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Aggie volleyball defying the norms

Traditionally, outside hitters — the hitters on the left side of the court — are the power hitters with the highest statistics and hitting percentage. However, Aggie rightsides Shaney Lipscomb and Katie Birtcil are defying these norms.

Both volleyball players have been named to the Colonel Challenge All-Tournament team after a weekend of playing intensely and leading the Aggies to win every single set. Lipscomb was also named MVP of the tournament. These two athletes have been leading the team in hitting percentage, especially Lipscomb, who has a .320 hitting percentage and over 160 kills this season.

NMSU volleyball player Katie Birtcil, center, reacts after her team scored a point. (Photo courtesy of NMSU Athletics)

With stats like these, it’s very crucial for these hitters to have a solid connection with their setters. Every kill the hitters record is an assist for the setters and a reflection of how well they are playing. Junior Katie Birtcil is working with freshman setter Alana Embry, who has had a lot to adjust to. “We’re talking to each other constantly during games. We’re constantly next to each other on the bench talking about what’s going on,” Birtcil said.

Lipscomb also spoke on the matter, and discussed the importance of maintaining a game-like mindset in practice and communication throughout the entirety of a game.

Coming off a peculiar season last year without any fans, the team has had to adjust to the new atmosphere this year. “The acclimation of playing in front of a crowd, versus not, even though it’s something that shouldn’t matter — it definitely makes a difference,” Lipscomb said.

Playing collegiate volleyball is particularly different from other sports in that the players are away for longer periods of time playing at lengthy tournaments. September was especially hard since the team was on the road every single week.

NMSU volleyball player Shaney Lipscomb reacts after her team scored a point in a match against the University of Arizona. (Photo courtesy of NMSU Athletics)

Additionally, volleyball is a very fast-paced game that requires focus throughout the entirety of a match.  To train for this specific type of stressor, Birtcil explained that Aggie head coach Mike Jordan tells his players that their brain is a muscle just like any other in their body, and that it needs to be trained accordingly. Birtcil also said she practices managing her focus throughout class each day.

For Lipscomb and Birtcil, being the prominent players they are, it’s important to them to stay engaged and energetic constantly by always communicating with every teammate on and off the court, which ensures everyone remains focused.

The Aggies are now 12-3 overall and 3-0 in conference play. The team will face off Saturday, Oct. 2, at home against California Baptist. The match is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. at the Pan American Center. 


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