|Vandals fall after hot start|
MOSCOW, Idaho – The Idaho volleyball team came out with the energy and swagger it needed to knock of the Western Athletic Conference’s top team on Thursday night, but the Vandals were unable to sustain their fast start in a 3-1 loss to New Mexico State.
Idaho was dominant in all phases in a 25-14 set-one victory, hitting .481 with no attack errors and adding five blocks. The Vandals held NM State to a .125 hitting percentage in the opening set and helped the Idaho cause with four service aces.
But the Aggies flipped the script in the second set, hitting .382 and holding the Vandals to a .100 percentage in a 25-17 match-tying victory. New Mexico State took the lead in the match with a 25-19 win in the third set and fended off a Vandal rally to win the match with a 25-22 win in the fourth set.
“It shows a lot the way we came out tonight,” Idaho sophomore Meredith Coba said. “We want to get that win, we worked hard to get it tonight and it didn’t go our way, which is unfortunate.”
Idaho falls to 13-10 overall with the loss and 6-5 in WAC play, while New Mexico State improves to 14-10 and 9-2 in the WAC.
The Vandals hit .204 in the match while NM State hit .326 and owned a 70-47 advantage in digs. Idaho did out-block the Aggies 12-5 and took a 7-4 advantage in services aces, as senior Ashley Christman delivered a career-best five and sophomore Jenna Ellis added two.
Jessica Hastriter led the Vandals with 13 kills and added four digs, and Alyssa Schultz added nine kills on a team-best .273 hitting percentage to go along with six blocks and four digs. Christman rounded out her night with seven kills, 10 digs and five blocks for the Vandals and Ali Forde tallied seven kills in two sets off the bench.
Coba had 36 assists, nine digs and three blocks in the match, coming up one dig shy of her fifth double-double of the season. Ellis finished with a team-high 11 digs, but after starting at libero, traded positions with defensive specialist Terra Varney, partly because of a banged up shoulder. Varney finished with seven digs and two assists in the match.
“When she was setting the ball she seemed like she was a little tight, so we made the change so maybe she wouldn’t have to play as many balls with her hands,” Idaho coach Buchanan said. “I think it was a good switch. Varney came in and did a good job. She was making some good plays.”
The Vandals host Texas-Pan American on Saturday (Nov. 2) at 7 p.m. in Memorial Gym and host their home finale on Nov. 8 against Seattle U before wrapping up the regular season with three straight road matches. The WAC tournament is Nov. 25-27 in Phoenix, Ariz.
“It’s going to come down to the conference tournament and I think anybody can win that sucker right now,” Buchanan said. “They’re (NMSU) up and down, we’re up and down, Utah Valley is up and down, Bakersfield is up and down. It’s really whatever team can put things together towards the end.”