The Roadrunners, who also came into the match at 1-0 in the WAC, fall to .500 in the conference and 5-10 overall.
Although the Aggies were outhit, .185 to .172, and had a couple less kills than Bakersfield, NM State came up big defensively when it counted, in the latter sets. The Aggies held the Roadrunners to a .029 hitting percentage in the fourth set and a negative (-.125) percentage in the fifth and deciding set.
“Obviously we didn’t play well,” Aggie head coach Mike Jordan said, “but you have to give Bakersfield credit. We didn’t practice well this week and it showed. Hopefully we’ve learned our lesson.”
Junior Nathalie Castellanos marked her second double-double of the season after finishing with 10 kills and 19 assists while also hitting at a .389 percentage.
Redshirt freshman middle hitter Sasha-Lee Thomas led the squad with 11 kills and also added two solo blocks and two block-assists. Junior setter Taylor Livoti had 31 assists and libero Hannah Walker finished with a match-high 21 digs. Outside hitter Andrea Tauai added 13 digs and eight kills.
The critical set of the match was the fourth set. Down two sets to one, and on the brink of suffering its first loss in five matches, NM State would have to go to extra points to stay alive.
The set was tight throughout, but the Roadrunners would take a 19-17 lead late to reach the point of smelling the victory. The Aggies, however, would mark three-straight points, including a big block and a hard kill by junior Gwen Murphy who finished with a .400 hitting percentage, to take a 20-19 lead.
From there the set would be tied at 20, 21, 22, 23 and finally at 24 to put NM State a couple of points from defeat. But the Aggies would mark the final two points of the set to escape with a 26-24 set win and tie the match at two sets apiece.
With momentum on its side, NM State would score the first-four points of the deciding set en route to pulling away from Bakersfield. After a three-point rally, the Aggie lead had extended to 11-3 and a few points later a service ace from Walker would hand NM State a tough five-set victory.
The Aggies started the match by winning their 13th-consecutive set, but would struggle during sets two and three. NM State had a .150 hitting percentage in the second set and a .000 percentage in set three to fall down 2-1 before making its comeback.
NM State now hits the road for its first WAC matches away from Las Cruces. The Aggies play Utah Valley on Thursday, Oct. 2, at 7 p.m. (MDT) before meeting Seattle U on Saturday afternoon, Oct. 4, at 2 p.m. (MDT). Both matches can heard live over the radio on KGRT AM 570 with Adam Young on the call.