The Aggie volleyball team kicks off the 2012 campaign tonight when they face Wichita State in the opening game of the NIU Invitational. First serve is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. (MDT) and the match can be heard on KSNM AM 570 in Las Cruces and online via Aggie Access.
The 2012 season holds much promise for the Aggies and with WAC bully Hawai'i gone from the league (having left for the "greener pastures" of the Big West) the WAC appears to be a four or five team race with the Aggies figuring to be the prohibitive favorite at least on paper.
If you read this week's interview with head coach Mike Jordan you're aware that the Aggies have scheduled a little differently this non-conference and have set themselves up with a chance play themselves into an at-large bid before conference play begins. It's similar to what Aggie baseball was able to do this past season in that the schedule is packed with strong RPI teams that will win a lot of games and in turn that will help the Aggies' own RPI stay in that at-large range (usually in the 25 to 45 range). Now obviously the Aggies need to take care of their part of the RPI equation and that is win a few of those matches in the non-conference (much like the Aggies were able to do early on) and just like we saw with the Aggie baseball team, if the volleyball team can notch a few good RPI wins in the non-conference, the losses during non-conference play and even a couple losses during conference play won't hurt them nearly as bad.
So today that quest for a return trip to the NCAA tournament, a place the Aggies have not been for three years (a veritable drought by the high Aggie volleyball standards we've been accustomed to). Things to watch for in today's match. First and foremost is the setter position. The Aggies are looking for solid play from the group of three setters that they have, two newcomers (VCU transfer Ciara Brown and freshman Taylor Livoti) and a sophomore returnee (Maggi Jo Keffury) who saw little action last year. Can this group get the powerful Aggie hitters the ball?
Second, the floor defense. The Aggies must also replace libero Kelsi Phillips who graduated. The Aggies believe they have plays who can make plays on defense at the libero and defensive specialist position.
Third, the front row. The Aggies are absolutely loaded with powerful arms led by sophomore Meredith Hays. Bradley Nash is back from the ACL injury that derailed a promising start from her last year. The Aggies have a transfer from Cal in Lauren Loerch who should be a lot of fun to watch and the Aggies also have three intriguing players in the middle in junior Desiree Scott whom the Aggie coaching staff is looking to really start playing up to her potential, sophomore Gwen Murphy whose athleticism is off the charts and then there's junior college transfer Preslie Alexander (whose name we've heard repeatedly but admittedly know very little about except that there's always a bit of excitement when her name is brought up).
It should be an incredibly fun and exciting season, one that will hopefully culminate with a return trip to the NCAAs, and it all begins today at 4:00 p.m.
Live Stats will also be available for the match.
The Wichita State athletic website previews the NIU Invitational.
The Northern Illinois athletic website previews the tournament.
The North Dakota State athletic website previews their team.
Jason Groves of the Las Cruces Sun-News previews the Aggie volleyball team. (Subscription required)
Teddy Feinberg of the Las Cruces Sun-News takes a look at the Aggies' tight end position. (Subscription required)
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