LAS CRUCES, N.M. – The Aggies (9-5, 2-1 WAC) picked up their second-straight win as they toppled Southern Utah (2-10, 1-2 WAC) in four sets (25-12, 23-25, 25-20, 25-23) on Thursday evening.
The Aggies were led by career days from Rylee Fay and Lia Mosher in the win. Fay tallied 36 assists to reach a new career-high while she also matched her career-best mark of seven service aces. Meanwhile, Mosher, a sixth-year senior, equaled her career high in kills with 16. Only Katie Birtcil recorded more kills in the match as she tallied 21 on 43 swings to turn in a hitting percentage of .326.
A trio of Aggies recorded double-digit digs to lead the way on the defense’s back end. Darian Markham compiled 15 digs, Birtcil finished with 14 and Mari Sharp racked up 13. In her season debut, Rilen Garcia finished the match with 15 assists.
As a team, NM State finished with their fourth-best combined hitting percentage of the season as they swung .279 against the Thunderbirds. Meanwhile, the Aggies held SUU to just .180 on the night, including restricting the visitor’s hitters to a combined .029 hitting percentage in the opening set.
From the jump, NM State looked to be head and shoulders above their opponent as they jumped out to a 14-1 lead. During the opening-set run, Katie Birtcil notched four kills while Mari Sharp and Rylee Fay each recorded an ace.
The Aggies would maintain a 13-point lead through the middle portion of the set as a kill from Taylor Snow put the hometown team up 20-7.
Eventually, a Birtcil kill would cap off the first set and give the Aggies a 25-12 victory.
Once again, the Aggies pushed their way to a 5-1 lead early on in the set and it looked as though they were on their way to their second-consecutive sweep.
However, with the Aggies ahead 8-4, Southern Utah would go on a six-point run to take hold of a 10-8 lead. Later, a kill from Mosher would jumpstart a 5-1 run that put the Aggies ahead 14-12.
From there, the two sides would see-saw as NM State found itself tied with the Thunderbirds at 23 points. Southern Utah then scored the ensuing two points to steal the set.
Just as the first two games began, NM State opened the third set on a 6-1 run. The five-point cushion would grow to six points at 13-7 after Fay tallied another ace. However, Southern Utah would then register then next five points to inch back into the set.
Eventually, SUU would take a 19-18 lead over the Aggies before Mari Sharp put an end to a four-point run with a kill. This would also prove to be a turning point in the set as the Aggies would score seven of the final eight points to claim a 25-20 win.
For the first time in the match, NM State began the set on the wrong end of an early run as Southern Utah recorded six-straight points to take a 10-6 lead.
Later in the set, back-to-back-to-back kills from Aggie veterans Birtcil, Sharp and Mosher pulled the Aggies back to within one point (13-12).
Another three-point run from the Aggies capped off by a solo block by Mari Sharp would give the Aggies a 21-18 advantage. Then, the Aggies found themselves with match point at 24-20, but Southern Utah fought it off for three-straight points before Lia Mosher landed a kill to give the Aggies a 25-23 win.
- Lia Mosher matched her career-best kill total with 16 on the night – equaling her output from March 15, 2021, when she posted 16 against Tarleton.
- Riley Fay posted her second match of the season and her career with seven service aces. This makes Fay the only person in the country with seven or more aces in multiple four-set matches this season.
- With 21 kills and 14 digs, Katie Birtcil recorded her second-consecutive double-double and fourth of the season. Her performance on Thursday night marks just the second time in her career that she posted back-to-back double-doubles.
- Santa Teresa, N.M., native Rilen Garcia participated in the first match of her young career – turning in 15 assists and three digs.
- The Aggies picked up their first night win of the season as all previous eight wins in 2022 came in midday or morning matches.
The Aggies will return to the Pan American Center on Saturday for a meeting with Utah Tech at 1 p.m.
Fans can purchase tickets to the midday match at this link while those unable to attend can tune in to the action on wacinternational.tv.