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Aggies Defeat UTPA 3-1, Pull Within One Game Of First Place In WAC | bleedCrimson.net :: Your Source for NMSU Aggies Sports News

Aggies Defeat UTPA 3-1, Pull Within One Game Of First Place In WAC

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Written By; NM State Athletic Dept.

EDINBURG, TX - The New Mexico State volleyball team remained perfect (11-0) versus Texas-Pan American after defeating the Broncs Saturday afternoon in four sets, 25-21, 23-25, 25-21, 25-12, to improve to 15-9 overall and 9-3 in Western Athletic Conference play.

The Aggies often struggled to find continuity, but in the end used what has been their calling card all year, defense, to win their third-straight match. NM State held the Broncs to a total .085 hitting percentage, including a -.091 percentage in set three and a .000 percentage in the final set.

Juniors Bradley Nash and Nathalie Castellanos each finished with 11 kills for the Aggies while Gwen Murphy and senior Shelbi Goode each had 10 kills. Goode has made the most of her final stretch as an Aggie, finishing with double-digit kills for the second-straight match while also leading NM State on Saturday with a career-high .421 hitting percentage.

Junior Andrea Tauai, who played the first two sets at the libero position, finished with a career-high 29 digs, which is also the most digs by any Aggie this season. Freshman Ariadnne Sierra played the libero position for the final two sets and finished with 16 digs.

NM State’s two setters were once again solid, with Taylor Livoti finishing with 26 assists while freshman Ashlyn Brown added another 19 helpers.

The Aggies also got some important help at critical times from other players such as Aleisha Coates, Kassandra Tohm and Jordan Abalos.

“Aleisha gave us a good lift in the first set, and Ari Sierra and Andi Tauai played well and gave us a good effort defensively,” NM State head coach Mike Jordan said. “Once they dialed in defensively we got much better swings in transition and that was key.”

It was a good day for the second-place team in the WAC as the Aggies won while the first and third place teams both lost on Saturday, almost guaranteeing that NM State will at least grab second place in the conference and a first-round bye in the WAC Tournament.

Conference-leading Missouri-Kansas City lost for the second time in three matches after losing at Utah Valley to fall to 10-2 in the WAC, only one game ahead of the Aggies. Each team has two matches remaining, the final one coming against each other next Saturday in the WAC finale.

Third-place Bakersfield, meanwhile, lost at Grand Canyon on Saturday to fall to 7-5 in the conference and into a tie with Seattle and Utah Valley. The Roadrunners cannot catch NM State for that critical second-place position, nor can Utah Valley, because the Aggies won both matches this season versus both teams. The only other team that has an outside chance at second place is Seattle.

“Honestly, I don’t care about seeding at this point,” Jordan said. “We just have to keep improving and overcome our injuries and our youth.”

The Aggies fell down early in the first set, a four-point UTPA rally left NM State trailing 9-6. The Broncs would lead by as many as four at 14-10. But the Aggies rallied with a 10-3 run which they capped off with five-consecutive points to take a 20-17 lead.

The Aggies would not surrender the lead the rest of the way as Castellanos and Murphy each marked big kills to give NM State the first set 25-21. The Aggies outhit UTPA .205 to .125 in the first set.

The second set seemed like a replay of the first as NM State led 6-5 before the Broncs once again marked four-straight to once again take a 9-6 lead and force an Aggie timeout. This time, however, UTPA would not relinquish the lead.

NM State cut the lead to one at 14-13 before the Broncs strung three points in a row to extend the lead. Still, the Aggies kept fighting and after a four-point rally the visiting team had knotted up the set at 21-21.

With momentum, NM State seemed to be on its way to a 2-0 lead, but UTPA marked four of the final six points to tie the match at one set apiece.

For the third-straight set, the Broncs used a four-point rally to take an early lead, this time a 7-4 lead. Later in the set UTPA used another rally, this time three-straight points, to take a 13-9 lead and force an Aggie timeout.

Whatever coach Jordan said during the timeout worked effectively as NM State came out red hot after the timeout. The Aggies went on an 11-2 run that started with four-straight points and culminated with a six-point rally that gave Jordan’s team a 20-15 lead in the critical third set. From there NM State went up 2-1 with a 25-21 third-set win.

The Broncs once again gained an early advantage in set number four, but early 5-2 and 6-4 leads were short-lived for the home team as the Aggies ran off a 13-3 run that put the set and match away. The run began with four-straight points that gave NM State the lead and was capped off by a match-high seven-point rally that put the Aggies up 17-9, an insurmountable lead for UTPA.

Up 20-12, NM State would mark the final five points of the match to take the contest and tighten up the race for WAC supremacy.

The Aggies now head into the final week of the regular season with two road matches. NM State faces last place Chicago State in Chicago, Ill., on Thursday before the big matchup with the ‘Roos on Saturday in Kansas City, Mo. Both matches are scheduled to air over Las Cruces radio on KGRT AM 570.