COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – For a set and a half it seemed the New Mexico State volleyball team was the one ranked in the top 25, then it slipped away for a while, then there was a resurgence, before the Aggies finally fell to No. 16 Arizona State on Saturday at the Falcon Classic in a rollercoaster of a match that finished the Sun Devils way, 22-25, 25-22, 25-18, 20-25, 15-7.
It was an up and down day for the Aggies (2-1), unfortunately, the final slope went downwards. NM State seemed in control during the first portion of the match, then fell down two sets to one, before coming back and tying the match at two sets and taking a lead midway through the final and deciding set. But that’s when Arizona State (2-0) took control of the set and the match.
A kill by Aggie freshman Tatyana Battle gave NM State a 7-6 lead in the final set, but that would be the last time the Aggies would see a point go their way. The Sun Devils ended the match on a 9-0 run to hand NM State its first defeat of the young season.
“I’m really pleased with a lot of what we did today,” Aggie head coach Mike Jordan said. “We had a lot of great moments, but Arizona State was just a little more experienced and mentally tougher at crunch time.”
NM State committed a total of 35 attacking errors which led to a .151 hitting percentage, while Arizona State hit at .290. For the third-straight match senior Gwen Murphy led both teams in kills, this time finishing with 16. For the second-straight match freshman Brianna Ainsworth had a match high in assists, tallying 27 versus the Sun Devils. Senior Taylor Livoti added 20. Senior Bradley Nash (Navajo) added 9 kills and 3 blocks for the Aggies
“Gwen Murphy is just a superstar,” Jordan said. “She was awesome once again today.”
The day began well for NM State as the Aggies used two separate three-point rallies to take an early 9-5 lead in the opening set. Although Arizona State rallied to tie the set midway through, NM State never trailed after being down 1-2 through three points and took the set 25-22.
The Aggies then came flying out the gates in set number two and had a dominating 15-5 lead 20 points in. It seemed NM State would handily take set two and take a 2 -0 lead over the No. 16 team in the country, seemingly all but wrapping up a top-25 win.
But perhaps the Aggies started celebrating too early, as the Sun Devils showed why they are one of the best teams in the country. Arizona State would mark 20 of the final 27 points, including 10 of the last 12, in a furious comeback that saw NM State blow its 10-point lead and saw the Sun Devils tie the match at a set apiece.
After the Aggies also lost the third set, it seemed that a sure NM State victory would turn into an easy Arizona State win. But the resilient Aggies did not throw in the towel and came back to win a tight fourth set that saw a total of 12 ties and six lead changes. The final tie came at 18-18, but NM State captured eight of the final 10 points to win 25-20 and force the decisive fifth set.
“We had a big lead in set number two and let it slip away,” Jordan said. “But again, we were really impressive at times.”
The final set had ties at 3-3, 4-4, 5-5, 6-6 and 7-7. Yet, from that point on, it would be all Arizona State.
The Aggies have little time to ponder the thrilling loss as they still have one more match in Colorado Springs. NM State faces Montana on Sunday beginning at 11 a.m. (MT) to conclude play at the Falcon Classic. Live stats will be available for the match by going to the volleyball schedule page atwww.NMStateSports.com and clicking on the ‘live stats’ link.