The Independent Student Voice of NMSU Since 1907

NMSU Round Up

The Independent Student Voice of NMSU Since 1907

NMSU Round Up

The Independent Student Voice of NMSU Since 1907

NMSU Round Up

Aggies finish 2-1 in their opening tournament in Santa Barbara

Photo courtesy of NMSU athletics.

The New Mexico State volleyball team, under head coach Mike Jordon who is entering his 26th season with the team, finished their 2-1 weekend with an impressive performance in the Thunderdome Classic Tournament hosted by UC Santa Barbara. Their opening tournament was dictated by impressive defense from senior Darian Markham and strong offense led by redshirt sophomore Ryleigh Whitekettle.  


In their first game against the Gauchos, the Aggies narrowly dropped the first set finishing at 28-26, nearly overcoming a deficit of 20-10. Their effort would begin with a kill from junior Sydney McIntosh before UCSB quickly retaliated to take a 11-3 lead. Then with three aces from sophomore Biance Perez, NM State would begin to close the gap but the Gauchos continued to dominate offensively.  

Riding their earlier momentum and after a kill by sophomore transfer Starr Williams, the Aggies would take a 6-5 lead in the second set. Then UCSB’s Michelle Ohwobete would earn her tenth kill of the night to finish the set 25-17 and boost her team to a 2-0 lead. Despite the dropped set, Ryleigh Whitekettle would record a team-best of seven kills.  

In the third set, the Aggies would stay sharp maintaining an early solid lead, pushing and pulling against the Gauchos, eventually tying it up 19-19, narrowly losing the set and the match 25-22 but recorded 27 kills, seven aces and five blocks. 

“UCSB has a veteran team and it showed.”  We had quite a few people playing their first Division I match, and they were playing a tempo that’s a little too fast for us right now. Two of the three games were competitive, and we had chances to win but didn’t execute. We will learn from it and play better tomorrow.”  


The Aggies’ swept their second opponent, the University of North Florida Ospreys in their second match in the Thunderdome Classic. 

Following a deficit of 13-5, the Aggies would continue to keep fighting earning14 of the next 18 points. Mari Sharp played a major role in this shift of momentum with two kills and an ace. With help from Whitekettle and her five kills and sophomore Kacia Brown with four kills, NM State managed to close out their set 25-22 marking their first win of the classic.  

The back-and-forth nature of the second set would put both teams to the test, but the Aggies came out on top with 20 kills and finished out the longer set 29-27 over the Ospreys. Whitekettle, Sharp and Williams combined for 13 of those kills while the team recorded a season-high .346 hitting percentage.  

The final set was certainly more of the same action and ended with another score of 25-22. Both Whitekettle and Williams recorded kills at pivotal moments to keep the Aggies in the lead towards the end of the set.   

The stats really paint the picture of how dominant the Aggies were throughout this match, boasting a whopping 48 kills (of which the redshirt sophomore Ryleigh Whitekettle had 17), five aces, nine blocks, 35 assists, and 45 digs, on top of only having three service errors in the first two sets and five in the final set.  

“We attacked the ball well today,” head coach Mike Jordan said post match. “We were able to take advantage of a mismatch or two. Ryleigh was aggressive on the ball today.  We’re limited with some injury issues, but we battled a bit better today and outplayed a good team.”  


In their final game of the tournament, the Aggies pulled off yet another sweep, this time against the University of Denver Pioneers.  

In the first set, the teams remained within three points of each other with NMSU maintaining the lead as they capitalized on two consecutive Denver errors, responding with a kill to create a lead of 20-16. NM State finished at 25-20 with 11 kills and four aces. 

The second set mirrored the first with a tight score until the Aggies dished out a solid three kills in a row going up 21-17, and ended the set with a 25-23 victory, stuffing the Pioneers attempt at a comeback. The Aggies tallied up an impressive 15 kills in the set, furthering their impressive offensive stats of the night. 

After evening up the score at 10-10 in the final set, the Aggies would keep pushing forward, never losing the lead, to close out the game 25-19. A few notable players included, redshirt freshman Alexandria Connatser with seven block assists and a solo block, Ryleigh Whitekettle, who led the team in kills once again tonight, tallying 11 total, with Starr Williams right behind her at 10 and sophomore Rilen Garcia finishing with 11 assists off the bench.  

“We got better as the weekend went on which is what you want to see,” head coach Mike Jordan said after the match. “We did a lot of good things and had a lot of good moments. Our ceiling is still really high, and we’ve got a lot of things that need to be better. We beat two good teams and got closer as a group.”  

Overall, a dominant performance from the Aggies in their season opener proved that when their offense gets rolling, they can dominate the competition. Next up on the schedule is the NM State Invitational, set to kick off on Friday, Sept. 1 between Arizona State and UTEP. NMSU will face their first opponent on Friday against San Francisco at 7 p.m. followed by Arizona State on Sunday at 1 p.m.  

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About the Contributor
Kaden Martinez
Kaden Martinez, Staff Writer
Kaden Martinez is entering his first year at The Round Up as both a staff and a sports writing intern. This is his first time writing for a local publication (or any publication for that matter!). He is also entering his first year as a freshman majoring in Cybersecurity with a minor in Computer Engineering. Since his dad is in the military, he has moved all around New Mexico, having lived in Albuquerque, Springer, Maxwell, and finally Rio Rancho where he graduated. He is the oldest of three siblings. Kaden has always enjoyed writing, whether it was school related or as a hobby. He decided to become a member of The Round Up both to broaden his horizons and step out of his comfort zone by trying something new. Some of his interests include exercising, playing sports, video games, TV shows, and movies.

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    Brenda GuaraAug 29, 2023 at 6:19 AM

    This is a great article. I’m not an avid reader of sports articles, but this was an astounding read. Captivating! High five to the writer