Wolfpack Volleyball Ends Season With NCAA First-Round Loss
Nov. 29, 2012
AUSTIN, Texas - After winning the first NCAA Championship set in the history of NC State volleyball, the Wolfpack lost three in a row to Texas A&M in a first-round match at Texas' Gregory Gym, ending State's hopes of a first-round upset and concluding the team's record-setting season.
The Wolfpack (22-10), making its first NCAA appearance since a 3-0 loss to Kentucky in 1987, won the opener, 25-21, with a strong team hitting performance of .368, but the Aggies came back strong in the second set, winning 25-12, as the Wolfpack posted a negative hitting percentage.
The final two sets were close throughout, with the Aggies taking the Wolfpack out of its reliably strong service game. Both teams had double-figure service errors, with a total of 12 for the Pack and 11 for the Aggies.
"The second set, we got very tentative," said third-year Wolfpack head coach Bryan Bunn. "We were swinging right in the middle of the block instead of challenging the edges. We aren't the world's biggest team, so we have to hit the edges instead of going over the top to score.
"They made a couple point run on us and we got tentative. But both teams really battled in the final two sets."
The loss ended the Wolfpack's record-setting season, in which Bunn's team won a school record 12 ACC matches and posted 20 wins for the second consecutive season, the first time that's happened since 1995-96.
Earning an NCAA bid was a big step forward for the program.
"Some of our goals as a team are to outwork everybody and be tougher than everybody," said sophomore middle blocker Alesha Wilson, a native of Keller, Texas. "That's what we will continue to work on, our mental toughness and physical toughness. We are going to lift harder and run faster during the offseason. We will continue to work.
"We'll be back next year. And we'll win the next time."
Junior Alesha Wilson, a native of Keller, Texas, led the Pack with 16 kills and a .448 attack average, while sophomore Rachel Buckley had 10 kills and a .368 hitting average. Sophomore Alston Kearns had 20 digs in the match, followed by senior Alexa Micek's 10.
Senior setter Megan Cyr finished with 43 assists in the final match of her three-year career with the Pack.
"We definitely came out confident," sophomore Nikki Glass said. "We were the underdog team and everyone knew it. We had nothing to lose. We were prepared for A&M to come back and be ready to play."
The Aggies, which advance to play the winner of the No. 3 Texas and Colgate, were led by Lindsey Miller's 17 assists and .469 hitting average. Alisia Kastmo added 10 kills.
The Wolfpack absolutely sizzled in the opening set, outhitting the Aggies .368 to .242. Wilson and Glass each had five kills for the Wolfpack in its first winning set in NCAA play.
Texas native Rachel Buckley also had four big kills on six attacks for the Pack, which took its first lead of the set, 15-14, on a Texas error and never gave it up, overcoming nine ties in the first half of the set.
The Pack's defense was led by Alston Kearns' nine digs in the set.
In the second set, the Aggies overwhelmed the Wolfpack, 25-12. Texas A&M nearly matched the Wolfpack's hitting percentage in the first set at .364, while the Wolfpack was a shaky -.094.
The Pack had 10 attack errors in the second set, while the Aggies had only two.
State's normally reliable service game struggled in the early going, as the Wolfpack had seven service errors and no aces in the first two sets. The Aggies also outblocked the Pack at the net, 7-0, in the first two sets.
The Pack bounced back quickly after the break, even though it trailed much of the third set, which was tied on six occasions. The last time came when Cyr outmuscled an A&M blocker to tie the set at 22-22 late in the game, as the Pack scored six out of seven points.
The Aggies came back to win the set with a pair of kills by Shelby Sullivan and Lindsay Miller and an attack error on the Wolfpack.
The two teams battled throughout the fourth set, until the Aggies made a late charge, winning the set and completing the match with a service ace.
"It was a good year," Bunn said following the match. "We battled hard and we won a lot of matches. We could have won even more. The team showed a lot of resiliency all season, and that's the culture we want to build around here.