LAS CRUCES, N.M. - No. 16 Texas A&M recorded its second sweep of the day, defeating host New Mexico State, 25-20, 25-16, 25-19, in the Borderland Invitational tonight at the Pan American Center.
Texas A&M, which swept Arizona earlier in the day, improves to 2-0 in the tournament and 5-3 on the season. New Mexico State, which entered the contest riding a five-match win streak, falls to 6-3 overall.
Texas A&M spotted NMSU a 6-1 lead to begin the match before freshman outside hitter Hollann Hans got an out-of-system kill to stop the host Aggies' 5-0 run. Texas A&M continued to chip away at the NM State lead and trailed 11-7 before junior outside hitter Kiara McGee connected on three consecutive kills to put Texas A&M within 11-10. NMSU then committed back-to-back attack errors to give the visiting Aggies their first lead, 12-11.
NM State regained the lead at 15-14 after A&M hit long on consecutive attack attempts. Kassandra Tohm then put NMSU ahead 16-14 with a kill, but A&M countered, scoring five unanswered points to go up, 19-17. The teams would exchange points before NM State, which was outhit .241 to -.032 in the frame, committed three consecutive errors to put A&M serving for the set, 24-19. A&M hit wide on the next play, but Hans, who led all players with five kills in the stanza, came back with a kill from the back row to secure the 25-20 win.
NM State jumped out to an early lead to begin the second set before a dump kill by junior setter Stephanie Aiple, followed by solo blocks by sophomore middle blocker Kaitlyn Blake and Aiple put Texas A&M ahead, 9-7. NM State, the defending Western Athletic Conference champion, later tied the score at 10-10, before A&M reeled off five consecutive points.
NM State cut the margin to 18-15 but could get no closer as senior middle blocker Jazzmin Babers tipped the ball in for a kill and Blake followed with a kill to put A&M up 20-15, forcing NMSU to call its final timeout. The host team got a kill coming out of the timeout, but Blake countered with a kill. Texas A&M, which outhit NMSU .304 to .000 in the set, went up 22-16 on a NM State attack error before Blake and Company closed out the match with three consecutive blocks.
NM State held its largest lead of the third set at 14-9 before junior opposite hitter Ashlie Reasor recorded back-to-back kills to spark an 11-2 run that put Texas A&M ahead, 20-16. The teams then traded service errors before McGee and Babers had consecutive kills to put Texas A&M up, 23-17. A&M, which outhit NMSU, .286 to .080 in the set, served long on the next play, but Aiple put her team at match point with her third kill of the contest. NM State tipped the ball in for a kill to stay alive before McGee put down her seventh kill of the night to close out the match.
Babers hit .667 and tied Hans for match-high honors in kills with nine. Aiple dished out 29 assists while directing A&M to a .275 hitting efficiency, and Blake led all players with eight blocks as A&M outblocked NM State, 12-2, and held the host Aggies to a .010 hitting efficiency for the match. Aiple and junior libero Amy Nettles shared team-high honors in digs with seven apiece.
Texas A&M closes out the tournament against co-host UTEP, Saturday at 12 p.m. (1 p.m. CT) at Memorial Gym in El Paso, Texas.
Texas A&M Head Coach Laurie Corbelli quotes:
On getting two sweeps today...
"I was really happy with the way the team set the tone for the day. This has been a day that maybe on the back of my mind was one of the tougher days of our season; two matches that were really important for us, a third weekend on the road, a great Arizona team and a great conference champion New Mexico State team. I was picturing five set matches for both of these matches. For us to really put things together was great. I thought our blocking really improved, and our middles were involved more this week than they were last weekend in Puerto Rico. Those are the kinds of things we have been working on to continue to improve. Our ball handling was a whole lot better this weekend. That sets us up to have our setter have more options, gives her opportunities to attack and just makes our game look a lot smoother and a lot stronger and harder to stop."
On the balanced attack...
"We are really sold on the balance because so many teams now just really set out to one hitter, with two or three blockers all waiting on one hitter that is sometimes really obvious who is going to get the ball on many teams, and I really don't want to play that way. Some days we have to, but we prefer not to."
On the improved serving...
"I thought we got over the hump with our serving. We did not serve well the first two weekends at all, and I thought today our serving was much more aggressive and much more on point, and we just looked a lot more confident in our serving. That was really good to see."