Seeing red seems to bring the best out of the New Mexico State Aggies these days.
After not looking particularly good in either of their Friday matches at the Lobo Volleyball Classic, the Aggies elevated their play against cherry-clad host New Mexico on Saturday. Outside hitters Savannah Davison and Tatyana Battle racked up 15 and 11 kills, respectively, and NMSU swept past their Rio Grande rivals in the tournament finale at Dreamstyle Arena – the Pit. The set scores were 26-24, 25-23 and 25-18.
The Aggies (4-2) topped UNM (3-3) for a second straight year and continued their school’s run of overall athletic success against New Mexico dating to 2017-18. The Lobos, meanwhile, missed an opportunity to win their home tournament by losing the final match for a second straight year.
Florida Gulf Coast swept Eastern Kentucky earlier Saturday and took the team title based on total sets won. FGCU, NMSU and UNM all finished with 2-1 records, but the Eagles won seven sets. The Aggies and Lobos won six apiece.
Saturday’s result may have been a bit surprising to fans who watched Friday’s matches. UNM rolled to a sweep of Eastern Kentucky and topped FGCU in four sets, while the Aggles were swept by Florida Gulf Coast and had to grind out a five-set win over EKU.
“I just think these rivalry games are really important to us,” Battle said. “It was pretty much night and day from (Friday). Today we played for each other and looked like a different team.”
Lobos coach Jeff Nelson saw the other side of that coin.
“We’re just not as invested in rivalry games for some reason,” he said. “When State gets in that fighting mode, that’s when they’re good. They fought today and we lacked energy. That’s what we talked about after the match. There’s really no excuse.”
Statistically, the biggest difference Saturday was from left-side hitters. Davison and Battle seemed to come up with big points every time NMSU needed them, while UNM starters Tai Bierria and Lauren Twitty managed just five kills apiece and combined for 14 hitting errors.
“Early in the season there’s a lot of up and down for every team,” NMSU coach Mike Jordan said. “We were up today and played well out of system. Savannah and Tatyana were really good on big points.”
UNM, which got a team-best nine kills from right-side hitter Carly Beddingfield, reeled off eight straight points to grab a 15-10 lead in the opening set. But the Aggies got even at 21 on a block by Megan Hart. After ties at 22, 23 and 24, Battle hammered in a kill, and NMSU won the set on a double-block of Twitty.
The Aggies then put big runs together midway through sets two and three. Albuquerque natives Battle and Brigette Lowe had kills during a 9-1 tear that put NMSU up 18-9 in the second set. UNM battled back behind Beddingfield and some solid blocking by Victoria Spragg, getting as close as 24-23 before Battle ended the set with a kill.
The Aggies jumped ahead 15-7 in set three and again were able to fight off a late Lobo rally.
Battle, who played in the Pit for the first time over the weekend, joined Davison on the all-tournament team for NMSU. Battle’s father, Bruce Battle, played men’s basketball in the arena for UNM.
Beddingfield and Bierria made the all-tournament squad for UNM, with Beddingfield taking MVP honors after three strong matches. FGCU’s Dana Axner and Danielle Serrano rounded out the all-tournament team.