Written By: NM State Athletic Dept.
OREM, UT - For the second time in as many matches the New Mexico State volleyball team defeated a Western Athletic Conference foe in thrilling five-set fashion as the Aggies outlasted Utah Valley 25-19, 25-27, 16-25, 25-15, 15-11 on Thursday night.
As on Saturday versus Bakersfield in Las Cruces, NM State came back from a two sets to one deficit to keep its conference-games winning streak alive. The streak now stands at 11-consecutive WAC wins dating back to last season.
The Aggies are now 9-5 overall and 3-0 in the WAC and are on a six-match winning streak, including four-straight wins on the road. The Wolverines fall to 6-10 and .500 at 1-1 in WAC play.
Junior Bradley Nash led the way for NM State with her third double-double of the season after marking a season-high 15 kills and adding 12 digs.
Freshman setter Ashlyn Brown, meanwhile, had a career night after posting her second double-double of her young Aggie career. She finished with a career-high 21 assists and tied a career high with 10 digs.
Junior Gwen Murphy tied a season-high with 13 kills while fellow junior Nathalie Castellanos added a season-high 12 kills. Setter Taylor Livoti again led the team with 27 assists and libero Hannah Walker had a team-high17 digs while outside hitter Andrea Tauai added 13 digs.
“Aleisha Coates came off the bench and gave us a good lift,” Aggie head coach Mike Jordan said, “and Ashlyn Brown played her best match of the season. We were inconsistent, but showed some toughness on the road.”
After the third set it seemed that the NM State WAC winning streak would end at the same place where the Aggies last lost a conference match. The Wolverines are the last WAC team to defeat NM State after sweeping the Aggies last season at home.
NM State handily lost that third set after falling behind 8-2 early and not being able to mount any kind of comeback to go down 2-1. The Aggies, who lead the WAC in opponent’s hitting percentage, allowed a .500 hitting percentage to Utah Valley during the set, easily the highest percentage allowed in any set all season for NM State. On the other hand, the Aggies could only muster a .125 hitting percentage in the set.
But as has been the case all season, NM State would show composure in tense times, even when only up by one at 10-9 in a fourth set that could have been the last set of the match.
With the match on the line, the Aggies went on a match-high seven-point run that opened up a 17-9 lead for the team on the ropes. After another four-straight points later in the set, NM State had doubled up the Wolverines at 22-11 and, more importantly, had brought back all the momentum to the Crimson and White side.
From there the Aggies went on to a 25-15 fourth-set win. A set after allowing a .500 hitting percentage, it was NM State who hit .500 in the fourth set while only allowing a .143 hitting percentage to Utah Valley.
Although NM State had seized momentum, Utah Valley was not about to hand the Aggies the win on its home court. They fought NM State point for point in a final set that saw ties at points one through nine and four lead changes.
A Coates’ kill and Nash service ace gave the visiting squad an 11-9 lead late. After the Wolverines cut the lead to one at 12-11, it would be freshman outside hitter Kassandra Tohm, who had three kills in the deciding set, that would hand the Aggies their sixth-consecutive win.
Tohm had back-to-back kills to give NM State a match point at 14-11. A Utah Valley hitting error ended the match and kept the Aggies perfect in WAC play.
NM State will now try to make it a 4-0 start to WAC play when they visit Seattle U in Seattle, Wash., on Saturday. The match is set for an afternoon 2 p.m. (MDT) start and can be heard live on the radio in Las Cruces on KGRT AM 570 with Adam Young on the call.