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The Daily Aggie :: 11/08/12

The Aggie volleyball team is back in action tonight at Texas State hoping to bounce back from a tough loss to Utah State this past Saturday. The loss to the UtAgs virtually guaranteed that the Aggies won't be winning the WAC regular season title this year. There is however still much to play for. The final three games for New Mexico State are very important in terms of seeding. Should Idaho and UTSA both win their matches tonight and Idaho also wins on Saturday night (the Vandals host UTA and LA Tech so wins are likely), then the Aggies would need at least two wins, both coming against UTSA and Idaho, in order to earn the two seed. However, if the Aggies were to lose to either UTSA or Idaho in the final three matches and finish with the same conference record as either UTSA or Idaho, then they would drop to at least the three seed because both the Roadrunners and Vandals have a win over league-leading Utah State.

Obviously, with three wins the Aggies can wrap up the two seed in the tournament and should Utah State suffer an epic collapse and lose their final two matches and the Aggies win out, then New Mexico State and Utah State would share the regular season title (though USU would earn the top seed) although we really don't see USU choking down the stretch and losing to both SJSU and Texas State.

Tonight's match comes with a bit of a revenge factor for the Aggies. One of New Mexico State's four conference losses came at the hands of Texas State and shockingly it came at the Pan Am. The Bobcats are just one of three WAC teams to earn a win over the Aggies in Las Cruces since the Aggies joined in 2005 (the other two being Hawai'i and Utah State) and Texas State has had the Aggies' number as of late winning two of the last three meetings. The Aggies' loss in Las Cruces to Texas State came in five sets, however, the Aggies had match point in set four and let the victory slip through their hands.

Expect the Aggies to come out firing tonight and in particular Meredith Hays who had a negative hitting percentage for just the second time this season (both coming against USU). Also keep an eye on the setting position for the Aggies. Redshirt freshman Maggi Jo Keffury and true freshman Taylor Livoti got the bulk of the playing time the past two matches.

Tonight's match is scheduled for a 6:00 p.m. (MT) first serve with Live Stats available via the Texas State athletic website. Streaming video is also available for a small fee through the Texas State athletic website.

One of the Aggies' 2013 football opponents was officially announced today as Florida Atlantic, former Sun Belt foe, released their non-conference scheduling through 2015. The Aggies will visit the Owls next season as part of New Mexico State's foray into independent football status. For more on the Aggie' football schedule for next season check out Teddy Feinberg's blog post on the subject.

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The Daily Aggie :: 11/06/12

The New Mexico State men's basketball team kicked off the 2012-13 season with their first and only exhibition game of the year, though they'll face Northern New Mexico (NAIA Division) later this season which may as well be an exhibition. It's always tough to gauge the team during these exhibitions but there are generally two things we want to see when the Aggies play a team from a lower division and they both come on defense. First, hold the opposing team to under 40 percent shooting. Done and done. The Aggies held Western to under 40 percent shooting in both halves and the Mustangs finished the game shooting just a shade over 32 percent. Second, hold the team under 70 points. Again, mission accomplished. The Mustangs scored just 49 points in the game and had just 13 second half points through the first 15 minutes or so of the second half. Honestly, we could care less if the team scored 98 points or not. Defense wins championships and the Aggie defense did what we wanted to see them do last night.

A couple of other statistics that stand out, the projected Aggie regulars only committed eight turnovers. That'll be something to keep an eye on especially early in the season. Also, the Aggies officially had five blocks, although that may or may not be correct, it seemed like there were more.

Given the size of the Aggie frontcourt as well as the length of a few of the other Aggies like Bandja Sy, if this team doesn't average in the neighborhood of six or seven blocks per game, we'll be very disappointed. From the 2001-02 to 2008-09 seasons, the nation's leading shot blocking team was UConn who averaged no less than seven blocks per game. Given the fact that the Aggies will have a significant size advantage in the post night in and night out, this should be a goal for the Aggies to shoot for.

The Aggies are back in action on Sunday night against Oregon State on ESPNU. It'll be interesting to see if the Aggies can carry over some of those defensive marks into the season opener on Sunday.

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The Daily Aggie :: 10/27/12

it's Homecoming! The Aggie football team hosts No. 24 Louisiana Tech today and the Aggies' biggest challenge will be keeping the LA Tech offense in check. The Bulldogs average 56 points per game and no team this season has held them under 44 points. Even Texas A&M, an SEC team, surrendered 57 to the Bulldogs. LA Tech is also coming off a game in which they scored 70 points, 56 in the first half, against Idaho.

The good news for the Aggies? They should be able to score a few points today. Louisiana Tech's opponents are averaging 36 points per game and 24 points is the fewest points any team has scored on them this season.

Will the Aggies be able to win the game today? It's going to take a herculean effort to do so. The defense has to get off the field and keep LA Tech to just field goals and the offense has to do what they did last week in terms of controlling the clock. What we really want to see from the Aggie is just improvement on both sides of the ball. Last week against a very good Utah State defense the Aggies were able to move the ball fairly consistently. If they can do that again today and capitalize on their scoring opportunities then perhaps they can keep the game closer than most people think it will end up.

For the defense, they've put together a couple of respectable games but this will be their toughest challenge of the season. If the defense can hold LA Tech under 45 points we'll consider that a win for the defense.

Today's game is scheduled for a 6:00 p.m. kickoff and can be seen on AggieVision and ESPN3.

The Aggie volleyball team is back in action tonight as they take on Denver. The Aggies are coming off an impressive sweep of UNM on Tuesday night in a match that could be the springboard into consistent play that this team has been searching for.

Sophomore outside hitter Meredith Hays hit .438 and had 16 kills against the Lobos and it was a bit of a slump busting performance. Over the previous six matches Hays had been hitting just .119 with 80 kills but also 48 attack errors on 267 swings. It goes without saying but when Hays is effective and efficient, the Aggies generally win.

Denver is riding a four game win streak going into tonight's match. This is another critical match for New Mexico State to try to keep pace with Utah State. The Aggies currently sit alone in second, a half game ahead of Idaho who lost at UTSA on Thursday night. Utah State is a game head of the Aggies in both the win and loss columns having played two more matches in conference than the Aggies have.

The Aggies can't afford another loss in conference play if they want to win the regular season title. It's unlikely that USU would lose more than twice more in their final five WAC matches (that's including a potential win by New Mexico State over USU when the two teams meet next Saturday) and the Aggies also want to make sure they stay ahead of Idaho (who they still face in Las Cruces) and secure a top two seed in the conference tournament.

Tonight's match is scheduled for a 7:00 p.m. first serve with Live Stats available via the Denver athletic website.

The WAC Cross Country championship meet was held this morning in Ruston, LA. Unfortunately senior harrier Courtney Schultz's bid for four straight individual titles came up just short. Schultz finished second behind Idaho's Hannah Kiser. The Aggie women's and men's teams both finished outside the top three (full final results will be available later today). The Idaho women won their third straight title while UT Arlington took the men's title.

Congratulations again to Schultz, even though she wasn't able to four-peat, three first place finishes and a second place finish is still one heck of a career record. There will be at least one more meet for Schultz, the Mountain Regional at Colorado State and hopefully another trip to Nationals for Schultz.

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The Daily Aggie :: 10/23/12

The Aggie volleyball team is back in action tonight against in-state rival UNM. The Lobos and Aggies square off in Albuquerque and for the Aggies, it's a big game for them to try to get some of their early season mojo back. The team has lost two of three, both to rather pedestrian teams (Texas State and UT Arlington) and has fallen behind Utah State by a game and a half in the conference standings. The Lobos are 18-5 on the season with a win in Mountain West play over Colorado State.

Chantale Riddle is their clear go-to player averaging 4.17 kills per set. Defensively, the Lobos average 14.3 digs per set and 2.3 blocks per set, comparable numbers to the Aggies who are averaging 13.3 digs per set and 2.5 blocks per set. Lobo opponents are hitting .146 on the season while Aggie opponents are hitting .173.

The question for the Aggies is which team will show up tonight? The Aggies have struggled on the road this season with losses at UTEP and at UT Arlington really standing out. The biggest area of concern has to be the Aggies' struggles in the passing game. Their serve receive let them down in the matches against UTEP and Arlington. When the Aggies pass the ball well they look like world beaters. Unfortunately, when their passing has broken down, they've been very just an average team.

Tonight's match is scheduled for a 7:00 p.m. (MDT) first serve and streaming video will be available for the match (it appears that it's free as well).

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The Daily Aggie :: 10/22/12

It was another rough weekend for Aggie sports as the football team fell 41-7 to Utah State and the soccer team lost both of their conference matches over the weekend thereby eliminating them from WAC tournament contention. The lone bright spot of the weekend was the volleyball team's 3-1 victory over Louisiana Tech on Saturday afternoon.

But the good news is that it's a new week and it's a big one for Aggie sports. On Saturday the cross country teams will head to Ruston, LA for the WAC Championship meet. The men are seeking their first ever WAC title while the women are hoping for a second WAC title in four years. Individually, Courtney Schultz is seeking her fourth consecutive title, with only Aggie men's golfer Tim Madigan coming close to matching the feat (Madigan was a part of four consecutive conference team titles).

Aggie volleyball faces in-state rival UNM tomorrow in Albuquerque. The Lobos are 18-5 overall with a win over Colorado State. This is the Aggies' last chance for a high-RPI win, though at this point, the Aggies will need to win the conference tournament in order to reach the NCAA tournament, particularly after suffering "bad" losses to UT Arlington and Texas State.

Aggie football hosts Louisiana Tech on Saturday for homecoming and it will be a big challenge for the Aggies. LA Tech just hung 70 points on Idaho, a team that defeated the Aggies 26-18. Idaho's loss also marked Robb Akey's final game as head coach of the Vandals. Akey was fired yesterday afternoon, though the loss to Idaho was not the main reason, it certainly did not help his cause. The Aggie defense has been porous this season and LA Tech's offense is the best in the WAC. It'll be a challenge for the Aggies just to keep LA Tech under their season average of 50 points.

Hoops season is just around the corner and that means it's time to unveil our preseason picks and all-conference team picks which we submitted on Friday to the WAC office.

On the men's side our picks look like this:

1. Utah State
2. New Mexico State
3. Denver
4. Louisiana Tech
5. UT Arlington
6. UTSA
7. Texas State
8. Idaho
9. Seattle
10. San Jose State

Now, it's important to note that these are our regular season picks and they're based strictly on what teams have coming back and we actually feel like any of the top three teams are interchangeable (as are the bottom three teams). We also believe that in the end, New Mexico State will win the WAC tournament which is really all that matters because the WAC is unlikely to be a multi-bid league.

These are our picks for the Preseason All-Conference teams as well as Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year:

Player of the Year:
F Chris Udofia - Denver

Newcomer of the Year:
G K.C. Ross-Miller - New Mexico State

The remaining four Preseason All-WAC picks:
G Raheem Appleby - Louisiana Tech
G Daniel Mullings - New Mexico State
G Preston Medlin - Utah State
F Kevin Butler - UT Arlington

On the women's side these are our predictions for the regular season finish as well as the All-Conference teams. Again these picks are based strictly on what teams have (or don't have) coming back.

1. Texas State
2. Utah State
3. Louisiana Tech
4. Denver
5. Idaho
6. Seattle
7. San Jose State
8. New Mexico State
9. UT San Antonio
10. UT Arlington

Player of the Year:
G Devyn Christensen - Utah State

Newcomer of the Year:
G Stefanie Gilbreath - New Mexico State

The remaining four Preseason All-WAC picks:
F Alyssa Charlston - Idaho
F Kacie Sowell - Seattle
G Diamond Ford - Texas State
F Ashley Ezeh - Texas State

It should be noted that on both sides, there are so many question marks it's unreal. The WAC this year represents essentially four different conferences, the WAC (NMSU, USU, Idaho, SJSU and LA Tech) the Sun Belt (Denver), The Southland (UTSA, UTA, Texas State) and an independent in Seattle. Additionally, nearly every team has massive turnover from last year's squads and in almost every team's case on the men's side, the leading scorer from a season ago is no longer there or a big chunk of last year's starting five is gone. That's what makes this year's league so difficult to predict but it's also what will make this league fun to watch. Much like in volleyball this year, you may see unprecedented parity from top to bottom with any team being able to knock off any other team on any given night.

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The Daily Aggie :: 10/20/12

It's Gameday! The Aggie football team is back in action off of a bye week and they're in Logan, UT to take on the other Aggies. New Mexico State will have their work cut out for them today trying to stop USU on both sides of the ball. The UtAgs have a dynamic offense led by sophomore quarterback Chuckie Keeton (255 passing yards per game, 14 TDs, 4 INTs), senior running back Kerwynn Williams (101 rushing yards per game, six rushing TDs) and wide receiver Matt Austin (403 yards receiving, 4 TDs).

For New Mexico State on offense, the offensive line is the key to the Aggies staying in this game. Utah State recorded 13 sacks last week against San Jose State and you can bet that the UtAgs have taken note of the Aggies' inability to protect Andrew Manley. New Mexico State will need to have a strong gameplan in place to negate USU's pressure and the Aggie run game and short passing game will need to be effective in this game in order to keep Manley upright.

The Aggies need to hang close with Utah State in the first quarter. USU has allowed just three first quarter points this season and have scored 68 first quarter points. New Mexico State can't allow USU to jump out to a big lead early because New Mexico State simply isn't built to overcome large deficits.

Utah State is the best team the Aggies have played this season and very well may be the best team the Aggies play all season. They were our preseason pick to win the WAC and thus far they have looked every bit the part.

Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. (MDT) and can be seen on AggieVision and ESPN3.

The Aggie volleyball team is also back in action after their disappointing loss to UT Arlington on Thursday night. The Aggies are in Ruston, LA to take on the Lady Techsters. New Mexico State had some issues with LA Tech in the first meeting winning 3-1 but really getting pushed by the Techsters in all four matches including giving up a 20-11 lead in the first set.

Tonight's match is scheduled for a 1:00 p.m. (MDT) tipoff. There will be radio coverage tonight, however, Live Stats will be available via the LA Tech athletic website.

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The Daily Aggie :: 10/19/12

The Aggie volleyball team suffered what can only be described as a "bad" loss last night on the road at UT Arlington. The Aggies fell 3-1 to the Mavericks, a team that less than a month ago they handled with relative ease. The Aggies suffered through bad passing much of the evening and even in their lone set victory, a 25-12 romp, the team registered just 10 kills and committed six attack errors. On the evening the Aggies hit just .140 committing 30 attack errors. The Aggies also had just one service ace, five service errors and had six receiving errors (in other words were aced six times) including on match point which unfortunately was a fitting way for the match to end considering the problems the Aggies had in the serve-receive game.

The loss drops the Aggies into a second place tie with Idaho who fell in five sets at Utah State last night. For the moment the Aggies hold the tiebreaker with Idaho but there is still a lot of volleyball to be played. One would figure that the Aggies can't afford to lose more than two more matches the rest of the way if they want to be a top two seed in the WAC Tournament and losses to lower tier teams remove some of the mental edge that you might have over a first-round opponent as a higher seed.

The Aggies will look to rebound on Saturday when they face Louisiana Tech, a team that gave them fits in Las Cruces. The Lady Techsters are winless in conference play losing to Denver 3-1 last night.

The Aggie soccer team in back in action as they face the Texas State Bobcats this afternoon. The Aggies are in last place in the league standings but still have a realistic and legitimate shot at making the tournament. The teams that are immediately above them in the standings are Idaho (4), UTSA (5), San Jose State (6), Texas State (6) and Seattle (7) and number in parenthesis denotes how many points the team has. The Aggies still face Idaho, UTSA, Texas State and Seattle. If the Aggies can find a way to get nine or ten points out of that stretch they'll have a very good chance of making it in as either a six or possibly even a five seed.

Hopefully the Aggies' win over Cal State Bakersfield this past Sunday, a win which saw them break a month-long scoring drought, will propel them to a strong finish.

Today's match is scheduled for a 6:00 p.m. (MDT) kickoff. Live Stats will be available via the Texas State athletic website.

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The Daily Aggie :: 10/18/12

The Aggie volleyball team is back in action tonight as they take on the UT Arlington Mavericks. Tonight's match signals the start of the second half of the WAC schedule and there are three teams, Utah State (8-2), New Mexico State (7-2) and Idaho (7-2) all within a half game of each other at the top of the standings. The Aggies and Vandals got some help on Monday from UTSA who went into Logan and swept the UtAgs. That result has been indicative of the parity from top to bottom in the league this season. Just as an example -- The Aggies swept UTSA at home, UTSA swept Utah State in Logan but Utah State swept the New Mexico State in Logan. The Aggies defeated Idaho in five and defeated SJSU in four but SJSU swept Idaho (but lost to UT Arlington) and Idaho swept Utah State in Logan. And then you look at the bottom of the standings and Seattle has just two WAC wins but has gone to five sets with every team in the WAC that's outside of Texas (for some reason all three Texas schools, UTA, UTSA and Texas State have all been able to handle Seattle).

So what does it all mean? It means that the old coaching cliché than any team can beat any other team on any given night is actually true this season in WAC volleyball. If you don't bring your 'A' game, no matter what team you are, there's a good chance you're going to lose. It also means that finishing first or second in league play will be at a premium in order to secure a match against a "lower" seeded team in the first round (although, we would really not want to be the team to have to face Seattle in round one) and it also means that the WAC Volleyball tournament is going to be an absolute free-for-all with any number of teams with a good shot at winning. There is no clear-cut favorite at least as of right now.

As far as the Aggies are concerned, they need to win the WAC tournament to get in to the NCAA tournament. The RPI numbers haven't panned out the way the Aggies had hoped and they're currently hovering just inside the Top 100. It also means that there will be just one team from the WAC making the NCAAs, that being the tournament champion.

If you checked out this week's interview with head coach Mike Jordan, you know that the coaching staff is a little concerned with certain rotations in their lineup and that changes will likely be made this week. There have been a few instances this season where the Aggies have gotten stuck in a bad rotation and been unable to get out of it, the home match in the first set against Louisiana Tech is a prime example. The Aggies were up 20-11 but got stuck in a bad rotation and LA Tech came all the way back to win. In Saturday's loss to Texas State the same thing happened with Meredith Hays and Desiree Scott stuck in the back row and the Aggies unable to close out a 23-20 lead which would have given them a 3-1 victory. Instead the Bobcats clawed back, took set four 26-24 and went on to win the match 3-2.

It will be interesting to see what the lineup changes will be. Tonight's match is scheduled for a 6:00 p.m. (MDT) first serve with streaming video available via the UTA athletic website.

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The Daily Aggie :: 10/12/12

The Aggie volleyball team moved back into a tie for first place last night thanks to a 3-0 (26-24, 25-19, 25-21) sweep of visiting UTSA. The Aggies played well for long stretches during the match and were able to overpower the Roadrunners. The Aggies held UTSA to just a .050 hitting percentage and kept McKenzie Adams under wraps the entire match. Adams finished with eight kills but also had seven attack errors and had a negative hitting percentage most of the match.

The Aggie middles were key in this match along with freshman Nathalie Castellanos. The trio of middles combined for 14 of the Aggies' 41 kills and redshirt freshman Gwen Murphy had one of the best nights of her young career finishing with five kills on seven swings for a .714 hitting percentage. Murphy destroyed a couple of overpasses by UTSA and also had three block assists and a pair of digs.

We talked a little bit about UTSA's digging prowess yesterday and they didn't disappoint in that respect finishing with 56 digs in three sets, an average of 18.66 per set. However, we really felt like the Aggies did a good job of staying patient in the match and did a good job of digging balls as well finishing with 46 digs, an average of 15.33 digs per set.

It all added up to an impressive sweep, although it was not without some tense moments as the Aggies had to stave off UTSA in set one, leading 18-13 but then falling behind 22-21 before winning in extra points. The Aggies then had to rally from down seven early in set two trailing 12-5. The Aggies had two big runs on serve, one by Stephanie Ziegler followed immediately by Ciara Brown. Then in set three the Aggies led 7-0 and 14-3 but allowed UTSA to get to within three at 20-17 before finishing off set three.

The Aggies are back in action on Saturday night when they take on Texas State on AggieVision.

The Aggie soccer team returns to action this afternoon as they host Denver. The Pioneers are the first ranked opponent that the Aggies have faced in the program's history as they sit at No. 24 in the Soccer America rankings.

Denver has not lost since their opening match and are riding a 13-match unbeaten streak. Meanwhile the Aggies have struggled all season long to put the ball in the back of the net and as a result have seen some frustrating one-goal losses.

Despite the severe scoring drought, Coach Quinn believes that his team is very close to putting it all together on the offensive side of the ball citing the team's ability to do it in practice but needing to bring it into game time.

The good news for the Aggies is that their defense is stout and can and has kept them in games all season long. The Aggies' goal of reaching the WAC tournament are still well within reach. There are five teams all within four points of each other vying for the last couple of spots in the tournament. The Aggies can make a statement today with a win over Denver and they can also vault themselves right back into the thick of the race if they can pick up the win.

Today's match is scheduled for a 3:00 p.m. (MDT) kickoff and with streaming video available via Aggie Access (subscription required).

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The Daily Aggie :: 10/11/12

The Aggie volleyball team is back in action at home tonight against UTSA. The Roadrunners bring a hot streak into the Pan Am having won six of their past seven matches and are just a game behind the Aggies in third place in the league. The Roadrunners are led by junior outside hitter McKenzie Adams who is averaging 4.10 kills per set, second in the league behind Idaho's Allison Baker and ahead of the Aggies' own Meredith Hays (4.06 k/s). The Roadrunners also boast the player with the league's second best attack percentage in freshman middle Kylie Schott who is hitting .364 this season.

This will also be a battle of the second and third best teams in conference play in opponent hitting percentage with UTSA holding opponents to a .143 percentage and the Aggies just behind at .147. Both teams are decent blocking teams with the Aggies averaging 2.72 blocks per set and UTSA averaging 2.52 blocks per set. The one thing to watch for tonight from UTSA is they are by far the league's best floor defense team by numbers averaging 20.44 digs per set, over four digs per set better than the next best team and seven digs per set better than the Aggies. That's an incredible number and if there's one thing the Aggies have struggled a bit with this season it's teams that dig the ball well. It tends to frustrate the Aggie hitters who then become a little impatient causing them to take bad swings. (UTSA's overall season stats in digs per set, 18.73, puts them at third best in the country).

The key tonight will be for the Aggies to stay patient offensively and understand that a lot of their swings, even good swings, may not find the floor. If the Aggies can pass well tonight (another tough challenge with UTSA third in the WAC, league play only, in service aces per set at 1.44) then they can get their middles, Preslie Alexander and Desiree Scott, involved which will help keep things open for Meredith Hays, Lauren Loerch and Bradley Nash on the pins.

First serve is set for 7:00 p.m. with the match being televised on AggieVision and streaming online via ESPN3.com.

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