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The Independent Student Voice of NMSU Since 1907

NMSU Round Up

The Independent Student Voice of NMSU Since 1907

NMSU Round Up

Aggie volleyball grabs No. 2 seed in CUSA tournament after defeating FIU.

Photo+courtesy+of+NMSU+Athletics.+
Photo courtesy of NMSU Athletics.

In back-to-back matches, New Mexico State University volleyball dominated offensively against the Florida International University Panthers and took both matches to head into the Conference USA tournament with the second seed.  

Redshirt sophomore Ryleigh Whitekettle led the Aggies to their first match win, leading with 18 kills and a .471 hitting percentage. The Aggies also held it down defensively and combined for 14 blocks with redshirt junior Kacia Brown posting 10.  

In the 3-1 match, the Aggies quickly took control in the first set with a 6-0 run highlighted by a kill from redshirt sophomore Starr Williams. After securing an 11-point lead, the Panthers rallied for a 5-0 run before Williams nailed two straight kills to finish the set 25-14.  

The Aggies were off to a quick 6-3 lead in the second set after a block from Williams, but the Panthers responded with another 5-0 run to retake the lead 10-9. Trailing 14-11, sophomore Ashley Herman propelled the Aggies with a kill followed by a block and kill from Whitekettle to tie the set at 24-24. After a battle on both sides, the Panthers took the second set 28-26.  

Refusing to let up in the third set, the Aggies relit the spark, and after a combined block from junior Aleka Darko and senior Mari Sharp rose to a 10-6 lead. The Panthers retaliated with a 5-0 run to tie it at 18-18. With kills from Sharp, Williams and Whitekettle’s twelfth kill, the Aggies clinched the third set 25-20.  

Trying to force a fifth set, the Panthers fought to maintain a neck-and-neck set for the first 15 points. After a 4-0 Panther run, the Aggies returned the favor with four points of their own to tie the set 13-13. The Panthers managed to retake the lead at 18-16 before Sharp slammed a kill and a solo block to tie the score once again. In perfect position to take the set, the Aggies posted two blocks to secure the 25-22 win to finish the match.  

“We overcame some bad serving and attacked the ball pretty well,” head coach Mike Jordan said when asked about his team pulling out the win. “We blocked it reasonably well. They’re a solid team so it’s a good road win.”  

In the second match with the momentum on their side, the Aggies overpowered the Panthers in a 3-0 sweep fueled by 13 kills from Williams followed by Whitekettle with 10.  

In a messy first set, each side posted four serving errors and a combined 13 hitting errors with 10 coming from Aggies. After 11 ties and five lead changes, the Panthers grabbed a 22-20 lead but the Aggies grinded out a 6-2 run and with three straight kills from Whitekettle for the 26-24 victory.  

The Aggies continued to apply pressure as Williams posted three kills to gain a 10-5 lead in the second set. Before the Aggies could take over, the Panthers revived with a 6-1 run to take the lead at 16-15. Following five Panther errors and an 8-5 run, the Aggies had the sweep at the tips of their fingers with a 25-22 win.    

Both sides went back and forth once again in the third set trading 11 points, but the 21 total attack errors proved to be detrimental. Attempting to force the fourth set, the Panthers hustled to take a 16-15 lead, but the Aggies quickly responded with a 9-5 run. After limiting the Panthers to eight kills and two final kills from Sharp, the Aggies finished the last set of their regular season 25-20.  

After the match, coach Jordan commented on the resilience of his team in their last regular season match.  

We had to grind, but we’re happy to get the sweep today and finish second in CUSA this year,” Jordan said. “Starr is playing better. She had a really good weekend. We were high error today but kept working and made plays when we needed it.”  

The Aggies will now head into the CUSA tournament with the second seed beginning on Nov. 17-19 in Lynchburg, Virginia facing single elimination. The Aggies will face Louisiana Tech on Friday, Nov. 17 at 2 p.m. 

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About the Contributor
Juliana Trujillo, Sports Editor
Juliana Trujillo is in her first year as Sports Editor and third year with Student Media. She graduates this year with a bachelors in Journalism and Media Studies with minors in Sports Marketing as well as Social Media Management. She is excited for the opportunity of Sports Editor as a previous sports writer. She plans on attending graduate school and earning her masters in Sports Management with the hopes of working for the MLB. In her free time, she enjoys spending time outside, watching sports, and spending time with her friends. Her dog, Hazel, is also the mascot for The Round Up and is appreciated by the entire staff.

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    MarciNov 17, 2023 at 10:09 AM

    Great story of Aggie volleyball perseverance!

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