|Vandals sweep finale at NMSU|
LAS CRUCES, N.M. - The Idaho volleyball team couldn't have asked for a better finish to the regular season, as it swept New Mexico State 25-22, 31-29, 25-19 on Thursday night in the regular season finale.
The Vandals finished the regular season with a four-match win streak, improving their overall record to 15-13, with a 13-5 mark in the Western Athletic Conference. New Mexico State falls to 19-10 on the season and 12-6 in the WAC with the loss. The win guarantees Idaho at least a share of second place in the final WAC standings for the second consecutive season, and depending on Thursday's results around the league, either the No. 2 or No. 3 seed in next week's WAC tournament. With the win, Idaho has also beaten every team in the WAC at least once this season.
The Vandals, who lead the WAC in hitting percentage, hit .257 in the match including a .278 clip in the third set, and held NMSU to .156. Idaho also out-blocked the Aggies 13.0-8.0.
Idaho's success came through balance on offence, with Allison (Walker) Baker finishing with a team-high 12 kills and 10 digs, while Alyssa Schultz, Julia Church, Alex Sele and Katelyn Peterson each had seven kills, and Ashley Christman had six.
"On offense we were really balanced," Idaho coach Debbie Buchanan said. "We used Julia a lot more because they were leaving her alone. It was a good night. We played really well and it was a good overall match."
Jenny Feicht had 25 assists for Idaho and Ryann Carter added 13. Janelle Chow had nine digs and Jenna Ellis finished with seven digs and Idaho's lone ace. Schultz added nine total blocks for Idaho, Church had four, Baker had three and Sele had two, while Feicht and Christman each had one.
After taking a 25-22 win in the first set the Vandals faced set-point six times in the lengthy second set, fending off the Aggies each time before betting a kill from Baker, and back-to- back blocks. Idaho's 25-19 win in the third set sealed its sixth 3-0 sweep of the season.
"It was huge," Buchanan said of winning the second set. "We were down and just kept battling, never gave up. New Mexico State had game point multiple times and we were able to finish it off. Our kids stayed steady and did a great job of making some adjustments."
The Vandals are in the mix with several WAC teams who have been fighting for positioning through the final stretch of the season. UTSA enters Thursday's match with a 12-5 conference record, and could tie Idaho for second place with a win in their regular season finale. New Mexico State will finish fourth after Thursday's loss, while Utah State wrapped up the regular season championship with its 15-3 WAC record.
"We know that there's tough competition for sure," Buchanan said of next week's WAC tournament. "UTSA is really coming on. Utah State has proven they can stay at the top. There are so many teams that are getting better at the end of the season, and I would say we are one of those teams. We're getting better every match and I'm excited. It'll be interesting to see who we match up with."
The eight-team tournament begins Monday, Nov. 19, with the semifinals on Nov. 20 and the championship match on Nov. 21.
The official bracket with full seedings for the tournament will be posted on www.GoVandals.com on Nov. 16.