Aggie Volleyball Opens The Season With A 3-1 Victory Over Florida International

Kayleigh GiddensThe New Mexico State volleyball team kicked off the 2010 season with a 3-1 victory over defending Sun Belt Conference champion Florida International at the FSU Invitational on Friday afternoon behind a match high 18 kills from Kayleigh Giddens. The Aggies dropped the first set 25-20 before rallying to win set two 26-24, set three 25-22 and set four 25-23. "We were a little nervous but the good news is we got good leadership out of our four All-WAC kids and they stepped up and made a lot of plays," said head coach Mike Jordan. "Once we started to relax we had some really good moments." With the victory the Aggies improve to 1-0 on the young season while FIU drops to 0-1.

The first set saw both teams battle back and forth trading points early on. New Mexico State held a 12-9 lead after kill by senior right-side attacker Whitney Woods, however, FIU would win three of the next four points to tie the set at 13 points apiece. The Aggies would once again take the lead at 17-15 after a kill by Kayleigh Giddens. The Panthers would respond winning seven of the next eight points to take a 22-18 lead prompting Aggie head coach Mike Jordan to call a timeout. The Aggies would score a point out of the timeout to cut FIU's lead to 22-19, however, a kill by FIU's Jessica Gehrke put FIU up 23-19. The set would end on an attack error by Aggie freshman Rocio Gutierrez giving FIU the first set 25-20. The Aggies hit just .029 in the first set with 13 kills but 12 attack errors while FIU hit .231 getting just seven kills but committing just one attack error.

Set two saw the two teams trade the lead early as FIU jumped out to a 2-0 lead before the Aggies would resound with four straight points to take a 4-2 lead. FIU would answer with a 6-1 run to grab an 8-5 lead in the set. New Mexico State would answer with a 12-6 run behind their middle attackers Kelsey Brennan and Desiree Scott who each scored a pair of kills to put the Aggies up 17-14.

FIU answered back with an 8-5 run to tie things up at 22 all and forcing the Aggies to take a timeout. Kelsey Brennan again came up big out of the timeout putting down a kill to give the Aggies a 23-22 lead. After a kill by FIU's Natlia Valentin tied the set at 23, Kayleigh Giddens would put down a kill to give the Aggies their first set point at 24-23. After a service error by Aggie sophomore outside hitter Stephanie Ziegler tied the match at 24 all, the Aggies would seal the set winning back-to-back points on a Kayleigh Giddens kill and a service ace from Jennah DeVries to win the set 26-24. The Aggies hit better in the second set as they recorded a .158 hitting percentage with 14 kills and eight attack errors. FIU hit .171 in the set with 12 kills but six attack errors.

Coming out of the break, the Aggies were on fire jumping out to a quick 8-4 lead forcing the Panthers to take a quick timeout. Out of the time-out the Panthers would respond cutting the Aggies' lead to just one at 9-8. The two teams would trade the next several points with the match and with the tied at 14-14, the Aggies would score four of the next five points to go ahead 18-15. Still holding a three point lead at 20-17, the Aggies would withstand a quick run by the Panthers holding on to a 21-20 lead.

A kill by Whitney Woods was followed by a service error from freshman Shelby Tamura making the score 22-21. However, back-to-back kills by Kelsey Brennan and Kayleigh Giddens would give the Aggies set point at 24-21 and after a service error by Rocio Gutierrez, Kayleigh Giddens would end the set with a kill giving the Aggies the 25-22 set victory. The Aggies were very efficient on offense in the third set as they hit .368 with 17 kills, seven by Kayleigh Giddens. The Aggies also committed just three attack errors in the set. FIU hit .189 with 13 kills but once again had six attack errors. "We played a really efficient game three, very few errors there and we saw glimpses of how good we're going to be down the road," said Coach Jordan.

The fourth set saw FIU jump out to the quick lead and they 12-7 after a service ace from Una Trkulja forcing the Aggies to call a timeout. Out of the timeout the Aggies would go on a 12-2 run behind a flurry of attack errors by FIU. "We definitely want those long point runs, we talked about it a lot," said Coach Jordan. "You have to do a lot of things right to play that well so it was a really good thing to see."

The Aggies would maintain a three point lead at 21-18 before back-to-back pouts from FIU cut the Aggies' lead to just one at 22-21. The Aggies would refocus and a kill by Whitney Woods followed by an attack error from FIU's Jessica Gehrke would give the Aggies match point at 24-21. FIU would respond with back-to-back points on a kill by Andrea Lakovic and block on a Rocio Gutierrez attack to cut the Aggies' lead to 24-23. However, a quick timeout by the Aggies would settle the team down and out of the timeout, Kelsey Brennan ended the match with a kill to give the Aggies the 25-23 set victory and the 3-1 match victory. The Aggies hit .188 in set four with 12 kills and six attack errors and the Aggie defense would hold FIU to a .044 hitting percentage as they recorded 11 kills but nine attack errors.

Kayleigh Giddens led all players with 18 kills on 55 swings with nine attack errors for a .164 hitting percentage. She recorded a double double as she also had 13 digs. Kelsey Brennan recorded 13 kills with just three attack errors in 22 swings for a .455 hitting percentage. Whitney Woods started off her senior season with 12 kills on 23 swings with five attack errors and a .304 hitting percentage. Freshman middle Desiree Scott recorded four kills while fellow freshman Rocio Gutierrez finished with seven kills. Jennah DeVries recorded 53 assists, 11 digs and also had a service ace. Sophomore Ellen Miks led the Aggies with 19 digs and also had three of the Aggies' six service aces.

FIU's Una Trkulja led the Panthers with 13 kills on 32 swings and had just two attack errors for a .344 hitting percentage. Sun Belt Conference Preseason Player of the Year Natalia Valentin had 30 assists and 12 digs and finished with four kills on seven swings.

The Aggies hit .189 for the match while FIU hit .147. The Aggies also had a total of four team blocks while FIU finished with five total team blocks. The Aggies had six service aces and eight service errors while FIU had just four service aces and nine service errors. Overall Jordan was pleased with his team's effort. "We've got to take care of the easy ball a little bit better and get a high quality swing more often. But that's one of those things that's correctable," said Coach Jordan. "We tried hard and saw a lot of good plays."

The Aggies will face No. 15 Florida State tonight at 5:00 p.m. MT. "Florida State is a great team. They've just got a ton of talent and they'll be playing on their home floor," said Coach Jordan. "It's a winnable match but we're going to have to play real well. Matches like this are what we look forward to. We want to get the win and we want to learn a lot about ourselves and I think we will tonight."