-1 and moved to 14-2 overall with its fourth straight victory. MSU dropped to 4-12 and 0-7.
“Mariah Agre is a really good setter,” Corbelli said of the New Mexico transfer.
“She’s used to starting, so I’m really glad I got a chance to put her on the floor full time, and she did a beautiful job,
“Ashley Vrana was a starter all spring on the outside. She’s had a knee injury for most of the season and is now recovering from it. She’s incredibly capable offensively, and I thought she did a great job.”
Vrana had three kills in seven attacks and Agre totaled 11 assists and two kills.
They weren’t the only backups to shine as freshmen Shelby Sullivan, Shelbi Vaughan and Sierra Patrick all put together short stints in which they dominated play.
Sullivan and starter Lindsey Miller led the team with four blocks, Vaughan had six kills — most of which found the floor — and an attack percentage of .308 and Patrick was good on four of her six attacks.
“I wouldn’t want to be on the other end of the ball against her,” Corbelli said of the 6-foot-2 Vaughan. “The ball just comes off her hand incredibly fast. It doesn’t look like she is swinging that hard, but the ball just comes off her hand fast.”
Vaughan is known for pounding the ball during practices and the starters were glad to see Mississippi State have to be on the receiving end as they celebrated every kill wildly from the bench.
“Friday [against South Carolina] was my first SEC game and I’ve been working really hard to try and see the court this year and I think our work is starting to show up,” Vaughan said. “I have to calm myself down before I go in because I get a little nervous because I haven’t played college yet. I just try and go in and every ball I try to kill, so whatever it takes.”
A&M had little trouble against the Bulldogs, who most of the time had four freshmen and two sophomores on the court. MSU was also having to run its offense through a setter who had played only 13 sets because starter Paris Perret had quit the team recently.
MSU’ hitting percentage was a -.047 in comparison to A&M’s .356.
A&M had a season-high 17 block assists. Miller and Sullivan led the way with four, and setter Allie Sawatsky and Patrick each had three.
“[Patrick] has great timing with her attack and her block,” Corbelli said. “If anyone in our non-starting group is ready to get on the court, it’s Sierra. She’s got confidence and an ease about her game that she can project to her teammates.”
Tori Mellinger led A&M with seven kills and 15 digs. Sawatzky, Alisia Kastmo and Miller each pitched in six kills.
The schedule picks up for the Aggies over the next two weeks with road matches at Arkansas and Kentucky (which handed A&M its lone loss) on the road this weekend.
The Aggies will then return home for matches against Tennessee and Florida, two SEC teams that have been ranked during the season.