Aggie Volleyball Sweeps Rice; Ziegler Suffers Season-Ending Injury

Rocio GutierrezThe Aggie volleyball team swept Rice 3-0 in the first game of the Tiger Classic in Baton Rouge, LA on Friday afternoon. The victory did not come without a price as sophomore outside hitter Stephanie Ziegler went down with an injury late in the first set with the Aggies leading 19-13. Ziegler had to be taken off the floor on a stretcher and official word from the Aggie coaching staff is that she suffered a broken tibea and broken fibea near her right ankle and will miss the remainder of the season.

Aggie freshman Rocio Gutierrez came into the match for the Aggies to replace the injured Ziegler who had been playing well to that point. The Owls went right after Gutierrez on serve and she struggled passing the ball and Rice took advantage cutting the Aggies' lead to 21-19. "When she first came into the match she was real nervous and passed really bad serve-receive," said Coach Jordan. After a timeout by the Aggies, Gutierrez settled down and the Aggies would take the set 25-19 on four straight hitting errors by the Owls. "They went right at her [Rocio] when she first came in but out of the timeout she came out and three passed three or four balls in a row and we sided out efficiently."

Gutierrez and the Aggies showed no ill effects of seeing their teammate go down as they would take the second set 25-22. Gutierrez displayed her tremendous talent as the Aggies would rally from a 5-2 deficit behind three consecutive kills by the freshman to tie the set at 5-5. Gutierrez's fourth kill of the set gave the Aggies their first lead of the set at 7-6. With the set tied 8-8, the Aggies would reel off three consecutive points to take an 11-8 lead. The Aggies would maintain the three point lead at 13-10 but the Owls would score five of the next eight points to tie the set at 15-15. Rice would take a two point lead at 18-16 forcing the Aggies to take a timeout.

Out of the timeout Whitney Woods would put down a kill and on the next play the Owls would be called for a double contact tying the set at 18. Gutierrez would record another kill to put the Aggies ahead 19-18. Rice would retake the lead going up 22-21 after a kill by Rice's Laurie McNamara. However, the Aggies would tie the set at 22 as Jennah DeVries would record the only solo block of the match by either team. Sparked by the block, the Aggies would retake the lead 23-22 on a kill by Kayleigh Giddens which would force an Owl timeout. The Aggies would take the next two points out of the timeout to take the set 25-22 and take a commanding 2-0 lead in the match.

The third set saw the Aggies jump out to a quick 3-1 lead but Rice would quickly come back to take a 5-4 lead after a kill by Nancy Cole. The two teams would trade points and the set would be tied at 7-7 however, the Owls would record three straight points off of a pair of hitting errors by Rocio Gutierrez and Kayleigh Giddens to take a 10-7 lead and forcing the Aggies to call a timeout. Rice would extend their lead to 15-11 after a kill by Jordan Meredith but the Aggies would battle back taking six of the next seven points to take a 17-16 lead in the set. After the Aggies were called in the net, Rice would retake the lead at 18-17 on a kill by Maria Riddlesprigger. A setter dump by Jennah DeVries tied the set at 18 but a kill by Nancy Cole and another net violation by the Aggies gave Rice a 20-18 lead and forced another Aggie timeout.

The Aggies would even the set at 20 on back-to-back kills by Kelsey Brennan and then Rice's Riddlesprigger would score the next two points, one for Rice and one for the Aggies on a hitting error to keep the set tied at 21-21. After a kill by Laurie McNamara gave Rice a 22-21 lead, Kayleigh Giddens would tie the set up with a kill. Rice would once again take the lead as Jordan Meredith would get a kill, however, an untimely service error by Caroline Gill tied the set at 23. The Aggies would take advantage as Rocio Gutierrez would score the match's final two points to give the Aggies a 25-23 set victory and a 3-0 sweep.

Gutierrez would finish the match with a career-best 11 kills on 27 swings with just four hitting errors and hit .259 for the match drawing praise from her head coach after the match. "She settled down started to three pass and she really came up with some big kills, went after it, was aggressive and she did a nice job stepping in for Steph."

Kayleigh Giddens led all players with a match high 12 kills on 32 swings with just two hitting errors to finish with a .312 hitting percentage. "She played well, she really attacked the ball well and carved it around the block," said Coach Jordan. "There was a stretch in game two and a little bit in game three where we didn't pass the ball particularly well and they had a double block in front of her and she was great hitting balls off fingertips and carving it around blocks. She did a great job of scoring." He added, "Even when she wasn't getting kills she was doing a great job of putting pressure on our opponent."

Desiree Scott returned to the floor after a one match absence due to illness and finished with six kills on eight swings with two hitting errors for a .500 hitting percentage. She also added four block assists as did fellow middle Kelsey Brennan who also finished with six kills.

The Owls struggled offensively hitting .073 as a team. Nancy Cole finished with 10 kills on 21 swings with three hitting errors for a .333 hitting percentage as she was the only Owl in double-figures in kills. Mariah Riddlesprigger finished with eight kills for the Owls but also recorded eight attack errors.

Defensively the Aggies' Ellen Miks out-battled Rice All-American libero Tracey Lam as Miks finished with a match-high 19 kills while Lam finished with 16.

The Owls had a total of five service aces, three by Megan Murphy and two by Tracey Lam while the Aggies had one service ace off the serve of Kayleigh Giddens.

The Aggies improve to 6-1 on the season while Rice falls to 3-4. The Aggies will play two matches on Saturday to finish up the Tiger Classic as they'll face North Carolina at 11:30 a.m. MT and finish against No. 21 LSU at 7:00 p.m. MT.