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The Battle of I-10 lived up to the billing as the New Mexico State volleyball team dropped a five set (25-20, 30-32, 26-24, 22-25, 12-15) heartbreaker to UTEP at Memorial Gym in El Paso on Sunday afternoon to wrap up the Springhill Suites Invitational.
“I think we showed real grit today, we were short-handed and had to go small on the pins and put Shaney [Lipscomb] in the middle, which we haven’t practiced,” said head coach Mike Jordan. “I felt we played well in stretches and were competitive and I’m proud of that. I thinl that this kind of environment, and competitive games like this one are where your team grows up and learns and we will be better for it.”
The match went back-and-forth all day as the two rivals played two of five sets to extra points and none of the five sets were decided by more than five points including a marathon second set that ended up in favor of UTEP 32-30.
NM State (3-3, 0-0 WAC) battled back after a heartbreaker in set two to capture the third frame 26-24. However, UTEP (6-0, 0-0 C-USA) rode a raucous crowd to a pair of close wins in sets four and five to capture their first win against the Aggies since 2012.
“Congrats to UTEP, they played well enough to win,” said Jordan. “It sucks losing a rivalry game but if it’s once every 10 years, like it has been, I can live with it. We’re going to be better for it.
Shaney Lipscomb led the Aggies with 14 kills while Victoria Barrett added 12 and 10 digs for the double-double. Lia Mosher (11 kills, .429 HT%) and Mari Sharp (10 kills, .435 HT%) were deadly efficient for NM State with just two attack errors combined between the two. Freshman setter Alana Embry recorded her first career double-double, dishing out 22 assists and 15 digs as senior setter Carly Aigner-Swesey notched her third straight double-double (28 assists, 10 digs).
As a team, the Aggies hit .214 and finished the day with 7.0 total blocks. However, UTEP hit .236 on its way to the win.
The Miners are coached by former longtime Aggie assistant Ben Wallis.
NM State now looks to bounce back at the Colonel Classic in Richmond, Ky., where it will take on Eastern Kentucky, Western Carolina and Western Illinois from Sept. 10-11.