|Vandals come up short|
SAN ANTONIO, Texas - The Idaho volleyball team battled until the final point, but in the end it couldn't get past New Mexico State, falling 3-1 in the Western Athletic Conference championship match on Wednesday.
The Vandals (17-14) lost 25-20, 20-25, 27-25, 25-19 in a match that featured a total of 37 ties and 17 lead-changes in the four sets, to come up just short of their first WAC championship. Idaho's Allison (Walker) Baker, Janelle Chow and Taylor Wilkinson each earned all-tournament team honors.
After exchanging a pair of 25-20 victories to open the match in a 1-1 tie, Idaho and New Mexico State were in a battle for the majority of the third set. The Aggies (22-10) were in control late with a 23-10 lead, but Idaho battled back to tie it at 23-all. NMSU got the first stab at set-point, pulling ahead 24-23, but Idaho again fought back to tie it at 24 and 25 before NMSU put together two straight points to win 27-25 and take a 2-1 lead in the match.
New Mexico State led for nearly all of the fourth set, but Idaho kept the lead to a minimum for most of the time, trailing by just one on seven occasions. NMSU pulled ahead by five late in the set, 21-16, but again, Idaho fought back to pull within two at 21-19. It was not meant to be for the Vandals, however, as the Aggies closed out the set and match by winning the final four points to win their first WAC championship since 2008.
Baker finished with 28 kills, 12 digs and two blocks in the match, and hit .236. For the tournament, she averaged 5.38 kills and 3.23 digs per set while hitting .204. Katelyn Peterson had 15 kills and hit .317 in the match. Jenny Feicht had 44 assists and 17 digs, and Chow had 15 digs. Wilkinson had five kills and two blocks, and Alex Sele had seven kills and four blocks, and Julia Church had 15 digs, three kills and three blocks.
The Vandals hit .253 in the match, but NMSU hit .278 and out-blocked the Vandals 10.0-7.0 and held a 77-74 advantage in digs. The Aggies also had nine aces in the match, compared to Idaho's two.
New Mexico State's Meredith Hays, the Tournament MVP, had 13 kills, 12 digs and two blocks in the match and hit .312. Preslie Alexander also had 13 kills for the Aggies and added five blocks while hitting .385. Bradley Nash and Desiree Scott each added 11 kills for NMSU and Stephanie Zieglar added 27 digs.
The match was Idaho's first WAC championship appearance. Including this season, the Vandals have advanced to five WAC semifinals. Idaho finishes its season with a 17-14 overall record, its highest win total since 2008.