Nov. 23, 2010
LAS VEGAS, Nev. - Sophomore outside hitter Josselyn White tied her career-high with 16 kills and senior middle blocker Katie Astle added a career-high tying 10 blocks to lead third-seeded Utah State past New Mexico State in five sets (25-23, 20-25, 25-21, 22-25, 16-14) in the semifinals of the Western Athletic Conference Tournament held here at the Orleans Arena Tuesday.
After holding a two-sets-to-one advantage, Utah State dropped the fourth set and trailed 13-10 in the fifth set before rallying with a 6-1 run for the improbable come-from-behind victory.
Utah State, who improves to 23-8 with the win, has won eight of its last nine matches including five straight. The 23 wins for USU are the seventh-most in school history and the most since the 1982 team finished with a 29-20 record.
New Mexico State, the second-seed in the tournament, ends its season with an 18-13 record and with back-to-back losses to Utah State as the Northern Aggies posted a three-set win in Las Cruces in both teams final match of the regular season. Prior to its current two-match winning streak against NMSU, USU had lost nine straight matches in the series.
Utah State improves to 4-4 all-time in WAC Tournament play and will be appearing in the tournament's championship match for the second time in its six years in the league as it lost to Hawai'i in the 2005 title match after posting a five-set win against New Mexico State in the semifinals that year as well.
White (Smithfield, Utah) added eight digs and six blocks for Utah State Tuesday, while Astle (Sandy, Utah) had seven kills and two digs. Junior outside hitter Liz McArthur (St. George, Utah) posted 19 kills to lead USU, while senior libero Christine Morrill (Neola, Utah) finished with 23 digs.
Kayleigh Giddens had a match-high 29 kills and Whitney Woods added 19 to lead New Mexico State.
Utah State built an early 6-3 lead in the first set and later led 11-7 before New Mexico State used a 7-1 run to take a 14-12 advantage. USU responded with a 4-0 run and never trailed again as it scored the final two points for a 25-23 win. McArthur led Utah State with five kills in the opening set as it hit .344 (14-3-32) and New Mexico State hit .297 (17-6-37).
New Mexico State broke a 10-10 tie in the second set with a 5-1 run and then scored the final three points after USU rallied to get within one at 19-18 for the 25-20 win. Astle had three kills for Utah State here as it hit .057 (10-8-35) and NMSU hit .231 (16-7-39).
New Mexico State jumped out to a quick 6-1 lead in the third set, but Utah State answered with a 9-3 run for a 10-9 advantage. With the set tied at 17-17, USU scored eight of the final 12 points for the 25-21 victory led by McArthur's seven kills. Utah State hit .196 (14-5-46) in the third set and New Mexico State hit .140 (15-9-43).
Once again, New Mexico State built an early lead at 8-3 in the fourth set only to see Utah State fight back and tie it at 10-10. USU would eventually lead by two at 21-19, but NMSU finished with a 6-1 run to tie the match at two sets apiece. White led USU with five kills here as it hit .242 (11-3-33) and NMSU hit .233 (19-9-43).
Utah State led 4-2 early on in the fifth set and held a 10-9 advantage before New Mexico State scored four straight points for what seemed to be an insurmountable 13-10 lead. However, USU responded with four straight points of its own, part of its 6-1 run to post the 16-14 win. Astle and McArthur each had two kills in the fifth set as Utah State hit .143 (7-4-21) and New Mexico State hit .062 (10-8-32).
Utah State finished the match with a .198 (56-23-167) hitting percentage and New Mexico State hit .196 (77-39-194). USU dominated the net as it finished with 11 more blocks (20-9), while NMSU had seven more digs (76-69). Both teams had four service aces in the match, but USU had five fewer service errors (7-2).
Utah State will play the winner of the other semifinal match as No. 3 Hawai'i (28-1), the top seed in the tournament, faces fourth-seeded Idaho (14-14). The championship match will be on Wednesday, Nov. 24 at 7:30 p.m. (MT) and will be televised live on ESPNU.
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