CHICAGO, IL – Katie Birtcil went off for a career-high 19 kills, the most from an Aggie this season, and the New Mexico State volleyball team overcame a tough first set for a 21-25, 25-20, 25-23, 25-17, win over Chicago State in Chicago on Monday night.
The match did not count towards NM State’s Western Athletic Conference record.
“We were flat and bad early but we eventually turned it around,” said head coach Mike Jordan. “We need to be more mature when things aren’t going our way. It’s easy to be a good teammate when you’re playing well. All 13 who traveled played and we got really good efforts from Katie Birtcil, Carly Aigner-Swesey, Natalie Mikels and Jordan George.”
The Aggies (14-1, 13-1 WAC) came out flat but found themselves up 21-20 late in the first set. However, the Cougars refused to be intimidated by the WAC Regular Season Champions and closed the first set on a 5-0 run to steal the set 25-21.
NM State and Chicago State were locked in a tight battle to start the second set with the two teams tied at 13 midway through the set. The Aggies then went on a 4-0 to force a Cougar timeout before eventually extending their lead to 23-17. The Cougars responded with three of the next four points but Savannah Davison put away the set with a kill for the 25-20 final in set two. Birtcil recorded 12 of her kills in the first two sets with six in the first and six in the second.
The third set was another back-and-forth affair with the Aggies and Cougars tied at 15 after the media timeout. However, two quick kills from Davison and an ace from Natalie Mikels forced a CSU timeout with the Aggies leading 18-15. NM State extended its lead to 22-16 before a 6-2 run pulled Chicago State within one, 24-23. Then, Victoria Barrett ended the set with her fourth kill of the frame. Davison was electric in the third set, recording six kills on nine swings.
With victory in sight, NM State turned on the jets and started the fourth frame on an 8-1 run. The Aggies never looked back, hitting .333 in the deciding frame on their way to the 25-17 win in the decider.
Birtcil’s 19 kills are the most by an Aggie this season, eclipsing the previous high of 18 set by Victoria Barret against Dixie State on Jan. 25. The Tucson, Ariz., native finished with 19 kills on 38 attempts with just two errors to hit .447.
Barrett, a freshman, finished with 15 kills while Davison added 12 on an efficient .435 hitting percentage. Senior setter Natalie Mikels finished with a double-double (31 assists, 12 digs) and added three aces to move into a fifth-place tie in the NM State record books with 137 career aces. Aigner-Swesey finished with a near double-double chipping in 14 helpers and nine digs as the Aggie offense hit .279.
NM State is now set to finish the regular season with another bout against Chicago State tomorrow, March 23, at 12 p.m. (MT). Aggie Nation can stream all the action live on the WAC Digital Network.