New Mexico 3, New Mexico State 2 (25-17, 23-25, 19-25, 25-12, 15-10)
LAS CRUCES, N.M. -- You could say the New Mexico Lobos’ win over New Mexico State was huge for a number of reasons.
The 3-2 win came on the Aggies’ floor in the Las Cruces Pan American Center.
The win came after a young New Mexico team fell behind 2-1.
The win came over an Aggie team that returned five starters and a libero from its 2012 Western Athletic Conference Tournament champion team.
The win brought more points to the New Mexico table in the Rio Grande Rivalry Cup race.
The win also showed a lot of poise and determination from a young Lobo team that found itself down a game (2-1) and convincingly beat the Aggies twice to get the win.
"A match like this is important because it's an in-state rivalry. It's an emotional match," said Lobo Coach Jeff Nelson, who saw his team go to 10-1 on the year. "When you win, you take it with you and it builds your confidence. When you lose a match like this it eats at you.
"It's good to go into a tough environment and learn to win."
The Lobos won the fourth set 25-12 to force a fifth and final game -- a game played to 15 points (win by two).
It was a dramatic and exciting setting for the young Lobos. Could they fight back an Aggie team desperate not to lose on their home court?
The Lobos went up 4-1 in the final game thanks to a kill by Chantale Riddle and three Aggie mistakes. NMSU called for a timeout trying to regroup. The Lobos went up 5-2 on a kill by Julia Warren and 7-4 on a kill by Riddle. The teams traded service errors to produce an 8-5 count in favor of the visitors from Albuquerque.
UNM’s Cassie House got two kills off sets by Hannah Johnson to go up 10-7. An attack error by NMSU’s Preslie Alexander led to a kill by Riddle and another error by the Aggies. UNM was up 13-7 and only needing two points to seal the win.
House got another kill to push the Lobos to 14-9 and the Lobos closed to the 15-10 win on a kill by Warren.
The Lobos were paced in the contest by Riddle and House, who each had 14 kills. Warren added nine kills. UNM had a .117 hitting percentage. Miquella Lovato had 26 digs and Hannah Johnson had 13 digs and 41 assists to tie her career assist mark for a match. Lexi Ross set a new career high in blocks with nine assists and one solo. The Lobos had 27 blocks (solo or assisted) to 16 for NMSU.
"There were some outstanding performances," said Nelson. "Chantale didn't have her best night on offense but was amazing defensively and blocking. We can win this year when she has an off night because we have more weapons."
The Aggies got 14 kills from Desiree Scott, but NMSU had an attack percentage of .024. NMSU had 48 kills and 44 attack errors. Lauren Loerch had 11 kills. The Aggies had four players with more attack errors than kills.
The Lobos did exactly what you need to do on the road. They punched first, coming up with a convincing 25-17 win over NMSU in Game One. The Lobos hit .345 (13-3-29) and put up 5.0 blocks to hold the Aggies to .162 (14-8-37).
"We played really well in Game One and stuck to our plan," said Nelson. "We did that a good part in game two and then strayed from it toward the end and it cost us."
Riddle led the Lobo effort with four kills while Ross, Warren and Johnson had one solo stuff apiece. Lovato's defense fed the Lobos seven digs and kept the offense in motion.
That early and quick blow seemed to fire up the Aggies as the 2012 WAC Tournament champions rallied to win the next two games -- 25-23 and 25-19 -- to carry a 2-1 lead into the break.
"In game three, I felt like we got flustered and didn't manage our game well," said Nelson. "We kept saying, 'Pull it together and you'll be fine,' but we couldn't find it."
There were eleven ties and six lead changes in the second set and both teams hit poorly -- .062 by the Aggies and .030 by the Lobos. Riddle was held to just two kills and committed four errors.
After not blocking a single ball in the first two sets, the Aggies recorded 7.5 stuffs in the third set and held the Lobos to -.070 hitting, forcing them to commit 13 errors while only recording 10 kills on 43 total attempts. NM State took the set, 25-19 and seemed confident walking into the locker room for the break.
Then it was the Lobos’ turn to get fired up. The Lobos came out of the break and played at a high level to produce a convincing 25-12 win to square the match at 2-2. UNM rolled to a lead of 16-4 and the Aggies were never in the game.
"We challenged them to regroup in game four and play good ball by staying focused because every time we did that tonight we pulled ahead," said Nelson. "It was a compete game for us and that momentum carried in to game five. We were in control the entire time in game five."
NOTES: It was the 13th time the Lobos and Aggies went to five sets...with Monday’s win, the Lobos pull ahead 7-6 in series history in five-set matches...the last time the teams went to five sets was Oct. 14, 2010 in Albuquerque and the Lobos won...last time the Lobos won in five sets in Las Cruces was Oct. 13, 1988, before most of the current Lobos were even born.