|Vandals come up short|
PHOENIX – In a back-and-forth battle, the Idaho volleyball team came up just short against New Mexico State in the Western Athletic Conference semifinals on Tuesday night, falling 3-2 to the Aggies.
Idaho took the first set 29-27 but dropped a heartbreaker in the second, 24-26, after it looked like the Vandals had taken a 25-23 win. After a would-be block, Idaho was whistled late for being in the net to make the score 24-all, and the Aggies took advantage of the momentum swing to tie the match at 1-1.
The Vandals again battled to victory in the third set, winning 28-26 but the Aggies tied it back up with a convincing 25-12 win in the fourth. Idaho held a slim 7-5 edge in the fifth set before the Aggies used a 6-0 run to take control down the stretch en route to the 15-12 win.
“We competed hard,” Idaho coach Debbie Buchanan said. “That’s probably the best we’ve competed all year. It was a battle all the way to the end. The thing that cost us there at the end was a little bit of ball-control. New Mexico State was making those plays and that’s probably the one area at the end that made the difference.”
The Vandals finish the season with a 19-11 record, tying for the program’s most wins since 1996. New Mexico State improves to 21-10 heading into Wednesday’s championship match. The Vandals had won six consecutive matches before Tuesday, including a quarterfinal sweep of UMKC on Monday.
“After our UMKC match, I felt like we’re on a roll, we’re doing some good things and playing at a high level,” Buchanan said. “I told them we have to play with some energy, we have to play hard. When you play a top team like New Mexico State, you have to side out and keep it going. You can’t give up runs of points, and I thought the girls really did that, minus game four. In game five we were up 7-5 and a few ball control plays hurt us and it just kind of slipped away from us.”
Idaho junior Jessica Hastriter had a team-high 15 kills in the match to pace four Vandals in double-figures. Ali Forde had 13, Ashley Christman had 12 and Alyssa Schultz added 11. Meredith Coba had a 49-assist, 15-dig double-double and Jenna Ellis led Idaho with 23 digs.
The Vandals hit .179 in the match while the Aggies hit .216. Idaho held a 17-14 advantage in blocks but gave the Aggies a 94-85 edge in digs and committed 14 service errors.
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