LAS CRUCES, N.M. – The New Mexico State volleyball team stormed back for a five-set win over the Big 10’s Northwestern, 25-19, 19-25, 17-25, 28-26, 15-8, to open the Springhill Suites Invitational in the Pan American Center on Friday afternoon. This was the first Aggie volleyball game with fans in the Pan Am since Nov. 16, 2019.
“I don’t think we’re real confident yet so it’s easy for a young team to hang it up after the second and third set,” said head coach Mike Jordan. “But we kept battling and I think a lot of that was the defensive effort. We were digging a ton of balls. Alana Embry played her best match so that was good and Cat Kelly came in and gave us a lift.”
NM State (3-1, 0-0 WAC) stormed out of the gates, taking set one comfortably, 25-19, while holding the Wildcats (1-2, 0-0 Big 10) to just .025 hitting in the set. Shaney Lipscomb was sublime in the first set with six kills on seven swings.
However, the Wildcats bounced back in a big way, taking set two 25-19 and set three 25-17 to take a 2-1 lead into the fourth. Northwestern hit a blistering .300 in the third set. Then, the Aggies came alive, racing out to a 17-12 lead in the fourth frame.
Again, Northwestern refused to go down easy and responded with a run to take a 25-24 lead late in the frame. Katie Birtcil tied the set back up at 25 before Lindsay Blakey made the play of the match. Blakey, who had just entered as an exceptional sub due to an on-court injury, came up big for the Aggies, serving up an ace on her first service attempt of the year. From there, the Aggies closed out the set 28-26 to force a fifth frame.
The fifth set was all Aggies with their balanced attack too much for Northwestern as NM State won the match with a dominant 15-8 fifth set.
Birtcil was exceptional, recording 15 kills on 37 attempts to go along with five blocks while Lipscomb finished with 13 kills and five blocks. AVCA All-Region middle was a problem for Northwestern all night as she hit .364 with 11 kills and five blocks. The Aggies’ two setters were in synch with the hitters as Carly Aigner-Swesey finished with 21 assists and Alana Embry with 19. Libero Darian Markham was all over the place. Recording a career-high 24 digs.
As a team, the Aggie block was exceptional as they finished with 10 while affecting swings all afternoon.
NM state now ready’s for a Friday night showdown with Arizona at 7 p.m. (MT), tonight, Sept. 3, in the Pan American Center. Fans unable to attend can stream all the action live on the WAC Digital Network or listen live on KRUX 91.5 FM and TuneIn with Adam Young on the call.