LAS CRUCES – New Mexico State clinched the Western Athletic Conference regular season title outright on Saturday with a 3-1 victory over Grand Canyon on Senior Day.
“I’m really happy for (the seniors),” head coach Mike Jordan said. “They worked really hard. They have done so much. This is really a great way to win [the regular season title] at home, on Senior Day. You can’t write a better script. This is what players and coaches dream about. I’m just proud of everything they have done.”
The Aggies (23-5, 12-0) won a 25-15, 22-25, 25-9, 25-16 decision, and notched their 12th straight conference win and 14th straight overall. They still have two league matches to play, beginning with Wednesday’s at Seattle University.
The senior duo of Nathalie Castellanos and All-America candidate Gwen Murphy showed up big in their last match at the Pan American Center. Castellanos, the Vado, N.M./Gadsden HS native, led all scorers with 13 kills and a 667 hitting percentage. Murphy, a native of Elfrida, Ariz./Valley Union HS, had 12 kills and two service aces.
Senior Bradley Nash and sophomore Sasha-Lee Thomas also heavily contributed to the winning effort. Nash, from Kayenta, Ariz./Monument Valley HS, racked up 10 kills. Thomas, a native of Pottsville, Pa./Pottsville HS, had 11 kills.
Freshman Melody Horton led GCU (4-20, 2-10) in the match. Horton, a League City, Texas/Clear Creek HS native, finished with nine kills.
In the first set, NMSU led 8-3. The ‘Lopes did their best to close the lead to three points at 9-6, but it was all Aggies after that claiming the set 25-15.
In what was the most tightly contested frame of the day, with 13 ties and seven lead changes, neither team could gain an advantage for most of the second set. Eventually, GCU went ahead to stay at 21-22 and closed out the frame 22-25.
“We were good defensively in the first set, then defensively in the second set we were terrible,” said Jordan. “We let a lot of balls drop, and we made a lot of bad digs that led to bad swings. Give Grand Canyon a lot of credit in that particular set. They were digging a lot of balls, they really pulled some balls back from the dead on standard rallies and gave us a lot of problems.”
After the break, the Aggie came out red-hot to start the third set 12-1 run. New Mexico State continued to rolled taking the frame 25-9.
In the fourth and final set, both teams matched each other point for point to start the set 6-6. The Aggies managed to pull away at 10-8, and pushed the lead to 17-9, closing out the match 25-16.