TUCSON, Ariz. – NM State has completed their final doubleheader of the 2023 season. The Wildcat Classic began on Friday for the Aggies, earning a split in their two matches. They are now 7-3, and will take on Long Beach State Saturday morning. The 11:00 AM match will mark the conclusion of the tournament, and will be the last non-conference match before the CUSA era begins in Las Cruces.
Match 1, vs. Alabama State – NM State wins 3-1 (25-19, 26-24, 18-25, 25-18)
Match 2, at Arizona – NM State loses 1-3 (17-25, 25-27, 25-21, 23-25)
The first match of the day came against Alabama State at 10:00 AM local time from the McKale Center. NM State took care of business in four sets against the Lady Hornets, who now find themselves with a 1-11 record.
Kacia Brown didn’t take long to wake up the offense for NM State. The redshirt junior entered the match with a career-high of nine kills, and tallied six in the first set alone. Her .750 hitting percentage in the frame proved to be a precursor of things to come Friday. Brown had an impressive hitting percentage of .455 against the Lady Hornets, and tallied a career-best 13 kills.
Head Coach Mike Jordan, on Brown’s performance in the win: “We’re making a concerted effort to get Kacia the ball more often. She was good today. We’ll take the win, but we can play better.”
Brown’s milestone stood for just over eight hours. She recorded 14 in the four-setter against the Wildcats, and just two errors helped her hitting percentage climb to .462 in the match. Brown’s efficient and productive day made her the new leader in hitting percentage (.342) among Aggies with at least 3.0 attempts per set.
Darian Markham was everywhere defensively, tying her season-high of 21 digs. The senior libero has played every set this season, and her leadership was undoubtedly felt in a tough road match against a Power Five opponent. Markham’s 16 digs earlier in the day brought her 24-hour total up to 37 (4.63 per set).
Mari Sharp was also a great help to her fellow senior in the match. The outside hitter came up with 17 digs of her own, passing her previous best of 16, which came exactly two weeks prior vs. San Francisco.
Despite production on both offense and defense, the Wildcats pulled away in the end. A closely contested 25-27 loss in the second set proved costly. The most crucial point of the night, though, came when the Aggies took a 23-20 lead in the fourth set and appeared to be on the verge of forcing a decisive fifth set. The Wildcats took the next five points, including three attack errors from NM State, in what turned out to be the final stretch of the match.
Head Coach Mike Jordan, on the loss to Arizona: “We had chances. We had more kills and dug more balls, but we made poor choices late in sets two and four, hitting low into the block. We’re competing hard, but we have to do so late in sets as well.”
Records Set Today
Kacia Brown set her career high in kills with 13 against Alabama State. That record lasted less than a day, after she collected 14 later at Arizona.
In the nightcap, Ashley Herman moved her career-best mark from 3 to 8. She hit a record .611 (min. five attempts) and had just one error on 11 swings.
Mari Sharp had a memorable match against Arizona, as she nabbed 17 digs, her most ever. Sharp also had 40 total attempts in the match, passing her previous high of 37
Kacia Brown, Starr Williams, Sidney McIntosh and Ryleigh Whitekettle all surpassed at least 10 kills vs. Alabama State. That marked the first time four Aggies had double-digit kills in 2023.
Against Arizona, the team tied their season best with 62 kills. Their 71 digs also set a new best for a four-set match. They did, however, collect 75 against San Francisco in a five-setter.
Rilen Garcia set her new 2023 high with 22 assists after earning the start against the Lady Hornets
Darian Markham broke her 2023 record and tied her career mark with three aces against the Wildcats.
Anji Vishwanathan collected three kills and no errors on just five kills against Alabama State. She set career records in kills and hitting percentage (.600).
Ithaca College transfer Aleka Darko grabbed her first kill of her NM State career vs. Alabama State.
The Aggies will square off against Long Beach State (5-4) at 11:00 AM MDT (10:00 AM local time). The match will be streamed on Flo Volleyball and will be available to follow on Live Stats.
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