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Graphic Courtesy: NMSU Athletics

Graphic Courtesy: NMSU Athletics

Graphic Courtesy: NMSU Athletics

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The New Mexico State volleyball team is licking their chops entering the 2017 season. As the pre-season WAC favorites, the Aggies put forth a solid showing at the Golden Dome Invitational at Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. They went 2-1 in the tournament, defeating Rhode Island and Valparaiso.

Their lone loss came at the hands of the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. Last season, the Aggies won the WAC regular season championship and entered the 2016 WAC Tournament as the number one seed.  However, they were upset by the number five seed, UT-Rio Grande Valley, who went on to win the tournament.   Some of the returning players, like seniors Sasha Lee Thomas and Jordan Abalos, are looking forward to the opportunity to redeem themselves this season.

They went 2-1 in the tournament, defeating Rhode Island and Valparaiso.  Their lone loss came at the hands of the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. Last season, the Aggies won the WAC regular season championship and entered the 2016 WAC Tournament as the number one seed.

However, they were upset by the number five seed, UT-Rio Grande Valley, who went on to win the tournament.   Some of the returning players, like seniors Sasha Lee Thomas and Jordan Abalos, are looking forward to the opportunity to redeem themselves this season.

“We kind of use that as a motivational tool,” said senior outside hitter Jordan Abalos. “Any time that we thought ‘We’re tired today,’ we use that as motivation to make us get through things. We’re not going to let that happen again, and we’re not going to fall short.  This is our last year together as a team, and we want to make it the best that we possibly can.”  Abalos is one of five seniors on the Aggies, the others being Sasha Lee Thomas, Kaylee Neal, Ari Sierra, and Kassandra Tohm.

Abalos is one of five seniors on the Aggies, the others being Sasha Lee Thomas, Kaylee Neal, Ari Sierra, and Kassandra Tohm.

“As a senior, you should be the most experienced on how coaches want things to look and how things should be,” Abalos said.  She also pointed out how she learned to be a leader through experiences with past players like Gwen Murphy, who graduated from NMSU in 2015 and was highly regarded as a great leader by her teammates.  Now, it is Abalos’s turn to embrace a roll of leadership for her teammates.

She also pointed out how she learned to be a leader through experiences with past players like Gwen Murphy, who graduated from NMSU in 2015 and was highly regarded as a great leader by her teammates.  Now, it is Abalos’s turn to embrace a roll of leadership for her teammates.

Speaking of leadership, head coach Mike Jordan is entering his 20th season at the helm of the volleyball program at New Mexico State.  Jordan said that he has elevated expectations for his team this season, and is also looking to his seniors to carry the squad deep into post-season play.

Jordan said that he has elevated expectations for his team this season, and is also looking to his seniors to carry the squad deep into post-season play.

“We expect a lot.  When you’ve got seniors you hope they’re leaders, and not everybody is.  We’ve had our share of poor leaders in the past, but we’ve had a lot of great ones,” Jordan said.  Just as Jordan has high stakes for his veterans, he’s not cutting the younger players any slack either. The newcomers for the Aggies include eight freshmen, and Coach Jordan is hoping that they can find a way to fit into their roles and to fit into their roles.

Just as Jordan has high stakes for his veterans, he’s not cutting the younger players any slack either. The newcomers for the Aggies include eight freshmen, and Coach Jordan is hoping that they can find a way to fit into their roles and to fit into their roles.

“Trusting the process is a big deal for us.  When we’re talking about getting better, you’ve got to have a plan, a goal, and a vision on how to get there,” Jordan said regarding how his younger players can improve throughout the season.  “Getting in the gym every day and making every repetition count, that’s kind of a new deal for them.  Hopefully they’re learning, and they’ll just get better as we go along.”

The 2-1 Aggies are getting ready to host the New Mexico State Springhill Suites Invitational this weekend for their home-opening tournament.  Three other teams will be coming out to Las Cruces this weekend, they include UNLV, UCLA, and North Dakota.  All three participated in the NCAA Tournament last season.  Junior outside hitter Tatyanna Battle is excited for the quality of competition.

“I think it’s a very important game for us.  I think it’s fun for us to get to play (Power 5 Conference) teams at the beginning of the season to test where we’re at as a team.  I think that it’ll be good for us to come out strong, just to know that we can beat any team if we put our minds to it,” Battle said.

UCLA will not be the only Power 5 school that the Aggies play this year either.  They already lost to a tough Notre Dame team in four sets.  Later down the road in mid-September, the Aggies will get a look at the Arizona Wildcats, who they lost to in four sets last season.  Other notable games will include the annual rivalry games against UNM and UTEP.  The Aggies will play the Miners at home on September

Other notable games will include the annual rivalry games against UNM and UTEP.  The Aggies will play the Miners at home on September 19 and will get a break from conference play on October 16 to play the Lobos in the Pan Am.

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Volleyball Begins Home Schedule Tonight