MOSCOW, Idaho - Idaho seniors Cassie Hamilton, Alicia Milo and Rylee Walker played their last volleyball match in Memorial Gym on Saturday night, and it was a special one, as the Vandals beat second-place New Mexico State 19-25; 25-23; 25-14; 25-25.
"This is one of the best feelings," Hamilton said. "I think that if I were to now be asked which was my favorite win of all time was it would probably be this game."
Idaho moves to 13-11 on the season and 7-4 in the Western Athletic Conference, now just a half game behind the second-place Aggies, who fall to 18-7 overall and 7-3 in the WAC. The top two teams in the final WAC standings earn a first-round bye in the six-team WAC tournament next month. Idaho finished with a 6-1 record in Memorial Gym this season and has won six consecutive matches at home.
"This is a huge win for us," Idaho coach Debbie Buchanan said. "This is our last home match and it was a great way to finish off senior night but we have to keep going. We played a pretty solid match tonight after we got through game one. I think that our games are going to keep getting better. We have to play as good as we have at home. We have to take this energy and level of play on the road."
Walker stole the show as she finished 12 kills and no errors on 18 attempts to hit .667, while adding five blocks and two digs in the match.
"Riley is very good off of one foot and we knew that we wanted to capitalize and run more on that end of the court," Idaho coach Debbie Buchanan said. "I think that with her we tend to do it a little more. She has been doing a great job and she has been playing really well. Tonight was her night and it was awesome, she did a great job."
Hamilton had her seventh 20-plus dig effort of the season as she finished with 21 digs and added a pair of aces. Hamilton now has 1,340 career digs, and is 81 digs shy of breaking Idaho's all-time record. Milo had five kills, six digs, two blocks and an ace in the match.
Allison Walker overcame a slow start and finished with 20 kills, five digs and three blocks while hitting .204. She had just two kills and four errors on 18 attempts and was hitting -.111 after the first set, but combined for 18 kills in the final three.
Julia Church finished with seven kills, 12 digs and four blocks for Idaho. Alex Sele had six kills and six blocks. Jenny Feicht played the final three sets and tallied 33 assists, eight digs and five blocks, and Ryann Carter had eight assists and a dig in set one.
Idaho hit .254 in the match and had 53 kills, 58 digs, 15.0 blocks and five service aces. New Mexico State hit .105 with 46 kills in the match, and had 51 digs, 7.0 blocks and one ace.
The Vandals dropped the first set as the Aggies held Idaho to just a .047 hitting percentage in their 25-19 win. But Idaho bounced back, stealing a tightly contested second set 25-23 to even the match at one set apiece. After intermission the Vandals came out with authority. Idaho hit .550 and held NMSU to a -.033 clip in a 25-14 win in set three, and sealed the victory by hitting .235 and holding the Aggies to -.061 in the fourth set.
"This is almost better than winning in three because they made us work for it," Hamilton said. "They came out and played us really tough and it was hard to get them out of their system and I like that feeling. But, we played our best and that is why we won."
When asked if she thought New Mexico State was rattled by the energy in Memorial Gym, Hamilton replied "I would definitely say yes. It is hard to play here. We have a great crowd. I think if I were on the opposing team playing here it would be tough. I just love being on the good side."
The Vandals will play their final three regular season matches on the road as they visit Utah State on Nov. 5, Fresno State on Nov. 10 and Nevada on Nov. 12. The WAC tournament is Nov. 21-23 in Las Vegas, Nev.
"I think that right now this match will give us the confidence to go out and hopefully win our next couple of matches and be on top at the WAC tournament," Hamilton said. "I think that we have always had that ability but I think we have lacked confidence but I don't think that is an issue anymore."