Although the Western New Mexico University volleyball team lost a pair of matches Friday at the Westminster Invitational, all seven sets played were close, but the Lady Mustangs were only able to claim one with Harding taking the 3-0 (22-25, 25-27, 26-28) win and Westminster with the 3-1 (25-23, 21-25, 20-25, 18-25) victory.
Seniors Kalie Lyle and Alanna Watt paced WNMU (0-6) in the opener against Harding with Lyle posting 14 kills and Watt with eight. Sophomores Cristal Carrizoza and Sophia Mitchell set the table with 18 and 14 assists each, while on defense senior Ashley Mataele had 13 digs and redshirt freshman Christiana DuBose with four blocks, with two coming solo.
Harding (7-0) moved out to a big lead early in the first set at 20-13. The Lady Mustangs came charging back with kills by Watt, Mitchell and Lyle to get to within four. Freshman Delaney Seitz added a solo block and after DuBose added her own solo block it was a two-point set at 20-18. After that, the Bisons were able to post five of the final nine points for the 25-22 opening set win.
Seitz, Watt and DuBose all collected points early in the second set to help boost WNMU to the 7-3 lead. Harding came charging back to post the 17-15 lead, but the Lady Mustangs didn’t go away. Lyle had WNMU back in front with a kill at 20-19 and later a Watt kill had the Lady Mustangs in front at 24-23, but the Bisons closed strong to take the 27-25 second set and 2-0 match lead.
WNMU held early leads in the third set, both off attack errors at 6-5 and 7-6. With Harding in front 14-10, WNMU made another run to get back into it, taking the lead at 17-16 on a service ace by Mataele. The lead stretched to two late in the set at 23-21 on an attack error. With the set tied at 26, the Bisons reeled off the next two points for the 28-26 third set win and 3-0 match victory.
Harding was led by 12 kills apiece from Zoe Hardin and Emma Reeves. Emily Smith sent back four blocks.
In the second match of the night, Lyle again had another big match going for 16 kills, while freshman Sarai Migao added nine. Carrizoza had 22 assists, while on defense Mataele recorded 20 digs and sophomore Hannah Tishlarich sent back six blocks, with one solo.
Westminster (2-4) roared out to a 10-5 lead in the first set. Just like the Lady Mustangs had done all day long, they fought right back eventually taking the lead at 21-20 on a kill by Lyle. The lead stretched to two at 23-21 on a kill by Watt. After moving to a point away at 24-23, junior Kijana Best closed the set with a kill at 25-23 for the early 1-0 lead.
WNMU took the momentum into the second set with Best, Watt and Tishlarich tallying points for the 5-1 advantage. Still in front 10-8 on an attack error, the Griffins stormed back to take a 15-11 lead. WNMU got back to within two at 17-15 before Westminster pulled away for the 25-21 set win to even the match at one.
In the third set, WNMU moved in front 10-7 with kills by Migao and Best. Best had the separation at four holding the 13-9 lead. Lyle kept the offense rolling with a kill at 16-11. Watt had WNMU still in front at 20-19 before the Griffins charged back to claim the set at 25-20 and open a 2-1 match lead.
Watt gave WNMU some separation in the fourth set as she moved the lead to three at 10-7 with a kill. Tishlarich and Watt combined for a double-block to knot the set at 18 before another late run by the Griffins sealed the set and the match as they took the 25-18 fourth set win and 3-1 match victory.
Westminster spread out the offense with Audrey Green leading four in double-figures in terms of kills with 14, while Amara Spere, Taylor Harvey and Whitney Wakefield had 12 kills apiece. Megan Gallegos grabbed 24 digs and Wakefield sent back six blocks, with two solo.
WNMU will close the Westminster Invitational Saturday facing Malone at 10 a.m. and West Alabama at 4 p.m.