|NMSU takes down Idaho in semis|
LAS VEGAS - The Idaho volleyball team came up short in its bid to reach its first ever Western Athletic Conference championship match, as New Mexico State overpowered the Vandals with a 3-0 sweep, winning 25-22; 25-22 and 25-16 in the WAC semifinals Tuesday night.
The first two sets went back and forth, with a combined 19 ties and seven lead-changes, but the Aggies (23-8) got the upper hand in both. The Vandals (16-12) led 15-14 in the first set when NMSU went on a 5-1 run to take a 19-16 lead. Idaho fought back to pull within one at 20-19 but the Aggies answered with a 3-1 spurt to lead 23-20, and they would soon close out a 25-22 victory.
Set two was tied six times, but the Aggies took the final lead of the set with three straight points that broke a 12-12 tie. The Vandals were within two for most of the set, but could never get over the hump as NMSU got its second 25-22 win.
"Wins come from serving and passing, that's a big part of the game and they out-passed us for sure," Idaho coach Debbie Buchanan said. "They were able to stay in system. They kept their middle involved, they kept their right involved and that was just something that worked out. It's not that we were playing bad, it's just that they were a little bit better. We did some good things but they were just a step ahead."
The Vandals needed a few bounces to go their way after the break, but they did get them. New Mexico State came out strong once again and this time Idaho had no answer. The Aggies used a 5-1 run to pull ahead 10-5, and after Idaho fought its way back to within one at 10-9, NMSU went on another tear to take a 16-10 lead as it eventually finished the sweep with a 25-16 victory.
"Before we even went out there today we were talked about the execution of the game," Buchanan said. "It's two great teams that were getting ready to play and whichever team executed the game at the highest level was going to win. And in the times that we've played New Mexico State and the times that we've watched them, I felt like they probably played the best that I've seen them play this year."
Idaho hit .211 in the match with 40 kills and 16 errors on 114 attempts, but New Mexico State hit .333 in each of the three sets, and finished the match with 52 kills and 14 errors on 114 attempts. NMSU also out-dug Idaho 53-42 and out-blocked the Vandals 7.0-5.0.
Idaho sophomore Allison Walker had 18 kills in the match and hit .359, while junior Alex Sele had seven kills on 16 attempts and hit .312, while adding three blocks for the Vandals. Alicia Milo had eight kills, Alyssa Schultz had three kills and a block, and Rylee Walker had two kills. Jenny Feicht had 35 assists, five digs, two blocks and a kill for Idaho, and Cassie Hamilton had a match-high 16 digs. Allison Walker and Julia Church each had six digs in the match, and Milo added five.
"I thought that we were ready, the kids were locked in, they were ready to compete," Buchanan said. "The difference is they're (NMSU) probably a little bit more experienced than we are, with the number of seniors that they have and the type of matches that they've been in so far in their careers, and that's something that in our program we need to strive to. We finished second this year and we have to strive to be that team. It's really hard on our seniors right now, but when you look at our returnees this is a good learning lesson for them for the future."
Idaho won 10 of its last 12 regular season matches to clinch second place in the WAC, its highest finish since joining the league in 2005.
"If you look at our season as a whole, we definitely got better as the season went on," Buchanan said. "That's what you want, you want to peak towards the end and our team did that. Having that expectation of winning, I think our kids felt that this year. We practiced at six in the morning three days a week and not once did these girls complain. They were really locked in, they're here for the right reasons, they're focused on the end goal and it just didn't work out tonight."