LAS CRUCES, N.M. – The New Mexico State volleyball team picked up its eighth-straight victory on Tuesday night inside the Pan American Center by snatching a heavily contested four-set win over I-10 rival Texas-El Paso, 21-25, 25-21, 25-21, 25-19. The Aggies improve to 19-10 on the season while the Miners fall to 13-12.
NM State was led by senior outside hitter Lauren Loerch who hit a team-high 14 kills. Loerch also had only one attack error to finish with a match-high .542 hitting percentage. Also in double-figure kills for the Aggies were redshirt sophomore Gwen Murphy with 12 and seniors Desiree Scott and Bradley Nash who each finished with 11. NM State, who leads the Western Athletic Conference in opponents hitting percentage, held UTEP to a .160 hitting percentage on Tuesday.
Nash also added 14 digs for her seventh double-double of the season. Sophomore libero Jordan Reifsteck led the Aggies with 21digs while redshirt senior Stephanie Ziegler added 16. Senior setter Ciara Brown had a team-high 31 assists and her sophomore teammate Taylor Livoti added another 27 assists.
The first set saw the two rivals go back and forth in a set that would see nine tie scores. The Miners scored the first two points of the match. NM State, however, would proceed to mark seven of the next eight to take an early 7-3 lead.
Not to be outdone, UTEP would use a four-point rally to tie the set at eight. Two kills by Murphy gave the Aggies a two-point lead, but another Miner four-point rally gave them a 13-11 midway through the set. From there the rivals would trade jabs throughout the second half of the set with ties at 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18.
UTEP would win three points in a row to take a 21-18 lead, but NM State fought right back with two big kills by Scott. The Aggies could not get any closer, however, as the Miners won four of the last five points to take the set 25-21.
Scott and Loerch each had five kills in the set to lead NM State. Scott finished the set with a .625 hitting percentage, but the Aggies were outhit .250 to .167 by UTEP.
The Miners would once again take an early lead in set two, taking a 5-3 lead after eight points. But, as in the first set, NM State would go on a run, 9-2, to overtake the UTEP lead. This time, however, the Aggies would not relinquish the lead back to the Miners.
NM State would lead by as many as six, but UTEP would not go down without a fight. Trailing 16-11, the Miners would score four points in a row to get within one at 16-15. The Aggies kept their composure and went on a three-point rally to once again extend the lead. Nash would finish off the set with a kill to end it at 25-21. NM State held UTEP to a .023 hitting percentage during the set.
The Aggies would win the third set by the same score, 25-21. With NM State on top 8-6, the Miners would go on an 8-2 run to take a 13-9 lead. Scott then began showing her kill and blocking ability, helping the Aggies to a 12-4 run that gave NM State a 21-17 lead they would not give back. An kill by senior middle hitter Preslie Alexander gave the Aggies a two sets to one advantage.
With momentum on its side, NM State used an 11-3 run midway through the fourth set, including a match-high seven-point rally, to take a 16-10 lead that UTEP could not recover from. The Aggies would go on to win the set and match, 25-19.
NM State now has over a week to prepare for its final match of the season, a WAC showdown with second-place Utah Valley on Thursday, Nov. 21, inside the Pan American Center. Although the Aggies already clinched at least a share of the WAC regular-season title, the match could potentially decide who will be the No. 1 seed heading into the WAC Tournament.