New Mexico State volleyball faced Utah Valley in the championship match of the 2018 Western Athletic Conference tournamentat the Icardo Center on Saturday night. The Aggies trounced the Wolverines 19-25, 28-26, 25-20, 25-17 to earn the WAC tournament title.
“I’m just really proud of this team. I didn’t know what to expect. I knew it would be hard replacing five seniors, all the injuries we’ve had, and having the young talent on the floor that hadn’t been testedprior,” head coach Mike Jordan said. “We got tougher and better at some things. Any time you get a chance to dancing, you have to cherish it.”
How it Happened
NM State (24-7) opened the match in a tight battle with UVU (19-13) and at the media timeout, the Aggies trailed by a pair. Back-to-back points for New Mexico State that included a block by Megan Hart andAshley Anselmo tied the set but after a kill by the opposition put the Aggies behind by three, Jordan used a timeout to stall the Utah Valley action. Despite the break, New Mexico State was unable to find its rhythm late in the set and the Aggies dropped theopening set 25-19.
Another point-for-point battle progressed into the second set but after allowing four-score rally that included three-straight attack errors by the Aggies, Jordan burned a timeout. Hart nailed a kill outof the middle to break up the run the NM State squad quickly found themselves down 15-10. New Mexico State did not go away quietly and following a Savannah Davison kill down the line, the Aggies scored three-straight with Halle Razo serving to come within apair. Another rally by the Crimson and White followed with Briana Ainsworth serving and the run put the Aggies ahead 19-17 late in the set. Despite holding the lead, the Wolverines surged back, tying the set 20-20 and even holding a 22-21 advantage before NMState used its second timeout. Not giving up, New Mexico State crept back and tied the set 24-24 before going back-and forth with the Wolverines in search for the two-point advantage. Davison proved to be the much needed spark late, tallying the final two killsof the set to give NM State the 28-26 victory.
In the third set, the Aggies kept the set close but a late rally with Briana Ainsworth behind the line helped providea much needed spark. After the senior served an ace that put NM State ahead 16-13, back-to-backattack errors by the opposition put the Crimson and White ahead by five and UVU burned its first timeout. Following the break, the New Mexico State offense remained alive and a kill by Hart to put NM State ahead by seven led to another Wolverine timeout. Despitea late run by Utah Valley that brought the opposition within three, the Aggies maintained control and a block by Julianna Salanoa and Tatyana Battle sealed the 25-20 victory.
The team looked to keep its momentum flowing and an attack error by the Wolverines put NM State ahead by three early in the set. The Aggies never backed down a kill by Davison sent the team into the mediatimeout with a 15-11 lead. A three-point run followed the break, putting the team ahead by seven with Ainsworth serving late in the set. With the title in sight, Battle came through with a kill to reach match point and Brigette Lowe had the kill down the linethat gave the squad the 25-17 win and the tournament title.
By The Numbers
The New Mexico State squad tallied 61 kills on .200 hitting while holding UVU to a 45 kills and a .109 hitting clip. Davison led the way with 16 kills and accompanied the mark with 18 digs. Battle posted14 kills and 16 digs while fellow senior Ainsworth had 27 assists and 14 digs. Hart also posted a double-double with 13 kills and 10 block assists.
Following the contest three Aggie players were named to the all-tournament team. Battle and Davison received all-tournament honors while Hart received the coveted Most Valuable Player accolade.
With the victory, the Aggies earn the WAC’s automatic berth for the NCAA Tournament, marking the fourth title in the last seven years.