Aggies lose first game against GCU since 2014


Emma Hood

NM State Aggies lose 14 game win streak against GCU

The New Mexico State Aggies traveled to the Antelope Gymnasium and lost to Grand Canyon University in a close five set match for the first time since 2014. The Lopes’ home court advantage played a key role with a large student section and all around boisterous gym.  

Junior Katie Birtcil tied her career high kills with 24 and sophomore libero Darian Markham earned 20 digs, but the Lopes were still able to outlast the Aggies.  

After they won last Thursday’s game against the Lopes, the Aggies had the momentum on their side and looked to maintain their win streak, but instead fell to 5-2 in conference play.  

NMSU started the first set with efficient blocking that initiated a 6-0 run. Redshirt senior Lia Mosher and Katie Birtcil combined for several blocks that prevented the Lopes from ever gaining the lead. Birtcil fired seven kills and proved to be the main competition for GCU. The powerful performance by the Aggies led them to take the first set 25-20. 

The blocking effort continued for the Aggies in the second set and they were on to an early lead. Grand Canyon then came out strong behind the service line and was able to bring the momentum back to their side. Birtcil had several timely kills that kept NMSU in contention, but there were too many forced errors and GCU took the second set 25-21.  

The Aggies completely overpowered the Lopes and had a .550 hitting percentage in the third set. They maintained the lead throughout the entire set and executed every attack without an error. GCU’s offense suffered greatly as they committed more hitting errors than points earned. Senior outside hitter Cat Kelly and Birtcil each earned four kills and NMSU won 25-15.  

The Lopes were determined to take the fourth set and force a fifth. They were onto an early lead and prevented the Aggies from catching up. Several long rallies that ended with points for GCU allowed them to control the momentum. NMSU’s Shaney Lipscomb and Birtcil were powerful forces at the net and from the back row, but too many balls fell on the side of NM State. Grand Canyon successfully forced the fifth set with the 25-22 win.  

The fifth set was a neck and neck battle. There were a total of nine ties throughout the short 15 point set. The offense was aggressive on both sides, but a late kill by GCU’s Ashley Lifgren led to a 3-0 run that solidified their win. The Lopes remain undefeated in their home gym after the 15-13 fifth set.  

Disappointed after the match, Aggie Head Coach Mike Jordan spoke on his team’s struggles. “We were too high error and gave up too many scoring runs,” Jordan said. “Grand Canyon dug the ball well and out-served us tonight. We have to learn from it and do our jobs more consistently. That all starts with preparing better.”  

The Aggies will head back to the Antelope Gymnasium Thursday to face Stephen F. Austin University at 3 p.m. MT. They have a fast turn around and are back on the court Friday against Sam Houston University at 6 p.m. MT.  

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