EL PASO, TX – Despite an early exit from the WAC tournament, the season was far from over for the Aggies. On Wednesday morning, the Aggies drove down Interstate 10 to face UTEP in the final game of the season. NM State settled the deal in five sets to end the season on high against the Miners.
Once again, Rylee Fay commanded storylines for the Aggies. With a trio of service aces, Fay moved up to third on NM State’s single-season aces list. The Iowa native finishes the season with 52 aces in the season.
When asked about his team’s game in El Paso, head coach Mike Jordan was pleased. “I’m proud of today’s performance. It was a good win on the road against a good UTEP team,” said Jordan. “We played a terrible third set after leading 2-0 and then gave away an lead in the fourth before finally fighting and playing decently in the fifth.”
Ryleigh Whitekettle used two early kills to give the Aggies a 7-1 lead, forcing UTEP head coach Ben Wallis to call a time-out. Similar to Whitekettle, Molly Johnson deployed a pair of early kills as their second termination took the NM State’s lead to seven (12-5).
The history of Rylee Fays The magic season on the service line continued in West Texas. In the opening set, Fay recorded her 51st ace of the season, taking her to fourth place in a single season under Aggies.
UTEP showed resilience and refused to stop in the opening set. The Miners rattled off a three-point run before the Aggies responded with a four-point run of their own. Johnson and Whitekettle highlighted the run with kills, giving NM State a 22-13 advantage.
The nine-point cushion proved necessary as the Miners put on a blistering 8-2 run. UTEP, three down, threatened a monumental comeback against NM State, but a serve error ended the Miners’ dreams and allowed NM State to walk away in a 25-21 set win.
After checking yourself in from the bank, Jayde Shelton recorded her second kill of the match to give the Aggies an 8-5 lead. UTEP responded with a 5-1 run to take a 10-9 lead. After a miner error from the service line leveled the score at 10, UTEP rattled off five unanswered points to go 15-10 ahead.
The Aggies responded with a five-point burst to reel in the Miners and repeat the score at 15. Shortly thereafter a Katie Birtcil Kill from the left gives the Aggies their first lead (21-20) since leading 9-8. Birtcil scores four of the Aggies’ last seven points to lead NM State to a 25-23 win in the second frame.
Within a set after leaving El Paso with a swing, the Aggies quickly fell behind in the third round. The Miners took a 4-1 lead, with NM State’s only point coming from a serve error.
Back-to-back kills from Shelton and Whitekettle put the Aggies within one (9-8). The Miners immediately responded with a 5-1 run of their own with two serve aces.
After a murder by Whitekettle, taylor snow put the Aggies on a 3-0 run with an ace of serve and a kill from Mosher. Refusing to go down quietly on their home ground, the Miners used a 6-1 burst to go up 21-13.
Fay advanced to third on the NM State aces list with the Aggies’ backs against the wall. Fay’s ace made the score 24-17 before UTEP conceded the set on the following serve.
The two sides traded blows in the early part of the fourth set before the Aggies won 4-2 points in a row from Birtcil. After a kill, Birtcil paired with Snow for a block and the early lead. The Aggies would hold the lead until the 7-7 mark when a UTEP service ace took the score.
With the ace mentioned above, the miners would use a 4-0 to leap forward and never really look back. From that point on, the Aggies played from behind and only struggled to tie the Miners. Shelton closed the set with a kill at 21, but the Miners closed the fourth set in a dramatic 4-0 run.
The 3pm race was officially held on Interstate 10. The Aggies dominated the early part of the fifth set by taking a 5-2 lead. NM State saw kills from Whitekettle and Mosher in the early stages. NM State followed on with a 4-0 run with two kills from Shelton and an ace of service Darian Markham.
With a 13-8 lead, the Aggies looked comfortable in the driver’s seat in the final set. The Miners showed no stopping again, rattling off four points in a row and taking the set to just one point.
Johnson decided to take a swing and end UTEP’s run on an assist from Fay. With the match point on the line, UTEP hit the blocking duo of Shelton and Mosher to fall to NM State.
- After missing most of the season through injury, Bianca Perez returned to the court for the first time since September 24. Perez dished out 20 assists in the match and added seven grabs in the process.
- Lia Moscher hit a team high of .500 against the Miners and racked up eight kills.
- Ryleigh Whitekettle and Jayde Shelton both ended in double-digit kills, 13 and 12, respectively.
- Similar to Perez, Rylee Fay done with 20+ assists and three service aces. The setter ended the match on Wednesday with 21 assists.
- As usual, Darian Markham led the way for NM State in the dig category. The McKinney, Texas junior had 23 digs en route to victory.