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The Daily Aggie :: 09/10/12

It's rivalry week! The Aggie football and soccer teams both face UTEP this week in the annual renewal of the Battle of I-10. For the soccer team perhaps the third time will be the charm for a couple of different reasons. First, it will be the Aggie soccer team's third home game in their new stadium and they'll be looking for their first victory and what better way to notch it than over the rival Miners. Second, it will officially be the third meeting between these two schools. If you recall, the second meeting between the two clubs was affected by a torrential downpour at halftime and due to the long weather delay, was never restarted and thus did not count as an official match.

The UTEP match begins the final stretch of non-conference matches and is a brutally difficult 11 day stretch that will see them play UTEP at home and then Montana, New Mexico and Texas Tech on the road before opening up conference play. The combined record of the four teams is 18-12-1. If you include the first conference game against Utah State, the Aggies' next five opponents are 23-13-3. A tough stretch indeed.

For the Aggie football team this is the stretch of games that if they're going to make a run at a bowl game, this next four game stretch is where the winning needs to begin. The Aggies' next four sets up as follows: at UTEP, home to New Mexico, home to UT San Antonio and at Idaho. The Aggies need to go at least 3-1 during that stretch if they hope to go bowling this season because following those four games is a stretch of five that includes: Utah State, Louisiana Tech, Auburn, San Jose State and BYU. At this point, while we're hopeful, it's a bit unrealistic to expect that the Aggies would emerge from that five game stretch with more wins than losses which makes it even more important that the Aggies make the most of the next four opportunities.

So what to make of this weekend's game against UTEP in the Sun Bowl? One thing is for sure, this might be the Miners' best team in a while. Even though they're 0-2, they've shown incredibly well against the two BCS opponents they faced. After three quarters the Miners trailed Oklahoma 10-7 and after three quarters the Miners trailed Ole Miss 21-10.

One thing we don't know is what to expect from the UTEP offense. Against OU the Miners threw for just 48 yards but they ran for 207. However, against Ole Miss the script was flipped and the Miners ran for just 37 yards but threw for 274.

And for the Aggies, can they put together a complete game? Against Sacramento State they looked great for three quarters (first, second and fourth) but had a poor third quarter showing. Against Ohio they looked great for two, the first and second, but again had a poor third quarter showing. The team has now been outscored 33-9 in the third quarter this season. Clearly the Aggies have the firepower on offense to be in every game and win a lot of those games. The question now becomes, how do they sustain that for four full quarters? If they can find the answer to that question quickly then this next stretch of four games could be what propels them into a bowl game for the first time since 1960.

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The Daily Aggie :: 09/08/12

It's game day once again. The Aggie football and volleyball teams are both in action on the road and both have gargantuan tasks ahead of them. The football team is in search of their first 2-0 start to the season since 1999. They'll face an Ohio Bobcats squad that is coming off their biggest win in program history defeating Penn State last week. For the Aggies it's a chance to test their offense against a stout Ohio defense. The Aggies really need to establish some sort of running game early in this game whether it's by opening things up with the passing game or whether it's simply just trying to pound the ball but one thing is for sure, the Aggies need to be able to average more than the 2.5 yards per carry that they averaged against a mediocre Sacramento State defense.

It will be interesting to see what the Bobcat defense gives the Aggies. You have to think that they've practiced all week to not give the Aggies anything deep which means that the Aggies and Andrew Manley will need to be patient in the pass game and work the short and intermediate routes, something that they didn't do a whole lot against Sacramento State simply because they had such big mismatches against the Sac State secondary. It will also be interesting to see how early the Bobcats start to pressure Andrew Manley. Once the Hornets started getting some pressure on Manley in the second half was when the Aggie offense stalled out a bit.

Defensively the Aggies primary job is to contain Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton. He's a big running threat to go along with his solid passing ability. As we told the readers of The Post in our scouting report with them, if the Aggies can hold Tettleton to under 50 yards rushing and also keep Ohio running back Beau Blankenship under 100 yards rushing, we feel like the Aggies can really be competitive in this game.

The game is scheduled for a 5:00 p.m. (MDT) kickoff and will be aired online on ESPN3. Radio coverage is available on the Aggie Sports Network in New Mexico and streaming audio will be available via Aggie Access (subscription required).

The Aggie volleyball team is also back in action this morning as they face #12 Pepperdine. The Aggies are coming off a 3-0 sweep of Florida International while Pepperdine is coming off a sweep at the hands of Colorado State.

The Waves' Jasmine Orozco led Pepperdine with 13 kills and hit .360 while Alyssa Mason hit .583 with eight kills. Pepperdine hit .266 in the match which isn't terrible but still lost in three sets.

For the Aggies it will be all about defense. Coach Jordan was not pleased with the Aggies' defensive efforts last Saturday nor was he particularly pleased with the Aggies' defense in yesterday's sweep of FIU.

A win today would be huge for the Aggies' already solid resume. The match is scheduled for an 11:00 a.m. (MDT) first serve with Live Stats available via the CSU athletic website.

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The Daily Aggie :: 09/07/12

The Aggie volleyball and soccer teams are back in action starting today as we kick off a busy weekend of Aggie sports.

Aggie soccer will play their very first home game in their new facility today when they host the Sam Houston State Bearkats at 4:00 p.m. (MDT). The Aggies are coming off a weekend in which they picked up a tie against UC Riverside and a victory over Southern Utah, their first win of the young season. We spoke yesterday with head coach Blair Quinn about the team's weekend as well as this weekend's games and got some insights into the new Aggie soccer stadium and how it will help provide his team with an edge in competition. You'll want to be sure to check out that interview. As far as today's competition, the Bearkats come into the match with a 2-4 record but don't be deceived. Three of the Bearkats four losses are by one goal apiece and their fourth loss was a including a 2-0 loss to No. 16 Rutgers in which they shut out the Scarlet Knights for the first 61 minutes.

According to Coach Quinn the Bearkats play an identical system to the Aggies, a 4-4-3 (four backs, four mids and three forwards) and those type of matchups are difficult in that since you're both playing the same system the game comes down to who can execute the system better and possess the ball longer.

Last weekend was also a breakthrough for the Aggies in that they scored their first two goals of the season, one by Layla Todd against UC Riverside late in regulation time to force overtime and the second coming off the foot of Katelyn Smith (nicknamed Calvin by the team since there are two Katie Smiths on the team) against Southern Utah.

Coach Quinn said the team was a bit unfortunate not to have scored more than one goal against UC Riverside noting that the team created several dangerous chances and four or five breakaways. Against SUU the goal came against the run of play and he said he felt like the team had been outplayed for the ten minutes prior leading up to the goal by Smith.

The funny thing about soccer having watched quite a bit over the past couple of summers is that unlike a lot of sports, soccer seems to be a game where you can be getting dominated on the field or you can be doing the dominating and yet the score can still be 0-0 or as is sometimes the case, you can be dominant the entire game and still lose or you can be getting dominated the entire time and win. All it takes is one lucky bounce or as Coach Needham was so fond of saying, one moment of brilliance, to change everything.

Today's game is scheduled for a 4:00 p.m. kickoff and if you're unable to make it to the game it will be streamed online via Aggie Access (subscription required).

The Aggie volleyball team begins their most difficult weekend of the season tonight as they take on Florida International to kick off the CSU Rams Volleyball Classic. The Aggies will face #12 Pepperdine and Colorado State (just outside the Top 25) tomorrow and Sunday respectively.

The Aggies suffered their first loss of the season last Saturday falling 3-1 at the hands of Northwestern. The Aggies did not play as well as head coach Mike Jordan felt they should defensively last Saturday in both the match against Drake and the match against Northwestern even though the Aggies defeated Drake. The Aggies had a chance to take the Northwestern match to a fifth set but a couple of passing issues on serve receive when the team was up 24-22 in set four resulted in the Aggies losing the set 27-25 and the match 3-1.

The Aggies have been focusing on their defense this week in practice and Coach Jordan is hoping to see improvement in their digging as well as their blocking.

Tonight's opponent FIU comes into the match with a 2-4 record but three of those losses are to Florida, Florida State and Georgia. Opponents are averaging 2.4 blocks per set against the Panthes and that could be an area where the Aggies have an advantage with their size. Offensively FIU is led by Marija Prsa at 3.47 kills per set followed by Lucia Castro at 3.14 kills per set. Their attacking percentages aren't great at .201 and .122 respectively. Defensively the Panthers average 11.95 digs per set while the Aggies are at 14.08 digs per set.

This is a match that the Aggies need to come out and take care of business in and not get caught looking ahead to a big day tomorrow against two probably NCAA-bound teams.

The match is scheduled for a 4:30 p.m. (MDT) first serve with Live Stats available via the CSU athletic website.

More information can be accessed via CSU's tournament central page.

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The Daily Aggie :: 09/04/12

It's another busy week for New Mexico State athletics. Football is taking on the Ohio Bobcats in Athens, OH, volleyball heads to Fort Collins to take on Colorado State, Pepperdine and Florida International, soccer finally christens their home stadium on Friday when they take on Sam Houston State. Cross Country and men's golf are also in action this weekend.

First though we'd like to offer our best wishes to our good friend Kyle Doperalski. For those of you who do not follow Aggie women's sports, Kyle has been the radio and television play-by-play man for the past several seasons and has really infused the broadcasts with his knowledge and genuine excitement for the women's sports (and for those who have followed the women's basketball program during that time know that it hasn't always been easy to get excited). Kyle broadcast his final game for the Aggies this past Saturday as the Aggie volleyball team fell to Northwestern 3-1.

Kyle has accepted an Associate Athletic Director position at North Dakota and he will be in charge of External Operations. It's a tremendous opportunity for Kyle and his family and we cannot think of a more deserving person than him. He is hands down one of the hardest working people that you will ever meet. If you've ever walked by his broadcast location at the Pan Am and seen his prep sheets, you know what we're talking about. If we put half as much effort into preparing for an exam in college as he does prepping for a single game, we'd have graduated with honors (but that's another story for another time).

On a personal note, Kyle is a great person and a great friend and he'll be sorely missed on Aggie volleyball, women's basketball, soccer and softball (and occasional football and men's hoops) broadcasts as well as on the NM State Sports Weekly show and New Mexico State's loss is certainly North Dakota's gain.

Now that we've put away the Kleenex boxes and dried our eyes, it's time to get back to business. The Aggie football team has a gargantuan task ahead of them this week as they face an Ohio club that is fresh off a monumental defeat of Penn State in Happy Valley. Certainly the strength of Penn State's team was diminished by the offseason transfers following the NCAA's sanctions, however, it's not like Penn State is a bottom of the barrel club.

The fact is that Ohio is just a better team and nearly every college football expert agrees with that statement. Bobcat QB Tyler Tettleton was named the MAC's Offensive Player of the Week after going 31-of-41 for 324 yards. The Bobcats also ran for 172 yards as a team. The Aggie defense has their work cut out for them, particularly with Tettleton's ability to pull the ball down and run.

The good news for the Aggies is that they've seen Tettleton and the Bobcat offense before in last season's opener so they should know how to gameplan for Ohio. The question will be whether they can successfully execute said gameplan.

Offensively the Aggie passing attack is better (at least on paper) than Penn State's and the Aggies should have some success through the air. Where the Aggies must drastically improve is on the ground. They've got to get the ground game going early. They won't be able to rely as much on the big plays as they did against the physically under-matched secondary of Sacramento State.

The Aggies also need to put together some sustained drives, even if those drives end up in a punt. The Aggies had just one drive, the final drive, that lasted more than six plays. The Aggies need to be able to put together a few eight to ten play drives that chew up the clock.

One thing that might play into the Aggies' favor this week is that they might be able to catch Ohio coming off a high. The Bobcats may underestimate the Aggies just a little bit especially considering that they pretty much handled the Aggies in last season's meeting.

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The Daily Aggie :: 09/01/12

The Aggie volleyball team picked up another impressive victory last night opening the La Quinta Invitational with a 3-1 victory over Cincinnati. After dropping the first set 25-17 the Aggies gutted out a 25-23 victory where they trailed 23-22 but scored the final three points to take the win. They also rallied from a 13-9 deficit in the third set to go on to win 25-18 and then they absolutely crushed the Bearcats in set four winning 25-7. The Aggies finished the match on an incredible 16-1 run and at one point scored 14 points in a row after leading 9-6.

The Aggies return to action today when they host Drake at 12:30 p.m. (MDT) and Northwestern at 7:00 p.m. (MDT). Both matches will be aired on KSNM AM 570 and streamed online via Aggie Access (subscription required).

The Aggie soccer team picked up a tie against UC Riverside on Friday night getting a late goal from Layla Todd, the first goal of the season, to force overtime. Neither team scored in the first or second overtimes giving the Aggies the tie.

The Aggies take on Southern Utah on Sunday morning as they try to pick up their first victory of the season.

The Daily Aggie :: 08/31/12

It's the first full weekend of Aggie sports with all of the fall sports teams in action. The Aggie football team opened the 2012 schedule with a 49-19 victory over Sacramento State. There were some good things and some not so good things from last night's victory. We'll start with the good. First, it's a win and as Aggie fans know, you can't really argue with a 'W'.

Second, Andrew Manley and the wide receiving group looked outstanding. Yes it came against an FCS secondary, however, as we pointed out yesterday three of the players in the rotation were former BCS conference players who transferred to Sacramento State. Austin Franklin looks to be poised for perhaps a record-setting season. He finished the game with eight catches for 236 yards and two touchdowns. He caught touchdown passes of 84 and 52 yards. Jerrel Brown also looked good, he's a player that Teddy Feinberg from the Sun-News has been all over during the offseason camp and he did not disappoint. He caught two passes for 59 yards but one of the two receptions was a 50 yard touchdown pass.

Andrew Manley looked like the Andrew Manley we saw against Minnesota last year. Good decision making (save for one throw in the fourth quarter deep in their own end on a third down), he looked comfortable in the pocket and he showed tremendous patience even during the times when the pocket collapsed on him, he stayed in and made throws.

Punter Cayle Chapman-Brown gave the Aggies a very strong performance. He punted six times and averaged 50.5 yards per punt. That's a huge, huge advantage over last year when the team averaged 39.4 yards per punt. Field position is key in football and if Chapman-Brown punts like that all season it will no doubt pay off for the Aggies.

Trashaun Nixon, Davis Cazares, Bryan Bonilla and Donte Savage were the stars on defense. Nixon was literally everywhere and finished with a game-high 15 tackles, six of them solo and two of them for a loss. Bonilla had 11 tackles and delivered the hit of the game when he introduced Sac State quarterback Garrett Safron to the Aggie Memorial Stadium turf late in the second quarter. Cazares also heard his named called a lot. He finished with 10 tackles. Donte Savage's return to the field was also successful. Savage blocked an extra point and forced a fumble. Both were big plays in the game. The blocked extra point kept the game from becoming a one possession affair (28-19 versus 28-20) and his forced fumble effectively sealed the game as the Aggies would score a touchdown four plays later to go up 42-19.

Despite the good there were some disappointments in the game. The defensive secondary got burned, a lot. Safron threw for 308 yards and two touchdowns and the Hornets found something in the Aggies' defense midway through the second quarter and exploited it for much of the next quarter and a half. The Aggie secondary will need to get much better in a hurry as they'll face an Ohio quarterback in Tyler Tettleton who threw for over 3300 yards and ran for 916.

The Aggie offensive line was good in pass protection for the entire first half giving but started to break down a little in the second half. Where the offensive line was not good was in the run game. Yes, the Aggies finished with just over 100 yards rushing and yes the Aggies did score four touchdowns on the ground, however, the ground game was nearly non-existent for much of the game. As Andrew Manley aptly stated in the postgame press conference, the Aggies simply cannot throw the ball on every down. There has to be an effective run game and with the competition level about to jump several notches it has to be a major concern.

The middle of the game was not great for the Aggie defense who played well for most of the first half and all of the fourth quarter. However, they simply could not stop Sacramento State late in the second quarter through the start of the fourth quarter. The Hornets erased a 25-point deficit and cut it to nine. At the end of the day the Aggie defense did respond and forced three turnovers late to put the game on ice but that middle stretch is a bit concerning.

All-in-all a win is a win and beating an FCS team is much better than losing to an FCS team (just ask Idaho and Middle Tennessee).

The Aggie volleyball team opens up their home slate tonight at 7:00 p.m. (MDT) as they take on the Cincinnati Bearcats as part of the Aggies' home tournament. The Aggies will face also Drake and Northwestern but tonight's match might be the marquee match of the tournament (with the Aggies' match against Northwestern and the Cincinnati/Northwestern matches coming in a close second).

The Aggies looked dominant at times during last week's tournament at Northern Illinois but they also looked vulnerable at times losing a couple of sets during the weekend by wide margins and also needing massive comebacks in two other sets.

It should be an outstanding tournament and we're looking forward to seeing the Aggies continue to build on their first weekend success.

Tonight's match will not be aired on the radio, however, both matches tomorrow night are scheduled to be on KSNM AM 570 (and streamed online via Aggie Access -- subscription required).

The Aggie soccer team is back in action as they're in Riverside, Calif. for a tournament hosted by UC-Riverside. The Aggies will face UC-Riverside and Southern Utah this weekend. The Aggies are 0-2-0 on the young season and are still searching for their first goal of the season. The Aggies have nearly two weeks off since their last game and have no doubt been working hard on their pace and also on their shotmaking.

We feel that it's important for the team to pick up at least one victory this weekend from a confidence standpoint. This is a team that felt slighted for being picked eighth in the WAC preseason coaches poll but as it stands right now they are just one of two teams in the WAC without a victory so far this season and they most certainly don't want to end their second weekend of competition winless.

Live Stats will be available for tonight's match against the Highlander and the match is scheduled to kick off at 8:00 p.m (MDT)

The Aggie cross country teams kick off their 2012 season in Albuquerque this weekend at the Lobo Invitational. The Aggie men and women are looking to build off their strong 2011 season where they both finished in second place at the WAC Championship meet. The Aggie men are seeking their first cross country conference championship while the women will be looking to return to the top of the podium where they stood in 2010. Individually on the women's side Courtney Schultz begins her quest for a fourth consecutive individual WAC title but will be pushed hard by her sister Camille and Idaho's Hannah Kiser.

The Lobo Invitational will be run on Saturday and will be run under the lights for the first time in the meet's history.

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The Daily Aggie :: 08/30/12

It's Time. Literally. It's time. It's finally game day. The 2012 season is upon us and we're ready. The Aggies host FCS foe Sacramento State tonight at 6:00 p.m. (MDT). The quest to end the 52 year long bowl drought begins. Although Sacramento State is an FCS opponent, they are not a team to be taken lightly. Yes, the Hornets had just four wins last year but two of those wins are comparable to two of the victories the Aggies had last season. Sac St. defeated Oregon State in Corvallis 29-28 in overtime drawing similarities to the Aggies' 28-21 victory over Minnesota in Minneapolis. The Hornets also defeated FCS perennial power Montana, a victory that we would liken to the Aggies' victory over Fresno State.

The Hornets break in a brand new backfield this year which in some respects is similar to the situation the Aggies find themselves in with Matt Christian and Kenny Turner having moved on. Andrew Manley was last year's unquestioned starter until an ACL injury suffered in the waning moments against UTEP ended his season. He's back and again he is the unquestioned starter for the Aggie offense. The run game should be featured a little bit more this year as Coach Walker has stated publicly many times that he hopes to be able to run downhill, particularly in short yardage situations. We'll be interested to see just how the Aggies fare (and what the play calling will be) the first time the Aggies are faced with a third and one, third and two or third and three. Will they line up and try to gain the first down on the ground or will they choose to go to the air?

We're also very interested to see Andrew Manley in his first live action against an opposing team's defense. Make no mistake, Sacrament State knows Manley is coming off an ACL injury and while there won't be malicious intent to any of their hits, they will no doubt try to hurry, chase, knock down or sack him as often as possible to try to rattle him.

The Hornets play a 4-2-5 defense and there is some good depth for Sacramento State in the defensive backfield with three players in the rotation who are Division I, BCS conference transfers. Ryan McMahon (USC), Dijon Washington (Nebraska) and Christopher Lopes (UConn) should all see playing time to day for the Hornets.

On the Aggie defensive side of the ball we're definitely looking forward to seeing Donte Savage back on the field. After sitting out last season due to academic ineligibility, we've heard all offseason how good Savage has looked and we cannot wait to see him turned loose on opposing quarterbacks.

We are also very interested in seeing the new Aggie secondary. The Aggies' secondary was the strongest position group on the team last year on defense but there is nary a single returning starter from that group last year. We expect Sacramento State to test them early and often (and in particular Jeremy Harris who, let's just say, did not fare well last year when he was in one-on-one coverage).

We encourage you to check out this week's podcast to get more thoughts on the game from us, Kyle Doperalski and Teddy Feinberg.

One question we posed to both Kyle and Teddy on the podcast was this: Do you think the Aggies need to win convincingly tonight (i.e. a blowout, three to four touchdown margin)? On one hand every coach will tell you that it doesn't matter whether you win by one or you win by 100 that a win is a win and that is certainly true. However, at the same time, we'd really like think that in year four, despite graduating a bunch of good players (including some NFL players), that the Aggies should still be head and shoulders better than Sacramento State and given all the talk about whether both New Mexico State and Idaho should drop down to FCS-level football any chance to "flex their FBS muscles" so to speak should be taken. At the very least the Aggies need to quiet the outsiders talk of New Mexico State needing to drop down to FCS football (and by outsiders we're specifically referring to outside media and/or fans from rival teams or even fans from other teams in the FBS ranks) but that's just our opinion. So that being said, we'd really like to see a thorough victory one in which you never feel like Sacramento State is "in the game" from a competitive standpoint (ala last year's UNM game, even though the final margin was closer than the game actually was).

Tonight's kickoff is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. (MDT) and can be seen on AggieVision and streaming online via ESPN3. Radio coverage will be available on the Aggie Sports Network and also streaming online via Aggie Access (subscription required).

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The Daily Aggie :: 08/27/12

With the Aggie volleyball team's two victories on Saturday the team improved to 3-0 on the young season. The Aggies defeated both North Dakota State and Northern Illinois by 3-1 margins and won the NIU Invitational. For the Aggies it's their first 3-0 start since the 2009 season and it's perhaps the most impressive 3-0 start in terms of quality of opponent that the Aggies have had under head coach Mike Jordan which is saying a lot.

All-in-all it was just about as perfect a start to a season that any coach could ask for. The Aggies faced adversity, had some weaknesses exposed but in the end they persevered and came away with three victories.

Next up for the volleyball team it's a home tournament beginning on Friday. The Aggies will take on Cincinnati, Drake and Northwestern and have a couple more opportunities for great RPI boosting victories. Last season Cincinnati finished 20th in the RPI, Northwestern was 78th while Drake was 195th but plays in a very, very good volleyball league, the Missouri Valley Conference (where recent Aggie victim Wichita State plays).

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The Daily Aggie :: 08/25/12

The Aggie volleyball team picked up a victory in their season opener defeating a very good Wichita State team 3-1 on Friday night. It's one of the best wins for the Aggies in a while (probably since defeating Colorado State in Fort Collins at the end of the 2010 season). As we noted in yesterday's post there were a few questions to be answered for the Aggies and at least after yesterday's match the answers were good answers. The Aggies got very solid play from their setters Ciara Brown and Taylor Livoti. The Aggies ran the 6-2 offense and did so effectively. Brown notched 26 assists while freshman Livoti recorded the only double-double in the match with 20 assists and 10 digs.

We also talked about the floor defense and the Aggies, though susceptible to the setter dump by WSU's very tall and very offensive-minded setter Chelsey Feekin (nine kills), the Aggies' floor defense was as solid as we've seen it in a couple years. The Aggies covered a lot of balls and they tracked down a lot of balls that in the past couple of season would not have been tracked down and kept a few rallies going.

Finally the front row attackers were as good as advertised. Meredith Hays picked up right where she left off last season. She had a match-high 20 kills and a very impressive .357 hitting percentage. Preslie Alexander had an impressive debut finishing with 11 kills on 24 swings, Lauren Loerch finished with seven kills, Desiree Scott had one of her best matches as an Aggie so far finishing with 10 kills and just one attack error and Bradley Nash's return was a successful one. She finished with seven kills but it was her serving that was a huge, huge, huge boost for the Aggies. Nash featured a topspin jump serve that at times was devastating and Coach Jordan noted that without that, they may not have won the match. It's also important to note that Nash developed this jump serve over the course of the last week. The Aggies won 14 points in the match while Nash was serving and just twice did WSU side out on Nash's first serve. Nash was also on serve during the Aggies' critical six-point run that helped them draw even after trailing 20-14 in set four.

The Aggies get two more chances today to pick up quality victories. They take the floor against North Dakota State at 11:00 a.m. (MDT) and then again at 6:00 p.m. (MDT) when they take on tournament host Northern Illinois. Both matches will be broadcast on KSNM AM 570 with audio streamed online via Aggie Access (subscription required).

NDSU and NIU went the distance in their match last night as NIU jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the match winning sets one and two 25-23 and 27-25 before the Bison rallied for decisive 25-18 and 25-20 victories to tie the match at 2-2. The Huskies won set five 15-10 jumping out quickly to an 8-4, 10-5 and 12-6 lead.

Players to keep an eye on for tray against the Aggies are NDSU's Brynn Joki who had 14 kills (but 10 attack errors) and Andrea Henning who finished with 22 digs. For NIU the Aggies will keep tabs on Meghan Romo (17 kills but 14 attack errors) and Mackenzie Roddy (18 kills, 8 attack errors). The Huskies also had five different players with double-digit digs.

Both matches today should be very competitive matches and it appears that all four teams in the tournament are playing at a fairly high level for the first weekend of play.

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The Daily Aggie :: 08/24/12

The Aggie volleyball team kicks off the 2012 campaign tonight when they face Wichita State in the opening game of the NIU Invitational. First serve is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. (MDT) and the match can be heard on KSNM AM 570 in Las Cruces and online via Aggie Access.

The 2012 season holds much promise for the Aggies and with WAC bully Hawai'i gone from the league (having left for the "greener pastures" of the Big West) the WAC appears to be a four or five team race with the Aggies figuring to be the prohibitive favorite at least on paper.

If you read this week's interview with head coach Mike Jordan you're aware that the Aggies have scheduled a little differently this non-conference and have set themselves up with a chance play themselves into an at-large bid before conference play begins. It's similar to what Aggie baseball was able to do this past season in that the schedule is packed with strong RPI teams that will win a lot of games and in turn that will help the Aggies' own RPI stay in that at-large range (usually in the 25 to 45 range). Now obviously the Aggies need to take care of their part of the RPI equation and that is win a few of those matches in the non-conference (much like the Aggies were able to do early on) and just like we saw with the Aggie baseball team, if the volleyball team can notch a few good RPI wins in the non-conference, the losses during non-conference play and even a couple losses during conference play won't hurt them nearly as bad.

So today that quest for a return trip to the NCAA tournament, a place the Aggies have not been for three years (a veritable drought by the high Aggie volleyball standards we've been accustomed to). Things to watch for in today's match. First and foremost is the setter position. The Aggies are looking for solid play from the group of three setters that they have, two newcomers (VCU transfer Ciara Brown and freshman Taylor Livoti) and a sophomore returnee (Maggi Jo Keffury) who saw little action last year. Can this group get the powerful Aggie hitters the ball?

Second, the floor defense. The Aggies must also replace libero Kelsi Phillips who graduated. The Aggies believe they have plays who can make plays on defense at the libero and defensive specialist position.

Third, the front row. The Aggies are absolutely loaded with powerful arms led by sophomore Meredith Hays. Bradley Nash is back from the ACL injury that derailed a promising start from her last year. The Aggies have a transfer from Cal in Lauren Loerch who should be a lot of fun to watch and the Aggies also have three intriguing players in the middle in junior Desiree Scott whom the Aggie coaching staff is looking to really start playing up to her potential, sophomore Gwen Murphy whose athleticism is off the charts and then there's junior college transfer Preslie Alexander (whose name we've heard repeatedly but admittedly know very little about except that there's always a bit of excitement when her name is brought up).

It should be an incredibly fun and exciting season, one that will hopefully culminate with a return trip to the NCAAs, and it all begins today at 4:00 p.m.

Live Stats will also be available for the match.

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