The New Mexico State volleyball team improved to 2-0 in the La Quinta Invitational Saturday afternoon inside the Pan American Center, defeating the Drake Bulldogs 3-1 (25-22, 21-25, 25-22, 25-18). The Aggies are now 5-0 on the year with the win over the Bulldogs.
The Aggies were once again lead by sophomore outside hitter Meredith Hays who finished the match with a team-high 18 kills. Junior outside hitter Lauren Loerch finished with 12 kills and a team-high .379 hitting percentage while junior middle blocker Preslie Alexander also finished in double-digits in kills with 10. On the defensive side, junior middle blocker Desiree Scott came up big for the Aggies finishing with seven total blocks, five of which were solo blocks. The Tucson native also finished with eight kills in the match.
Drake started the first set by marking the first point of the set. It would, however, be the last time the Bulldogs would see the lead in the set. The set went back and forth with Hays coming up with a couple of big early kills for NM State. Neither team could score more than two consecutive points until the final moments of the set. The Aggies took a late 22-16 lead before the Bulldogs went on a 4-0 run to cut the Aggie lead to two. It was the first time in the set Drake marked more than two consecutive points. NM State dug in, however, and finished off the set with a big kill by Loerch. Hays marked seven kills in the set and the Aggies finished with a .400 hitting percentage.
Set two began with the Aggies taking an early 10-4 lead aided by a couple of Hays' kills and her team-leading 10th ace of the season. Just as it seemed N M State was going to take control of the set and the match, Drake went on a 5-0 run aided by excellent frontline blocking and a couple of Aggies' hitting errors. Still the Aggies held onto the lead late, leading 21-18. The Bulldogs, however, scored the final seven points of the set to get back into the match.
The Aggies took an early 5-1 lead in the third set led by a kill and great solo block by Scott. Errors, however, once again put NM State in a hole as Drake came back to take a 15-11 lead midway through the set. The Aggies rallied behind a couple of big kills by Loerch and went on a 9-0 run to once again take command. Loerch finished with five kills in the set to lead the Aggies.
The Aggies were once again led by Hays and Scott at the beginning of the final set. The Bulldogs, however, continued to match NM State point for point. The set was tied at 11 midway through the set. A couple of Loerch kills following the tie gave the Aggies some breathing room. NM State put the set and match away with a 4-0 run late in the set aided by a couple of big blocks by Scott. Hays had her final kill of the afternoon to finish off the Bulldogs.
The Aggies face Northwestern, who is also 2-0 in the tournament, tonight starting at 7 p.m. inside the Pan Am Center. The winner of tonight's match will be crowned tournament champion. The match can be heard live in Las Cruces on KSNM AM 570 with Kyle Doperalski on play-by-play.