New Mexico State volleyball defeats Grand Canyon in four sets for 14th straight win over Lopes

NMSU

LAS CRUCES, N.M. – Death. Taxes. NM State beating Grand Canyon.

While the last one of those can’t quite be categorized as one of life’s certainties just yet, the Aggies were able to continue their all-time dominance over the Lopes Thursday night.

Katie Birtcil put on a splendid offensive show by finishing with a match-high 19 kills and a career-high six service aces, head coach Mike Jordan returned to the sidelines after missing the previous three matches due to a positive COVID-19 test and the NM State volleyball team won its 14th consecutive match over Grand Canyon by a 3-1 score inside the Pan American Center.

SET ONE | Grand Canyon 25, NM State 18
• A pair of early kills from Cat Kelly and an additional one from Shaney Lipscomb allowed the hosts to jump out to a 3-1 lead, but the early stages of the frame represented some of the only high points for NM State.
• Ahead by a 4-3 score, NM State committed a trio of unforced errors – one from the service line and two on the attack – which represented the starting point of a 7-0 run by Grand Canyon. McKenzie Wise accounted for two Lopes terminations through that surge which put the Aggies in a 10-4 hole.
• With Grand Canyon establishing a strong front-row defensive presence early on, NM State’s attacks frequent went long or wide. The Aggies committed seven unforced attack errors and eight in all through the frame.
• Three consecutive service aces off the hand of Birtcil cut the Lopes’ lead to 18-15, but the visitors responded by going on a 5-0 run to extend their edge to 23-15.
• NM State hit just .047 in the frame, while the Lopes committed only three attack errors and attacked at a .294 clip to take an early lead.

SET TWO | NM State 25, Grand Canyon 21
• Carrying over the momentum they gathered up from the opening frame, the Lopes connected for four of the first six points in the second.
• NM State’s deficit grew to as much as four points, 11-7, following a string of three unanswered points by the Lopes. After that, though, the hosts made their move.
• Lipscomb was one of the driving forces behind a 6-0 NM State run as the senior struck for a kill and a service ace. Birtcil added a termination while Lindsay Blakey contributed a solo block to help NM State grab its first lead of the set, 13-11.
• Birtcil served up another ace – her fourth – to hike the Aggies’ advantage to 16-13, but the Lopes wouldn’t go down easily. GCU rattled of four consecutive points to take a 17-16 lead and from there a nip-and-tuck battle took hold for a few points.
• Deadlocks at 17-17, 18-18 and 19-19 made thing close for a while, but NM State’s 7-2 run to close the set was the difference.
• Carly Aigner-Swesey turned in a service ace and a kill through the set-clinching surge while Mari Sharp started to turn things around by hammering home two terminations of her own.
• NM State recovered on offense, hitting .225 in the set to knot matters at 1-1.

SET THREE | NM State 25, Grand Canyon 21
• Birtcil, Lipscomb and Sharp combined to fuel an early dose of offense by the hosts. Three terminations each from Birtcil and Lipscomb and another pair by Sharp allowed NM State to move ahead 10-8.
• The fifth ace off the hand of Birtcil pushed NM State’s edge to 15-10 and the hosts’ lead continued to grow until it reached 18-11 following one of the six Grand Canyon attack errors in the frame.
• Making a run at the lead, the Lopes took off on a 6-0 run which was aided by three NM State attack errors and a service ace. With their lead down to 18-17, NM State used a 4-1 surge to help the Lopes’ comeback bid.
• Blakey and Lipscomb teamed up for a rejection which made the score 22-18 in favor of NM State. Two more Birtcil kills and another courtesy of Lia Mosher ended the set and put the Aggies up 2-1.
• The Aggies’ defense came through in a big way, limiting the Lopes to five kills, six errors and a -.029 hitting percentage.

SET FOUR | NM State 25, Grand Canyon 18
• With their sights set on victory, the Aggies came out of the gates strong in the final frame. Lipscomb contributed two kills and an ace during the hosts’ 5-1 run to begin the set.
• Five of Birtcil’s 19 terminations came in the final set and consecutive kills by the outside hitter hiked the Aggies’ lead to 17-11.
• Birtcil added a sixth ace for good measure, helping NM State’s lead grow to 21-14.
• Grand Canyon simply had no answer for an NM State offense which finally hit peak efficiency. The Aggies pounded down 16 kills and hit .333 in the final frame to win their second-straight WAC match.

KEY PERFORMERS/STATISTICS OF NOTE
• Birtcil’s high-powered offensive display was set up by Aigner-Swesey who put forth a 46-assist, 12-dig double-double.
• Lipscomb finished with 13 terminations and finished up a double-double effort of her own with 11 digs. Sharp, meanwhile, finished just a single dig shy of a double-double by going for 10 kills and nine digs.
• Annabelle Kubinski contributed 14 kills to the Lopes’ cause and hit a match-high .684. Klaire Mitchell added 35 assists, 13 digs, a service ace and a solo rejection in her team’s second-straight setback.
• NM State moved to 20-1 all-time against Grand Canyon with Thursday night’s victory.
• The Aggies also showed off their service prowess in the win, coming up with a season-high 10 aces.
• NM State’s Pack the Pan Am match lived up to expectations with 1,452 individuals hunkering down inside the Aggies’ home for the match.

COMING UP NEXT
• For the second time in the span of 72 hours, the Aggies and Lopes will duke it out on the volleyball court. NM State owns a two-match lead over Grand Canyon for the top spot in the WAC’s West Division standings and Saturday night in Phoenix the teams will close out their regular season series against one another at 7:00 p.m. MT.

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