NORMAN, Okla. The Oklahoma volleyball team fought tooth and nail against No. 22 Texas A&M on Friday night at the Howard McCasland Field House before falling in three hotly contested games (30-27, 31-29, 30-20). OU rallied back from five point deficits in each of the games, only to suffer defeat in front of a Sooner volleyball record crowd of 3,162.
"I thought our spirit and fight were excellent," said Mahi. "The team has seen two key players go down with injuries in the last two weeks and has been battling to overcome that mentally. I was most proud of our fight. Our team understands that they can beat anyone in this league. They show it tonight and now they believe it."
Freshman Joanna Schmitt turned in her team-leading ninth double-double of the season with 16 kills and 10 digs. Schmitt was nearly matched by senior Christina Maynes who tallied 15 kills and five digs.
"Joanna was fantastic tonight," said Mahi. "She played very relaxed but still kept her aggressiveness up. Yvette Villanueva had a great night. This may have been the best match of her career."
Oklahoma fell behind 4-0 to start the first game but rallied back to tie the session at 24. A&M held serve and picked up a couple easy kills to close the match 30-27. In the second game OU held the lead at 29-28 but couldn’t finish the Aggies who won 31-29. The Sooners started slow in game one and were down 11-4. OU and A&M played sideout volleyball to 27-20, when the Aggies capitalized on a few errors to take the match. The Sooners were doomed by 14 service errors as opposed to five from A&M.
"I felt like we were very much in control in the first two games," said Mahi. "Offensively, we matched them and statistically they are the best offensive team in the conference. We forced them to make some significant adjustments to their game plan. They countered and played a great match. Unfortunately, they got a few more breaks than us and went home with a victory."
OU topped the Aggies in kills, assists and aces, while A&M countered by controlling the defensive side of the match. The biggest differential showed up in assists (47-39), while OU narrowly bested A&M in kills (50-48) and aces (5-4). The Aggies held a steep advantage in digs (49-37) and blocks (11-6).
Right side attacker Sheena Werling hammered home seven kills in just her second match at the position. Middle blocker Keri Coats tallied six kills and now has just two errors in two career matches at the position. Coats is hitting .454 since replacing freshman Laura Tomes (out for season with torn ACL) in the middle.
"Our middles, Keri and Jennifer (Mosso) were excellent as well," said Mahi. "They didn’t have big numbers in the box score but they followed the game plan perfectly. They held Laura Jones, who is one of the best middles in the conference, to just five kills."
OU ran a modified 5-1 with freshman Rachel Jackson and senior co-captain Kelly McCarter quarterbacking the squad. Jackson turned in 23 assists, while McCarter finished with 17 helpers. McCarter countered the Aggie defensive front with four kills on six attempts (.667). The kill total was McCarter’s second highest mark of the season and a team best by a setter in Big 12 play.
The balanced offense of Texas A&M was led by Beth Skypala who recorded a team-high 10 kills. A&M had one attacker reach double-digits in kills (Skypala) but had six offensive players with at least five kills.
OU hit .214, the 10th time they’ve topped .200 this season and a mark they only reached eight times in 2002.
OU falls to 9-12 on the season and 1-8 in Big 12 play, while A&M improves to 14-5 and 6-3 in conference.
The Oklahoma volleyball team returns to conference action on Wednesday, Oct. 22 with a trip to Texas Tech. Tech is winless in the Big 12. OU returns home on Wednesday, Oct. 29, to face Baylor, who it defeated in five games on Oct. 1.
For more information on OU volleyball, visit www.soonersports.com.