Utah Valley University jumped ahead with a win in the first set, but New Mexico State prevailed by winning the next three (25-19, 26-28, 20-25, 17-25) to win the WAC Volleyball Tournament Championship on Saturday night, 3-1, at the Icardo Center.
The Aggies (24-8) earn the league's automatic NCAA Tournament berth, while the Wolverines (19-13) fall just shy of earning their first opportunity to compete in the tournament.
"We've accomplished a lot. We've got a team of kids who are determined and hungry and losing doesn't define who we are," said UVU head coach Sam Atoa. "I'm absolutely so proud of what the team has done throughout the year. We're going to keep learning from these experiences and keep growing and getting better."
Kazna Tarawhiti, the WAC Freshman of the Year, and Seren Merrill were both named to the all-tournament team for Utah Valley. Tarawhiti finished with 12 kills and eight digs, while Merrill recorded her third-straight game in the tournament north of 20 digs, finishing with 24.
Jasmine Niutupuivaha had 11 kills, Madi Wardle recorded her third double-double of the tournament with 21 assists and 11 digs and BriAnne Mortensen finished with 13 assists and 13 digs. Makaila Jarema added nine blocks and seven kills.
The Aggies got 16 kills from Savannah Davison, 14 from Tatyana Battle and 13 from Megan Hart, who hit .414 and also had 10 blocks and earned Tournament MVP honors. Both Battle and Davison joined her on the all-tournament team.
"You've got to give a lot of credit to New Mexico State. They really played a good match tonight. But we're going to be back. There's no question about it," Atoa said.
The Wolverines trailed 11-8 in the opening set when an attack error from the Aggies started a 4-0 run. UVU scored the next three, all on service aces from Niutupuivaha. UVU led 17-16 before taking control of the set with a 7-1 run, including four straight that made it 24-17. Tarawhiti had two service aces – UVU had six aces in the opener – to cap the run. A Kristen Allred kill finished off the set, 25-19.Comment on this story
The Wolverines scored six out of seven points early in the second set to take an 11-7 lead. They extended it to 16-10 after kills from Niutupuivaha and Tarawhiti, but the Aggies answered with a 9-1 run to go in front, 19-17. A Tarawhiti kill gave UVU set point at 24-22, but New Mexico State stayed alive with two-straight points to tie it. The Wolverines had a third chance to take the set, but the Aggies staved it off and earned a set point of their own. Eventually, with the set at 26-26, Davison recorded consecutive kills to end it for NM State, 28-26, and tie the match at a game apiece.
Set three was deadlocked at 13-13 when a 6-0 run gave New Mexico State control. The Wolverines were down 23-16 and tried to rally, scoring four straight, but did not get any closer, dropping the set, 25-20, and falling behind 2-1 in the match.
The Aggies were in control for most of the final set, using three-straight points early on to go ahead 14-9, and then a decisive 7-1 run to take a 21-12, putting the game out of reach.