By: Joseph Fullbright
The non-conference slate is over for the New Mexico State women’s volleyball team as they opened up Western Athletic Conference play last Thursday with a thrilling five set victory over Seattle [25-16, 25-15, 23-25, 21-25, 15-13].
The first two sets were pretty identical for NMSU, who used big runs to secure the victories. In set one, they used a 12-3 run to win 25-16. In set two, they jumped out to a 17-12 lead before going on another run to win 25-15. Both were dominating set wins and the Aggies looked like they were going to cruise to their fifth straight victory.
Then Seattle, who was selected third in the preseason WAC poll and coming off one their best seasons in a decade, made their comeback. The Aggies were up 23-20 in set three and the feeling around the Pan American Center was that the match was over and the Aggies won. Due to a strong offensive attack and poor NMSU defense, the Redhawks reeled off five straight points to win the set 25-23.
The effects of the tough, tiring third match seemed to carry over to the fourth for the Aggies, who seemed out of their groove and were allowing the Redhawks to keep up with them. The fourth set saw 13 ties and six lead changes. Seattle would prevail 25-21 and the two teams would be heading to a decisive fifth set.
“In the first couple of sets, we blocked well and got in their heads a little bit. I really expected this to be a close match. Then the 10-minute break happened, and it changes the momentum sometimes,” said head coach Mike Jordan. “Their service pressure improved and started serving it tougher. They started taking better swings. It looked like the match had flipped.”
At the start of the fifth set, Seattle picked up right where they left off, jumping out to a 5-2 lead with all momentum on their side. An Aggie rally gave them the lead at 11-10 heading into the final stretch. That lead would stay, as they held on for a 15-13 victory to win the match.
For the Aggies (10-4), it was their 17th consecutive victory in WAC play dating back to last season. Jordan Abalos continued her stellar play with a team-high 21 kills to go along with 7 digs. Tatyana Battle (16) and Sasha-Lee Thomas (13) each finished with double-digit kills as well. Brianna Ainsworth added a double-double with 33 assists and 13 digs.
The win was definitely tougher for the Aggies than it needed to be, but in the end, they got the win and that’s the most important thing.
“We went from looking the best we have this year, to looking like we did the first week of the season in the third and fourth sets,” added Jordan. “We started getting in our own heads, trying to hang on and hope they would make mistakes, instead of making plays. I tried to fire them up and I don’t know if it worked or not, but we are happy to get a win.”
Quick Stats vs. Seattle U (9/22/16)