MOSCOW -The Idaho volleyball team spent most of the night digging itself out of a hole, but couldn't complete the climb as New Mexico State topped the Vandals 3-2 in Memorial Gym Saturday night.
The Vandals fell behind 2-0 in the match after a pair of 25-19 wins from the Aggies to open things up. Idaho battled back with 25-21 and 25-16 wins to force a fifth set, but the Vandals found themselves in a 14-4 hole as NMSU sprinted out of the block en route to a 15-8 match-clinching victory.
"It took us a little while to get going, the great thing is we came back for game three and game four, we just didn't finish it," Idaho coach Debbie Buchanan said. "At least we were able to extend it. Against a good team you have to finish strong. You just can't have a lot of errors. We gave up a 10-point gap. You just can't gain that back in that short of a period."
The Vandals fall to 3-9 on the season and 1-1 in Western Athletic Conference play, while NMSU improves to 8-3 and 2-0 in the WAC.
The Aggies were red-hot to start the match, hitting .484 and .455 in the first two sets to overcome a solid Vandal attack that hit a combined .266 in those sets.
It was the Vandals defense that got the job done in the third set, out-blocking the Aggies 5.5 to 3.0, and out-digging them 17-11 while holding NMSU to .029 hitting. Idaho hit .143 in the set but it was good enough for a 25-21 win. Idaho hit .400 and held NMSU to .033 in the fourth set for a 25-16 win for force set five.
A 6-0 run to turn a 7-3 lead into an insurmountable 13-3 advantage was what the Aggies needed to all but seal the match. After the teams traded points, the Vandals scored four straight to make it 14-8, but it was too little too late.
The Vandals had a balanced hitting attack with four players recording eight or more kills. Allison (Walker) Baker led the team with 14 on 48 attempts and hit .104. She also added 12 digs to record her ninth double-double of the season. Alyssa Schultz had 13 kills on just 22 attempts to hit a team-best .409. She also flirted with a double-double, finishing with nine total blocks. Alex Sele and Ashley Christman each had nine kills for Idaho, while Katelyn Peterson added eight.
Midway through the match the Vandals switched to a 6-2 rotation. Ryann Carter, who started at setter for Idaho, finished with 33 assists and four digs. Jenny Feicht added 12 assists and two digs. Janelle Chow led the Vandals with 13 digs in the match, and Jenna Ellis added 11. Julia Church had six digs and seven blocks for Idaho.
"One of the things that we were worried about is in our 5-1 if we were going to get used on the line with our setter up there," Buchanan said. "We eventually switched to our 6-2 option and got some bigger blocks up there. By adjusting that they then adjusted what they were doing from an offensive standpoint and it worked. In game five we had the momentum, we just came out and didn't pass like we did in games three or four. We started to break down a little bit, and that's when you have to be strong. I felt like we probably could have come out a little better than we did."
The Vandals hit .200 in the match with 53 kills and 25 errors on 140 attempts. Meanwhile, NMSU hit .264 with 62 kills on 148 attempts. Idaho out-dug the Aggies 55-52 in the match and held a 12.5-10.0 advantage in total blocks.
Idaho returns to action next week with a pair of road matches at San Jose State and Utah State. The Vandals will return home to face Texas State on Sept. 27 and UTSA on Sept. 29. Both matches begin at 7 p.m. in Memorial Gym.