LOGAN, Utah — It was an imposing performance on Saturday as Utah State volleyball swept New Mexico, 3-0, avenging USU’s loss to the Lobos earlier this season. It was the seventh sweep the Aggies have tallied this season, the most such wins in a single season since recording 10 sweeps in 2013.
“This is a great team win for us,” head coach Rob Neilsen said. “It’s fun to see the Estes starting to fill up as we gain some momentum. We had a lot of players step up and we beat a tough team.”
The Aggies started the match off strong on their way to a 9-2 lead, forcing a New Mexico timeout. After stymieing a short Lobo rally, USU expanded their lead with another 9-2 run to take firm control en route to a 25-13 first set victory.
In the second set, Utah State again took the initiative with their largest lead of the set coming at 12-7. The Lobos, however, put together runs of 5-1 and 8-3 to take a 23-20 lead. Facing defeat in the set, Utah State had an answer of their own with a clutch 4-0 spurt to retake the lead. After the teams exchanged kills, senior Corinne Larsen and junior Kylee Stokes blocked a Lobo attack to clinch the 26-24 victory for the Aggies, giving them a 2-0 lead in the match.
“I thought our team came out and they were dialed in and we did a nice job offensively,” coach Neilsen said. “Really did a good job from the service line. That made it hard on them to kill a few balls early and we kind of got into a groove. (New Mexico) responded. They found a lineup that I think worked for them in that second set… some nice adjustments by their coach. Just really proud of our team, just battling out of a 23-20 deficit to come and win that game. It’s the character of this squad.”
USU’s momentum continued into the third set as the Aggies sprinted out to a 10-4 lead. The Lobos attempted to claw back into the contest, trimming the lead to 15-11 at its closest point. Utah State then closed the set, just as they opened it, with a 10-4 run to win, 25-15, and complete the sweep.
As a team, the Aggies hit .301 for the match, their seventh time clearing the .300 mark this season. Three separate Aggies also hit over.300 for the match as sophomore Tatum Stall posted a team-high 15 kills with a .326 hitting percentage. Stokes registered 10 kills while hitting .421 and Larsen hit a team-best .462 for seven kills.
“They ended up slowing down maybe a little more than they wanted to,” coach Neilsen said. “They were a little slower pin-to-pin and that just allows our block a little bit more time. Then I thought we did a really nice job of taking advantage… Normally, their setter would be front-row blocking. They had a smaller setter up there and our outsides and setters did a nice job of taking advantage of that matchup.”
Stokes and Larsen also tied with sophomore Inka Mehtola for a team-leading four blocks. Sophomore Abby Peterson again led the Aggies with 14 digs in the match. Freshman Beatriz Rodrigues posted her second consecutive double-double and her third of the season, tallying a career-high 29 assists alongside 11 digs. Rodrigues also tied with Larsen and senior Kristy Frank for two service aces to lead Utah State.
Having successfully maintained their position in second place in the Mountain West standings, the Aggies now will put that positioning on the line in a visit to third-place San Jose State. The Spartans, after losing to Colorado State on Saturday, sit one game back of USU in the standings.
“It’s gonna be a battle,” coach Neilsen said. “That coaching staff does a really nice job at San Jose State. They’re battling through injuries. We’re battling through injuries. It’s gonna be a lot of fun up there. I’m excited to get going and have a chance to compete in a huge, really important match.”
Utah State’s pivotal match at San Jose State is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 11, at 5 p.m.
Fans can follow the Aggie volleyball program on Twitter, @USUVolleyball, on Facebook at /USUVolleyball or on Instagram, @usuvolleyball. Aggie fans can also follow the Utah State athletic program on Twitter, @USUAthletics, Facebook at /USUAthletics and on Instagram, @USUAthletics.