EDINBURG, Texas – The Aggies’ postseason hopes (15-12, 7-7 WAC) came to an end Thursday morning in South Texas when they lost in three sets (31-29, 25-20, 25-20) to third-place Grand Canyon ( 17-9, 10-4 WAC).
NM State was led on the offensive side by two first-year Aggies as both Molly Johnson and Jayde Shelton finished the match with nine kills. Shelton was also one of four Aggies to end the match with two block assists – along with taylor snow, Lia Moscher and Ryleigh Whitekettle.
Darian Markham led the Aggies in the back row and finished with 19 digs. Johnson also reached a double-digit dig area with 10 digs.
The Aggies managed to block and dig out the Lopes in the match, but NM State finished the set with a .188 clip while GCU recorded a .238 batting average.
After he got off the bank Jayde Shelton got the momentum going as she grabbed two early kills as the Aggies took a 9-8 lead.
NM State’s quarterfinal opponents had the third-highest batting average in the conference during the regular season, but it was the Lopes’ errors that put the Aggies in the driver’s seat in the first set. In fact, six of the Aggies’ first 15 points came in the name of Grand Canyon errors.
Later, the Aggies would take a three-point lead (19-16). Lia Moscher and Ryleigh Whitekettle combined to stuff First Team All-WAC member Tatum Parrott’s attack. However, Grand Canyon would then deliver five straight points to turn the set on its head and take a 21-19 lead.
A 22-20 loss, a pair of GCU errors then brought the Aggies back to level. The Aggies would eventually work their way up to three set points at 24-23, 26-25 and 29-28, but Grand Canyon would ultimately win the marathon set 31-29. The increasingly important first set is particularly important for the Aggies as they went into the game with a 12-0 record in games where they won the first set, while this season they have lost the first set 3-11.
Despite the falling set, the Aggies beat the Lopes by .209 to .148 in the first frame.
After the disappointing end of the opening set, the Aggies went 3-1 up early in the second game. However, Grand Canyon would go on a four-point run to gain a two-point lead.
NM State was later down five points (10-5) before a GCU error was followed by an error taylor snow Ace to reduce the lead to three. The deficit would then increase back to five (12-7) and stay at four or five until a Jayde Shelton kill would bring the gap back down to three at 23-20.
Midway through the game, the Aggies struggled to defend against Klaire Mitchell’s dump set attack as she grabbed three kills for the Lopes. Grand Canyon later took a two-set lead as they finished the set with a 25-20 score. Unlike the first set when they accumulated 17 hitting errors, the Lopes finished the second game with just three attacking errors.
As in the second set, the Aggies took an early 5-2 lead, highlighted by a combo block with Mosher and Whitekettle.
Finally, Grand Canyon capitalized on a run to previously tie the game at seven points taylor snow ended the scoring burst with a kill midway. The Aggies then went straight back to the same game, only this time with Senior Lia Moscher as they took a 9-7 lead.
A few moments later Molly Johnson would have two chances for a kill as her first swing of the point resulted in a flyover that sent her straight back to the ground on the GCU side – giving the Aggies a 13-10 advantage.
Grand Canyon would even fight its way back to the set at 17 a piece. The Lopes then scored the next five points to control the set before ending the game in a 25-20 set win.
- For only the third time this season, NM State ended without at least one hitter recording double-digit kills.
- The Aggies had their fair share of opportunities Thursday morning, finishing with a season-high in attacks during a three-set game at 128.
- Mike JordanThe squad of has also defended fairly well, scoring second in a three-set game this season
- NM State did the most damage on first-ball attacks, with 25 of their 42 unreturnable kills.
- The opening set was not only the longest set the Aggies played all season, but also the longest set in the WAC tournament since 2007, when sets were played to 30 points.
Though the Aggies’ hopes of a sixth WAC tournament title ended Thursday, NM State still has one game on its schedule.
The Aggies will travel to El Paso, Texas on Wednesday, November 23 for a noon match against I-10 rivals UTEP. The Miners are led by former NM State assistant coach Ben Wallis.
Wednesday’s matchup will also be the only meeting between the Aggies and any of their rivals this season as they have yet to play UTEP or New Mexico this season.