VOLLEYBALL: Streak snapped by NMSU

Amber North

For the last two seasons, no team has been able to match Western’s caliber in Diddle Arena.

The Lady Toppers had piled up 31 straight wins in Diddle, including seven this season.

Then they played New Mexico State Friday.

Coach Travis Hudson and his Lady Toppers knew going into the match that it would be a tough one.

The Aggies were undefeated in the Sun Belt Conference and ready to avenge their 2002 conference championship loss to Western. The Lady

Toppers were prepared to protect their streak.

But that wasn’t enough.

The Aggies were too much for Western to contain and won in five games with scores of 32-34, 33-31, 26-30, 30-25, 14-16.

The streak had ended.

Western players walked away slowly. There were no smiles. No laughs. They knew they would be starting a new streak from scratch.

“I’m not overly surprised,” Hudson said. “We’re equal teams, and the match comes down to a bounce here or there, and we didn’t get the bounce.”

After losing a nail-biting first game, the Lady Toppers (18-6, 5-2 Sun Belt) came back to take the second. Game Two was just as close as the first, both teams flirting with the lead until Western held it for good at 32-31.

NMSU (17-4, 7-0 SBC) rebounded from the loss and won the third game.

It looked as if the Aggies were going to finish off the Lady Toppers in the fourth game, taking an early 17-9.

That’s when Hudson sent Ashley Deignan to energize the game. And she delivered.

The Louisville freshman helped the Lady Toppers overcome the deficit by serving 12 straight points to grab the lead at 22-17 which sealed the win.

“I was very nervous coming into the game and didn’t know what to expect playing New Mexico State,” Deignan said.

In the final game, Western led until it slipped and allowed the Aggies to overcome a 13-10 deficit and score four points.

Western sophomore Jessie Wagner had a career-high 31 kills.

“I just went out there and played my heart out,” she said. “It all just came together.”

Western swept Denver (14-8, 5-3) Friday to gain its 12th sweep of the season, 30-13, 30-25, 30-27.

The first game was quick and easy for the Lady Toppers, out-hitting Denver .308 to minus .097.

“Throughout this season we’ve struggled with finishing,” Hudson said.

“This match was all about character – this match could win a championship.”

Reach Amber North at [email protected]