BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – New Mexico State kept its hold on the Western Athletic Conference lead with a 3-1 win over CSU Bakersfield Saturday afternoon at the Icardo Center.
NMSU ran its record to 15-5, 5-0 in the WAC with the 25-23, 25-13, 16-25, 25-18 victory over the ‘Runners (5-12, 3-2) as the Aggies collected their sixth straight win.
“It’s a tough place to play,” said NMSU head coach Mike Jordan. “Bakersfield has a good team, they’ve been playing well and they’re good offensively. They served it pretty tough. For us to go on the road, get a win and hit over .400 is a lot to be happy about.”
The Aggies hit an outstanding .418 as a team, with five players notching 10 kills apiece. CSUB hit .260 for the match.
Once again All-America candidate Gwen Murphy led the way for NMSU. The Aggie senior from Elfrida, Ariz./Valley Union hit .478 in the match with 15 kills and five blocks. Senior Bradley Nash of Kayenta, Ariz./Monument Valley tallied 14 kills and hit .500 against the ‘Runners with three blocks.
Senior Nathalie Castellanos of Vado, N.M./Gadsden, sophomore Jordan Abalos of Safford, Ariz., and sophomore Sasha-Lee Thomas of Pottsville, Pa, all posted 10 kills in the match. Castellanos added four blocks and Thomas three in helping pace the Aggies.
“When you’ve got balance that’s a neat thing,” stated Jordan. “I think our ability in the middle opened things up for us on the antennas (outside) a little bit.”
“Gwen’s obviously our best player, but we’ve got a lot of ability on the court, especially offensively. I’d like to get to a spot where Gwen’s not the kill leader all the time and we’re getting close to that balance.”
Jordan also praised the performance of Nash. “Brad was great. She moved the ball well, she was hard to read and really did a good job of putting the ball away.”
CSU Bakersfield was led by Edithza Urias, who led all hitters with 19 kills to go with a .500 hitting percentage and a block.
The Aggies and CSU Bakersfield battled in a close first set, with NMSU getting the last two points of the set to grab a 25-23 win.
The Aggies came back to dominate the second set 25-13, but then saw the ‘Runners reverse the roles in the third set. CSUB never trailed in winning 25-16.
But the fourth set belonged to the Aggies, allowing only a 1-1 tie before taking charge. NMSU dominated the attack hitting .636 for the set on the way to a 25-18 win.
“We just passed the ball better again, made a few more digs and gave ourselves some transition opportunities. We’re tough to stop, there’s no question,” said Jordan. “We had to hit well, we needed it. They hit for .260 in the match and we needed to hit well to win there. We hit the shots when we needed to, fortunately.”
The Aggies are back in action next Thursday at the Pan American Center when they host a showdown for first place in the WAC against Utah Valley, The Wolverines swept Seattle U 3-0 on Saturday and enter the match with a 4-1 WAC record, one game behind the Aggies. First serve is set for 7 p.m.
“We’ve got to defend the home court and give ourselves a little bit of a cushion going into the second half. That’s our goal,” Jordan added.
NMSU then hosts Seattle U next Saturday to finish the first half of the WAC schedule.