By: Joseph Fullbright
The New Mexico State Aggies volleyball team won its 10th consecutive match last Thursday by defeating UMKC in a five-set thriller [23-25, 24-26, 25-17, 27-25, 15-12]. The Aggies found themselves down two sets to none, but railed together to win the next three and improved to 16-4 (6-0 in WAC play) on the year.
The ‘Roos (10-9, 3-3) were the more aggressive team right off the bat as they jumped out to a commanding 13-6 lead. NMSU called a timeout trying to regain their rhythm, but poor offensive execution put them in a 24-17 hole. With their backs against the wall, the Aggies rallied off six straight points to make it 24-23, but would go on to fall 25-23. This was the first time the Aggies lost a set since September 24 vs. Utah Valley.
The second set was more of a back-and-forth affair. NMSU jumped out to a 9-5 lead, but that was the farthest they were able to separate from UMKC. The two teams traded points all the way from a 21-21 tie to 24-24. The ‘Roos put the Aggies away and took set two 26-24.
“We were getting what we wanted, [but] our setting and attack choices really need to improve,” said coach Jordan. “But, when we are cooking on all cylinders, we are hard to beat. We have 18 more kills, but ten more attack errors. We have really got to learn to stop doing that.”
Knowing they couldn’t afford to lose another set in the match, the Aggies locked in during the third set. After hitting .169 between the two first sets, NMSU hit a very impressive .314 as a team. Their improved hitting and cutting back on errors helped them take the set 25-17.
Set four was one of the most intense sets the Aggies have been involved in this season. UMKC looked to be in control with a 20-16 lead and NMSU reeling to stop the opposing attack, but the Aggies showed why they were the conference favorites by rallying to tie it at 21. After trading a few points, they found themselves in a set-point situation, up 24-22. It wouldn’t be that easy, as the ‘Roos rallied to tie the set at 24. The Aggies would go on to win the nail-biter, 27-25, despite both teams combining for 20 errors and each hitting below .100 in the set.
In a deciding fifth set, the ‘Roos jumped out to a 6-2 start. That would be it for them, as the Aggies went on a dominating 12-1 run to take a commanding 14-7 lead. They would close out the set and win the match 15-12.
“We talk about being persistent, we talk about it everyday, because of our youth and lack of skill in some spots. We have to be persistent in the way we compete and I thought we did a good job with that,” said Jordan, discussing the team’s rally.
Sophomore Tatyana Battle has really stepped up this season for the Aggies, and tonight really showed that. She finished with a career-high 19 kills and 16 digs.
“She [Battle] couldn’t play in six rotations last year, she didn’t have the ball control, and now she is really improved and has done a good job,” said Jordan. “She has really improved and we expect her to keep getting better and better.”
Jordan Abalos tallied her 11th double-double of the season with 21 kills and 15 digs, Kassandra Tohm had 11 kills, and Brianna Ainsworth added a career-high 57 assists.
“We have to play in this 5-1 [formation]. We are not built for it, the injures [to Crash Parker, in particular] forced us in to that. I would love to be able to rest some people and help us get through the weekend.”
New Mexico State followed their victory over UMKC with a 3-0 sweep of Chicago State on Saturday. The next day, they traveled up I-25 and fell to rival New Mexico 3-1. Their record after the busy weekend is now 17-5 and 7-0 in WAC play.
The Aggies will have a key week ahead as they return home for a quick two-game homestand. They face Grand Canyon on Thursday at 7:00 and Cal State-Bakersfield on Saturday at 1:00.
NM State 3 Jordan Abalos: 13 kills, 10 digs
Chicago State 0 Tatyana Battle: 12 kills, 11 digs
[25-19, 25-19, 25-20] Sasha-Lee Thomas: 9 kills, 3 blocks
New Mexico 3 Sasha-Lee Thomas: 15 kills, 7 blocks
NM State 1 Jordan Abalos: 14 kills
[25-20, 26-28, 17-25, 23-25] Brianna Ainsworth: 30 assists