By: Joseph Fullbright
NM State 3, Sacramento State 2
The initial thought heading into the Borderland Invitational was that the Aggies would have to face two of the most talented teams in the nation after what would be an easy tune-up game in their opener. It turned out to be the opposite as the opening game vs. Sacramento State would prove to be the toughest match of the weekend for host New Mexico State.
The Aggies improved to 6-2 on the season after a brutal five set nail-biting match in which they won in a [25-22, 16-25, 27-25, 24-26, 16-14] decision. The first set was close with both teams trading leads early before the Aggies eventually would pull away with. The Hornets, who fell to 3-4 on the season, completely dominated the second set as they jumped out to a 20-10 lead, which was more than enough of a cushion to hold on. It looked like Sacramento State was going to win the third set too, as they held an 18-12 lead.
The Aggies locked in, thanks to great defensive play, to tie the set at 24 before winning the set. The same happened in the fourth set: the Hornets jumped out to an early lead and the Aggies rallied. This time, the rally fell a little short and the match was tied heading into the decisive fifth set.
The set followed que of the rest of the match and the teams found themselves at a 14-14 tie. The Aggies would get the final two points to secure the victory- a very tough one. Sasha-Lee Thomas led NMSU with 17 kills while Jordan Abalos (14 kills, 17 digs) and Tatyana Battle (11 kills, 13 digs) added double-doubles to the winning effort.
#16 Texas A&M 3, NM State 0
The second game of the night would carry with it a tougher (at least on paper) opponent in nationally ranked #16 Texas A&M. NMSU was swept in straight sets by the other Aggies [20-25, 16-25, 19-25], in front of a sizeable attendance of 1,525 fans. “[I] really liked the crowd, they gave us an energy boost,” head coach Mike Jordan said. After jumping out to a 6-1 lead to begin the first set, NMSU was unable to capitalize and hold onto its lead.
Texas A&M would rally in the middle of the set, thanks to its powerful offensive attack. Jordan attributed some of the mistakes his team made to having the previous game earlier the day. “It’s tough, we got a bit winded, but that’s never an excuse.” A constant theme that was evident throughout the match was NMSU’s ability to jump out to early leads, yet give them up through their play.
In all three sets, NMSU had at least a 3-point lead. “A bit frustrating that we played the way we did after we jumped out to those leads,” Jordan added. Three Aggies finished with seven kills in the match while Brianna Ainsworth had a team-high 18 assists.
Arizona 3, NM State 1
In the final match of the Borderland Invitational, the New Mexico State volleyball team faced another fellow tough opponent in Arizona. The Aggies (6-4) fell to the Wildcats in four sets [21-25, 25-19, 16-25, 20-25]. “The first set got away from us, we had 17 kills to their 13 and we made a couple errors late in the set that cost us,” said head coach Mike Jordan.
The Aggies came out focused and had a much improved second set. “We looked great in the second set, probably as good as we have looked all year,” he mentioned. The Aggies hit .312 in the set, easily the highest of any set for them in the match. Set three was one to forget as Arizona used their early hot start to cruise to a 25-16 victory. Looking to close the game out, the Wildcats (5-5) jumped out early to a 10-5 lead. Mike Jordan was not happy with the way things were looking at that point. ”Our leaders need to [get us rallying],” he said.
“We are consistently inconsistent.” Jordan got onto his players in the middle of the set and the Aggies rallied. The rally came a little too late, as they fell 25-20. Jordan Abalos led the Aggies’ attack with 19 kills and 13 digs- her sixth double-double of the season. Kassandra Tohm was also impressive in the match, compiling 13 kills with a team-high .407 hitting percentage.
The weekend sure was a tough one for the Aggies, but they definitely improved and learned some things. “Great teams expose your weaknesses, it’s non-conference season [right now].” The Aggies are coming home from the Brown Invitational in Rhode Island that took place last weekend and will open up conference play this week vs. Seattle and Utah Valley.