By: Joseph Fullbright
NM State 3, Grand Canyon 0
For the 12th time in his career, head coach Mike Jordan has reached the 20-win milestone in a season. The Aggies improved to 20-5 and 10-0 in the WAC with a sweep of Grand Canyon [25-23, 25-18, 25-11] last week.
The first set was a close one that saw 15 ties and eight lead changes between the two teams. The Aggies seemed like they were going to pull away, before the Lopes (4-17, 0-9 WAC) tied it up at 22. The rally did not last as NMSU won 25-23.
The Aggies came out in the second set and showed why they were the most talented team in the WAC and why Grand Canyon was in the bottom portion. NMSU was up big 15-4 and never looked back as they would close it out to win 25-18.
Coming out of halftime, NMSU picked up right where they left off. They opened set three on an 8-3 run that would eventually become 21-8. They would secure their 20th win of the season with a 25-11 set victory.
Sasha-Lee Thomas led the Aggies with 14 kills and two blocks and Jordan Abalos accounted for 12 kills, seven digs, and three blocks.
“This was a solid win,” said Jordan. “I think our athletic ability helped a lot; we are a more athletic team. If you get teams out of system and are more athletic, you will beat them most of the time. We were able to do that, and I’m really proud of how efficient we were in sets two and three.”
Bakersfield 3, NM State 1
With an opportunity to clinch the WAC regular season title, the Aggies fell to CSU-Bakersfield 3-1 [25-14, 18-25, 18-25, 19-25] in their home finale. The loss snapped a 24-game winning streak for NMSU versus WAC opponents dating back to 2014.
New Mexico State (20-6, 10-1 WAC) was clicking on all cylinders in the first set, as they dominated the Runners 25-14. The Aggies closed the set out on a 12-1 scoring run after the two teams were tied at 13. The Aggies hit an outstanding .310 while Bakersfield hit .065.
The first set was it for the Aggies, as they were outmatched and made a lot of mistakes the rest of the day. In set two, the Runners opened on a 4-2 run and did not look back, eventually winning 25-18. NMSU did not help their own cause, hitting a dismal -.086 percent and committed 13 attack errors.
Coming out of the halftime break, Bakersfield kept their feet on the gas and jumped out to a 15-9 lead, thanks to their .344 hitting percentage. The Aggies continued to struggle, hitting only .048. The Runners took the set 25-18.
The fourth set saw the Aggies regain a little bit of their spark, as they fell behind early but managed to tie the set at 12-12. However, too many mistakes and poor offensive execution allowed the Runners to win the set 25-19 and take the match from the first-place Aggies.
Tatyana Battle was the most impressive Aggie in the match, as she led the team with 11 kills and added 12 digs- good enough for her sixth double-double of the season. Jordan Abalos added nine kills and 12 digs in the loss.
“Honestly, we deserved that,” said junior outside-hitter Kassandra Tohm. “The way we played out there and the attitude we came out there with, we deserved that. I think that shows we can’t just cruise through teams like we did in the first set. We can’t relax, we can’t just sit down and be like ‘OK, we got this. We’re the number one dog.’ No, we’re not OK. We have a target on our back every single game and every single team wants to beat us.”
The Aggies will close out the WAC regular season this week on the road as they visit Chicago State on Thursday, November 10, and then on Saturday, November 12, when they play UMKC.