Home-like crowd awaits Wahine
New Mexico State is expecting 6,000-plus for tonight's match
Whatever New Mexico State is calling today's combo fiesta-luau -- the tailgate festivities preceding tonight's volleyball match with No. 11 Hawaii -- it's drawing a crowd to the Pan American Center in Las Cruces.
Today: No. 11 Hawaii (8-6, 2-0) at New Mexico State (7-3, 1-2), 3 p.m. HST.
Radio: Live, KKEA (1420-AM).
Series: Hawaii leads, 16-0.
Next up: Fresno State at Hawaii, Oct. 7.
A big crowd.
With more than 6,000 tickets sold, the 13,071-seat PAC will be about half-packed, but "it should be a record crowd for us," said Aggies coach Mike Jordan, whose team is averaging 1,823 a game. "We're looking forward to a festive evening.
"I don't know how many volleyball programs have tailgating before their matches. We've had a group of tailgaters the past year and it's growing ... which is neat to see. I really don't know how many people we'll have and I know it won't be anywhere near the (NCAA) record, but it should be one of the better crowds of the season."
The original promotion for tonight's match was "Come Break the NCAA Record," but it couldn't have physically happened. The record is 13,194 -- 123 more than the Pan American Center holds. However, tonight's match should easily pass the school record of 3,183, set in the Aggies' season opener Aug. 29 in a win over rival New Mexico.
Big crowd not withstanding, the Aggies are interested in seeing how they match up with the Wahine, winners of 93 consecutive Western Athletic Conference matches and nine straight conference titles. NMSU was the powerhouse of the Sun Belt, winning titles in all four of its seasons in that conference, but lost its first WAC matches last week.
The Aggies picked up their inaugural conference win Thursday against Fresno State, 27-30, 30-20, 30-15, 30-28. Redshirt freshman Amber Simpson, a 6-foot-3 middle, set the NMSU record for individual hitting percentage of .720, with 18 kills and no errors in 25 attempts.
The Aggies also got 14 kills from junior middle Alice Borden and 12 kills from sophomore hitter Kim Oguh. Sophomore libero Jordan Bostic also tied her individual career high with 20 digs.
Hawaii coach Dave Shoji said he was expecting a tougher match with the Aggies than the one the Wahine had Thursday when sweeping host Louisiana Tech in 93 minutes. Hawaii had its best overall production from its outside hitters when Alicia Arnott, Tara Hittle and Sarah Mason all were in double figures. Just missing out was middle Victoria Prince (nine kills).
"Our biggest concern has to be the number of offensive weapons they have," Jordan said of the Wahine. "They have good balance offensively, so it's tough to commit-block against them.
"Obviously, we'll have to bring the A-plus game to beat Hawaii. You try to get teams out of system by serving tough and, against the great teams, you have to be willing to take chances at the service line. We'll do our share of that."
Hawaii nearly shut out the best serving team in the WAC on Thursday after limiting LaTech to two aces, both coming in Game 3. The Lady Techsters were averaging 2.19 aces per game.
The Aggies had seven aces in downing Fresno State on Thursday. Junior hitter Tanya Allen had two, bringing her season total to 23.
NMSU will play at the Stan Sheriff Center on Nov. 17, the first trip here since 1994, when the schools were both members of the Big West. The Aggies were the last team to play the Wahine in Klum Gym; the Stan Sheriff Center opened two weeks later.
Jordan expects he'll be making more trips to Hawaii -- and not just for matches -- thanks to the move to the WAC.
"I think the WAC will help recruiting," he said. "A stronger conference and West Coast-based with the fact that we've been successful the past few years is getting our foot in the door already with some very good players.
"I'm excited about the thought of recruiting in the islands. I know there are lots of good athletes and players. Hopefully, we'll get a few here and there."
Note: The official NCAA record of 13,194 was set on Dec. 19, 1998, at Madison, Wis., in the national championship match between Long Beach State and Penn State ... The unofficial record is 16,126 when host North Carolina beat Duke 3-2 on Oct. 22, 2003. The NCAA acknowledges it with an asterisk under the category of "a match held in conjunction with a special promotion of another event." Following the match, "Late Night With Roy Williams" was held to kick off the first day of practice for the UNC men's basketball team.