By Albert Luna
The New Mexico State Aggies volleyball team was back in action on Thursday night in the Pan American Center, sweeping California State University—Bakersfield. The Aggies were playing their first leg in a two-game home finale. NMSU came into the action with a perfect record in WAC play, after notching a pair of wins on the road this past week versus UMC and Chicago State, respectively.
The CSUB Roadrunners came in on a five-game winning streak, all in conference play, with their last defeat coming at home against the Aggies in a four-game decision. CSUB was also in second-place in the WAC standings, only two games back from NMSU.
Coach Mike Jordan says CSU Bakersfield was a well-timed matchup, opponent-wise.
“They have a size advantage,” he says. “They compete well and they are well coached.”
The Aggies started out the first set as fans have become accustomed to this season: ready to play. They closed out the set with a Bradley Nash-kill, winning it 25-21. The second set started much like its predecessor, with the Aggies jumping out to a quick lead, 2-0, before the Roadrunners got on the board.
NMSU maintained the lead and kept up similar momentum up 11-3. The Roadrunners began their inevitable push and tried to close the gap, at one point coming within three points. However, a pair of Bradley Nash-kills sparked a run in the Aggies that put them up 18-9, forcing Bakersfield to call a timeout.
The Aggies used two straight net violations against the Roadrunners to go up 20-10. The Roadrunners cut the lead again to single digits, but the Aggies were not going to allow this set to get away from them. An Andrea Tauai-score completed the impressive second set, 25-18.
Jordan says he liked the effort his team put forth during the game, especially defensively.
“I thought we were good defensively and at digging the ball,” he says.
The Aggies finished the game with 50 digs in the contest.
NMSU go into the half with a 2-0 advantage. The Aggies were on the verge of taking the set in short order, but a quick run by the Roadrunners had Jordan upset and wanting time, with the score at 24-19. The Aggies regained their composure, however, going up in the set before another Bradley Nash-kill spelled the end for the Roadrunners.
“Today was closer than it should have been, especially on our home floor,” Jordan says.
The game also included an historic game for senior Gwen Murphy, who broke the all-time school record for games played, with 129.
“She’s become a really good, All-American-caliber player and the best in this league,” Jordan says.
Looking ahead, Murphy and fellow seniors Taylor Livoti, Nathalie Castellanos, Bradley Nash, and Andrea Tauai will play their last game at the Pan Am on Saturday as they welcome Grand Canyon University.
NMSU will also have a chance to clinch the outright WAC regular season title with a win.
“These five seniors have done a lot,” Jordan says. “A conference title is a first on list of goals. It would be great to get a win on Saturday.”
Despite a 13-game winning streak for the Aggies, Jordan says he wants improvement from his team going forward.
“I just want to see us play well, regardless of who the competition may be,” he says.
The Aggies will face off against the Antelopes on Saturday in the Pan American Center at 1 p.m.
Albert Luna may be reached at ALuna32@NMSU.edu
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