The Idaho volleyball team faced a familiar opponent over the weekend losing to New Mexico State in three straight sets on Saturday. It was the first time the two teams played each other since the 2012 WAC Championships where the Aggies beat the Vandals 3-1.
Previously, the Vandals swept Texas Pan-American on Thursday to earn their 10th victory of the season hitting an overpowering .231 with only 10 errors to UTPA’s 19 errors. Unfortunately for the Vandals, offensive dominance didn’t translate into the weekend match against the Aggies.
Preseason WAC conference favorite, New Mexico State, has won four in a row including its most recent victory against Idaho on Saturday in Las Cruces, N.M. The Vandals experienced road woes, hitting a season low .067 in the match, getting six blocks to NMSU’s 11. The Vandals also lost in the digging category where the Aggies finished with a dominant 63-51 advantage.
The Vandals played without rising freshman defensive specialist Terra Varney to help out Jenna Ellis in the back row creating a similar struggle for the Vandals defensively.
“Even though we got the one over Texas-Pan American, I don’t feel like we played great. Without having Varney the past weekend it changes things a little bit,” Idaho coach Debbie Buchanan said. “You could tell that we missed having a person in the back row against New Mexico State.”
Setter Meredith Coba continues to play well defensively with her second double-double of the season totaling 10 digs with her 15 assists. Coba’s 15 assists is her second lowest distribution total of the season
and poor attacking triggered forced attempts to compromise the defense. Coba
was also forced to play without Varney to make matters worse.
The Vandals were unable to execute offensively with just 27 kills to 49 from the Aggies. The Vandals knocked UTPA back down to a 10-10 record after Thursday, but after Saturday the Vandals took another loss dropping down to 10-7 for the season.
New Mexico State goes to 9-8 with the win and 4-0 in the WAC. The Aggies have played a tough schedule thus far with matches against California, UCLA and Hawaii along with Santa Clara and California-Santa Barbara, two teams that they almost beat in the team’s first six matches.
The season winds down with nothing but WAC opponents for the final 11 matches ahead for Idaho. The Vandals head out to Seattle, Wash. Friday to face a struggling Seattle U team. Less than a week later, the Vandals return to Memorial Gym to face third-place Missouri-Kansas City. The Aggies and the Vandals will meet again on Halloween night, Thursday, Oct. 31 in Memorial Gym, and time will tell the results of what’s turning into a heated rivalry among the elite teams in the WAC.
Buchanan said Seattle U is a good team and it will be a big match against Seattle’s home crowd on Friday. This is despite Seattle U’s questionable record of 6-14.
“In volleyball, it’s a game of momentum and shifts,” Buchanan said. “It could be anybody’s match on anybody’s night.”
Aaron Wolfe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org