Dec. 5, 2008

Courtesy Saint Mary's Athletics

BERKELEY, Calif. - The Saint Mary's women's volleyball team was unable to earn a post-season win, falling to New Mexico State, 25-22, 16-25, 21-25, 15-25. Senior outside hitter Taylor Groess closed out her career as a Gael with 10 kills and .400 hitting percentage, while also adding three block assists.

"First of all, congratulations to New Mexico State," said head coach Rob Browning. "They are a good team and did what they needed to do to get the win. We are disappointed of course. We always expect to win. Our girls played hard but they are a young team. They might not always do everything right in terms of execution but our girls will always play hard every night out. We had a great year but we are definitely disappointed with tonight's outcome."

As a team Saint Mary's was held to a .107 hitting percentage in the match, while New Mexico State finished with a .221 mark. Joining Groess with 10 kills apiece were sophomore Shannon Lowell and freshman Chanteal Satele. Lowell was solid for the Gaels throughout the match, recording 10 kills on 22 swings for a .318 hitting efficiency.

Just as expected, both teams came to battle in the first set, trading points back-and-forth. A Megan York kill put the first point on the board for either side, but New Mexico State responded with a kill, tying the set at one apiece. The Gaels then held a three point advantage, 9-6, but multiple unforced errors by Saint Mary's allowed the Aggies back in the game, trying the score at 11 apiece. New Mexico State took the lead for the first time off a York hitting error, 12-11, and extended that advantage to 15-13 at the first media timeout. An Aggie service error and Lowell kill made the score even at 15 apiece, turning the set into a back-and-forth scuffle between both squads. Late in the set the Gaels' nerves began to settle, finding their rhythm on defense and offense. Lowell and Satele each knocked down two late kills, while Groess topped off the match with a kill on the right side.

As a team the Gaels held New Mexico State to a .073 hitting percentage, forcing 10 Aggie attack errors. Saint Mary's out blocked and dug New Mexico State, totaling three blocks and 13 digs to New Mexico State's 11 digs and no blocks. Satele paced Saint Mary's with five kills in the set, while Lowell added three. Lowell was 3-of-5 for a .600 hitting percentage in the set, while Satele was successful on 5-of-8 attempts for a .500 mark. Kapua Kamana'o dished out nine assists in the set, while leading the team to a .214 hitting efficiency.

In the second a completely different Gael squad took the court, with New Mexico State taking an 8-3 lead. Multiple unforced errors by Saint Mary's attackers allowed the Aggies to take control, and with momentum on their side New Mexico State began to roll past the Gaels. Saint Mary's recorded nine kills on 25 swings with five errors for a .160 hitting mark, with Lowell and Groess leading the team with three kills apiece. As a team New Mexico State hit a stifling .500, nailing 14 kills on 26 swings with only one error.

Eight straight points by the Aggies opened the third set, including three consecutive kills by New Mexico State. Finally a York kill put the Gaels on the board, and an upward climb began for Saint Mary's. Stinging together consecutive points, the Gaels dug their way back into the set, with scrappy defense forcing the Aggies to make mistakes. Saint Mary's began to make a strong run down 11-16 in the set, scoring three straight points, including a huge block by Lowell and Groess to bring them to within one, 16-15. An Aggie error tied the set at 17 apiece, and Saint Mary's took their first lead of the set, 19-18, following a back row attack by New Mexico State. Unfortunately the Gaels seemed to run out of steam with the score tied at 19 apiece, as New Mexico State went on a 6-2 run to close out the set, 25-21.

Neither team hit for a high percentage in the third set, with the Gaels posting a .031 mark to the Aggies' .081. Saint Mary's totaled eight kill and nine errors on 32 swings, while New Mexico State was 15-of-37 with 12 errors. Lowell and York tabbed three kills apiece in the set.

The Gaels came out in the third ready to fight, but a solid New Mexico State squad did not falter, as they continued to find Saint Mary's weak spots. After holding the advantage to start, the Gaels gave up the lead at 8-7 and never regained it, falling 25-15 in the fourth.

New Mexico State senior outside hitter Lindsey Yon led all players with 17 kills (12e, 43att, .116). Also standing out for the Aggies were sophomore outside hitter Whitney Woods (10k, 4e, 22att, .273) and senior middle hitter Amber Simpson (11k, 3e, 23att, .348). Senior setter Alyssa Gintant chipped in 28 assists for New Mexico State.

The match concluded the Gaels' 2008 season, finishing with a 20-8 overall record. With the loss the Gaels are 2-4 all-time in the post season, while New Mexico State looks to continue their run against the winner of California versus Siena.