SAN DIEGO, Calif. – A balanced offense and a strong defensive effort led the Arizona (21-12) volleyball team to a 3-0 (25-14, 25-23, 25-19) NCAA First Round victory over New Mexico State (22-11) on Friday night inside Jenny Craig Pavilion.
The Wildcats advance to play the winner of No. 9 San Diego and UC Santa Barbara tomorrow at 8 p.m. MST. Arizona won its 27th all-time NCAA Tournament match and its first since advancing to the Elite Eight in 2005. The Wildcats are now a perfect 14-0 all-time against New Mexico State.
The Arizona defense was phenomenal all night long as it held New Mexico State to just .102 hitting. Meanwhile, the Wildcats out-blocked the Aggies 13.0 to 5.0. Arizona also finished with a significant 65 to 55 dig advantage.
Madi Kingdon had a solid all-around effort for the match as she finished with 11 kills, 14 digs and a career-high eight blocks. Taylor Arizobal was the only other player with double-figure kills as she finished with 10 kills on a solid .333 hitting to go with three digs and two blocks. Jane Croson added nine kills and eight digs for the Cats.
Meanwhile, Penina Snuka provided a solid all-around effort with her 18th double-double of the season. She recorded 31 assists, 17 digs and two blocks. Candace Nicholson provided a strong defensive effort from the back row with 12 digs.
The Wildcats also got strong contributions at the net from Rachel Rhoades and Halli Amaro. Rhoades recorded five kills on .444 hitting with three blocks, while Amaro had five kills to go with seven blocks.
Arizona got off to a strong start in the opening set as it rode the arm of Croson, who served the Cats to the first three points of the match. However, New Mexico State quickly bounced back by reeling off the next five points to take the 5-3 advantage. Arizona answered right back with a 7-1 run to take a 10-6 lead, forcing the Aggies to burn an early timeout. From there it was all Arizona as the Wildcats extended their lead and went on to take the set, 25-14. Arizona’s defense was the story of the set as it blocked New Mexico State six times, while holding the Aggies to just .000 hitting.
New Mexico State regrouped and got off to a quick 14-9 advantage in the second set, forcing the Wildcats to burn a quick timeout. The Aggies remained in control until Arizona went on a 5-1 run to tie the score 21-21. After some back and forth play to make the score 23-23, a New Mexico State service error and a kill by Amaro clinched the comeback victory in the set for the Wildcats, 25-23. Once again the Arizona defense came up big with five blocks in the set, while holding NMSU to just .106 hitting.
It was all Arizona at the beginning of the third set as the Cats jumped out to a 15-9 advantage. New Mexico State battled back to cut the lead to three at 21-18, but Arizona went on a 4-1 run to close the set, 25-19. The Wildcats had their best offensive performance of the match in the set as they hit a strong .361 with just three errors.
Gwen Murphy led New Mexico State with nine kills for the match, while Jordan Reifsteck finished with a match-high 20 digs to lead the NMSU defense.
For continued coverage of Arizona Wildcat volleyball, visit ArizonaWildcats.com and be sure to follow the team on Twitter @ArizonaVBall.