By Mike Mulcahy
SAN DIEGO — New Mexico claimed a five-set win over preseason Mountain West favorite San Diego State last month in Albuquerque.
But, on the return trip, the Aztecs dashed any thoughts of a season sweep.
New Mexico volleyball suffered its first match sweep of the season Saturday afternoon, as San Diego State topped the Lobos 3-0 (27-29, 17-25, 26-28) on Aztec Court in Peterson Gym.
The Aztecs controlled the match in virtually every category and held the Lobos without a set victory for the first time since the two played each other last year on Nov. 17 in Albuquerque.
New Mexico (18-5, 8-4 Mountain West) had its opportunities throughout the match, but couldn’t close out San Diego State in sets one and three, which saw the Aztecs lose leads just in time to win in extra points.
In both instances, New Mexico held set point, but failed to convert.
San Diego State (12-10, 7-5) was able to translate leads into victories, however, including a dominant second set, which saw New Mexico stumble early on as SDSU climbed to a double-digit lead.
The Aztecs also held advantages in the box score, posting a better hitting percentage and more kills, attacks and aces. San Diego State finished with a line of 53 kills on 112 attacks with just 14 attack errors (a .348 hitting percentage), compared to the Lobos’ ledger of 39 kills, 18 errors and 98 attacks (a .214 hitting percentage). SDSU also doubled up UNM in service aces, 6 to 3.
UNM, the conference leader in overall opponent hitting percentage, gave up its highest percentage of the season to San Diego State (.348), and only out-blocked the Aztecs by one, 6.0 to 5.0.
New Mexico did received double-digit kills from Cassie House (12) and Chantale Riddle (10) and a .364 hitting percentage from Lexi Ross (6 kills, 2 errors, 11 attacks). But the front line was shut down by San Diego State, as multiple Lobos posted sub-.200 hitting percentages.
Raegen Shelton posted a match-high 15 kills for San Diego State, and Summer Nash chipped in 12 more for SDSU.
The Lobos return to action Thursday, as they take on Boise State at 7 p.m. MT in Johnson Center.
Set One: San Diego State 29, New Mexico 27
San Diego State jumped out early on the Lobos, taking the four of the first five points of the set. The Aztecs held the lead for the almost the entire set as they commanded a steady margin over UNM. While New Mexico was able to close the SDSU lead to a single point on seven occasions, almost every Lobo push was answered by San Diego State.
Nonetheless, after being down 23-18, New Mexico rolled out an 8-2 run and took their first lead of the game at 25-24.
The Lobos held set point three times after taking their first lead, but couldn’t close out SDSU. San Diego State was able to produce their own 4-1 run while facing set point at 25-26, and managed to stave off UNM to claim set one 29-27.
House tallied 11 of her team-high 12 kills in the first set, while Riddle and Julia Warren each notched four.
Seven San Diego State players registered a kill in the opening set, with Kaja Sandberg and Shelton chipping in four apiece.
Set Two: San Diego State 25, New Mexico 17
The next set opened up similarly to the first set, with San Diego State staking a 7-2 lead out the gate. Points came intermittently for UNM, as the Aztecs capitalized on eight Lobo errors and three kills by Nash to take a 14-6 lead. A 7-2 San Diego State run extended the margin to 17-7, forcing UNM taking a timeout.
After a trading a few more points, The Lobos managed to rattle off four straight points by dint of kills by Gullatt and Warren and a Riddle service ace to climb within eight.
Now down 20-12, UNM and SDSU answered each other point-for-point, with the lead staying within nine points.
However, the Aztecs were able to wrap up the second set on a pair of Shelton kills, taking set two 25-17.
Set Three: San Diego State 28, New Mexico 26
Facing a sweep, the Lobos scored the four of the first five points of the third set. New Mexico then pushed the lead out to 7-3 after back-to-back-to-back Aztec miscues.
But, SDSU responded with a 6-1 run of their own to take a one-point lead at 9-8. During that exchange, UNM head coach Jeff Nelson was charged with a yellow card.
New Mexico came back, however, and knotted the set up at 9-all on a Warren kill and at 10-all on a House kill.
Both teams continued to trade points until a small 3-1 run by San Diego State forced a UNM timeout with the score 15-12 in favor of SDSU. New Mexico then posted three points in a row to climb to within one point at 17-16. The margin was the same at 20-19 in favor of San Diego State, but didn’t hold as the Aztecs scored three straight to go up 23-19.
However, New Mexico rallied mightily, unleashing a 6-1 run — keyed by kills from Riddle (2 kills), House (1) and Warren (1) — to take the lead at 25-24. A pair of Johnna Fouch-to-Shelton kills gave the Aztecs the lead at 26-25, which was answered by another Riddle kill.
But San Diego State proved to be too much for the Lobos to handle, as a Shelton kill and a Riddle attack error gave SDSU the set, 28-26.