With a second straight weekend winning three of four matches in a tournament, the New Mexico Highlands University volleyball team has already equaled its win total from 2012.
The Cowgirls are 6-2 in their second season under Bryan Crawford. Highlands went 3-1 over the weekend in its own I.C. Bhakta Invitational at the Wilson Complex.
The team opens Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference play this weekend at home when Colorado Mesa — one of the nine participants in the Cowgirls’ tournament — returns to Las Vegas. The Mavericks went 4-0 over the weekend but did not meet NMHU head to head. Mesa did not drop a set last fall in sweeping the Cowgirls, so this figures to be a strong early test.
Dixie State 3, NMHU 2
Nicole Koehler, Maddie Rex, Shannon Young and Kristin Heywood combined for 36 kills as Dixie State took a two-games-to-none lead in Friday’s match, withstood a two-game rally from the Cowgirls and then prevailed in game five, 15-7.
Dixie State won the first two 25-19 and 25-17. Highlands came back with a strong third set, preventing a sweep with a 25-15 win, hitting .265.
Highlands trailed 19-16 in game four after a kill by Koehler, but a Samoa kill began a 9-4 run by the Cowgirls to steal the win. Heywood and Moreno had kills to close the set.
Dixie State held a slim 7-6 edge in the final set but, beginning with back-to-back kills by Rex, finished with an 8-1 surge to take it.
Alicia Moreno continued her strong start, connecting on 12 kills to lead NMHU. Darian Mullen added eight, Bailey Weidner seven and Jazmine Harge six. Tarissa Mellin notched 21 assists. Jessica Piper had nine assists and a team-high 31 digs.
NMHU 3, Western State 0
Hitting at a .286 clip for the match, the Cowgirls swept their RMAC opponent 25-21, 25-16, 25-18 to open Saturday’s action.
Moreno hit for 11 kills and a blazing .391 attack percentage. Weidner had nine and Mullen seven.
Mellin and Lexis Satele had 19 and 12 assists, respectively. Mecole Quintana was the digs leader with eight.
The Cowgirls never trailed in game one after grabbing a 4-1 start, although the Mountaineers hung around and never trailed by more than seven.
NMHU 3, St. Edward’s 0
Moreno tallied 16 kills and 17 digs to lead Highlands to another straight-sets victory.
Samoa contributed 18 digs and Piper had 17 in a fine defensive match for NMHU. Mellin and Satele notched 24 and 18 assists, respectively.
Highlands stormed to a 25-17 win in the first set but had to battle to win 25-22 in game two and 27-25 in the clincher.
In game two, St. Edward’s led much of the way, including a 21-18 spread. Moreno had two kills in Highlands’ 7-1 rally to end the game, and Mullen put it away with a kill off a Mellin set.
The score was tied 15 times in a riveting game three. Elissa Stanton’s kill knotted it up at 25-25 for St. Edward’s. But Samoa took a feed from Piper and regained control for NMHU at 26-25. And the Cowgirls wrapped up the sweep on an erratic attack by Mary Koehler, who finished with a team-high 11 kills in defeat.
NMHU 3, Eastern New Mexico 2
Former Robertson star Jazmine Harge tallied six blocks and was one of four NMHU spikers with double digits in kills as the Cowgirls carved out a tough win over the intrastate rival Zias.
It went down to the wire after the teams split the first four sets. Eastern’s Lauren Frye hit a kill to tie the fifth set at 12-12, tying the score for the eighth time in the game. Moreno answered to put the Cowgirls ahead 13-12, and Harge and Weidner teamed up to block a Frye attack and set up match point.
It was Harge, set up by a Mellin assist, who put the match away with a kill.
Eastern won game one 25-22; then Highlands swiped the match lead with wins of 25-16 and 25-22. The Zias got the equalizer with a 25-15 triumph in game four, setting up the decisive fifth set.
Samoa posted 20 kills to lead all players. Joining her in double-digit kills was Mullen (18 and a blistering .484 attack percentage), Moreno (12) and Harge (11).
Mellin had 42 assists and Satele 18. Piper amassed 34 digs, Samoa 21, Moreno 13 and Mellin 11.
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In other volleyball action, West Las Vegas swept host Santa Fe Indian School this past Thursday night.
Scores were 25-20, 25-16, 25-20.
Caelin Bustos served up nine aces and Jenika Padilla had 10; Deanna Bustos contributed 15 digs for the Lady Dons, 4-1 overall heading into Tuesday’s match vs. Santa Fe Prep.