NORMAL, Illinois (KVIA) - After three matches in less than 24 hours, the Redbird Classic has come to a successful close for the Aggies. NM State took down Saint Louis in four sets, winning all three after dropping the opener. The Aggies leave the Prairie State with an impressive collection of hardware and accolades. Most notably, Mike Jordan collected his 550th career win as head coach of the Aggies. The perfect weekend propelled the Aggies to 6-2, while the Billikens fell to 6-3.
Set-by-set: NM State wins 3-1 (25-27, 25-23, 25-22, 25-18)
"I love NMSU and my place in it," said Jordan, reflecting on the milestone. "I've been loyal and could've taken quite a few different jobs, but this is our home and I'm proud of what we've done."
Three Aggies were named to the Redbird Classic All-Tournament Team: Starr Williams, Ryleigh Whitekettle and KaciaBrown.
The first set was a thriller that included 14 ties and 11 lead changes. The Billikens eventually came out on top 27-25 after winning four of the last five points. After the Aggies pulled ahead 24-23, a pair of attacking errors proved costly in giving up the first set. Luckily, though, the first frame has not been the decisive one for the team this season, and today proved to be no different.
The Aggies responded quickly, taking advantage 25-23 in another competitive set. The Aggies have played eight matches so far this season, and have a record of 6-2. In their two losses, they lost the second set both times. Additionally, they are a perfect six-for-six in the second set in wins this season. The trend continued today, thanks in large part to Kacia Brown. The redshirt junior had nine digs in the first two sets alone, quickly passing her previous career high of eight. AnjiVishwanathan collected her second kill on the season in a clutch point to go up 22-20. Several points later, one of Brown's efficient seven kills came on set point, closing it out 25-23.
The third set was won during the two most crucial stretches; the beginning and the end. Brown teamed up with Starr Williams early on to take a 6-2 lead, as each outside hitter had multiple kills in that span. Bianca Perez and Rilen Garcia split the setting role and kept the offense afloat, but Saint Louis pulled ahead 22-20. Following a Williams kill, the defense locked in to close out the set. Aleka Darko got a hand on four consecutive block assists in the final four points, taking a pivotal 2-1 set lead.
The fourth set was the final chapter of another great performance from redshirt sophomore Starr Williams. She finished the match hitting .475 with a career-high 23 kills, including six in the frame. Meanwhile, in her typical fashion, DarianMarkham locked down the defense. The senior libero showed her leadership, collecting 19 digs and seven assists in the win. The set was never particularly close, with the Aggies finishing it off 25-18 having never trailed or tied.
The Aggies will head to Tucson, Ariz. for the second half of the six-match road trip. The format will mirror the Redbird Classic, with a doubleheader on Friday and one match on Saturday. The Wildcat Classic will start against Alabama State, followed by a faceoff against hosts Arizona. Starr Williams will face her former team on Saturday, taking on Long Beach State in the final match of the tournament.