Monday, November 28, 2016

NMSU Aggies vs Appalachian State Mountaineers Football 11-26-16

It didn’t seem like a good sign that the pre-game show on the radio was urging fans to come out and see a really great Appalachian State team (hereafter abbreviated AS to save my fingers).  Yes, this was one of the better teams in the conference.  Compounding matters, Aggie quarterback, Tyler Rogers, after his stellar performance last week, had been injured during practice and was a late scratch from starting this game.  So, we weren’t looking for a “W” this week.  

It was a lot nicer Saturday than last weekend.  Though overcast, it was warmer with just a light breeze.  The Aggies were coming off a good win, and there was no competition from any high school games.  This all might have helped attendance, but unfortunately the calendar may have kept fans away.  This was the weekend following Thanksgiving and the students and many families were likely out of town.  That this week’s opponent was expected to win easily, even without knowing that the starting quarterback was out, might have also dampened some enthusiasm for the game.

Ron wasn’t expecting a win, but we were going anyway.  This time we were prepared with jackets for the cold.  The Softball team was again handing out programs at the entrance, but it was a different group of girls.  I didn’t recognize any of them and didn’t attempt any conversation this time.  We’ll just hope they’re doing an autograph session during their season.  It was Senior Day, being the last home game of the season.  As we arrived, the senior players were being introduced on field with their families and friends.  I just saw the last player, who was brought out by the coaches’ wife, Vicki (as stated in the program).  That was sweet of her.

There was a somewhat sparse crowd inside.  There weren’t even any ushers at the different sections, which pretty much meant you could have sat wherever there was an unsold seat.  We ended up sitting about where we did last time in the upper bowl.  Though were plenty seats available, we ended up crammed together with several senior citizens, who were apparently long-time regulars at these football games.  Another thing that wasn’t there was the girl with the cinnamon roasted nuts.  This was bad.  Not only was I looking forward to another little sack full of sweet tasty almonds, I was planning on getting a couple for out-of-state relatives for Christmas.  Crap.  It was going to be such a pleasant, unique local gift.

I left my radio earplugs out and listened to the Pride band give a great performance before the game.  There were some kids on the sidelines, dancing along with the Sundancers on the field.  The Appalachian State Mountaineers were introduced first.  There was a small, but vocal contingent of their fans seated in what was usually the student section.  They were the only ones there.  Before the Aggies came out, Pistol Pete’s horse became antsy.  He knew it was time to perform.  After a short countdown, Pete, his horse, and the team charged out on to the field.

1st Qtr
The Mountaineers received the opening kickoff.  On their second play, they broke off about a 50 yard rush to the Aggie 2.  The crowd collectively gulped.  However, the Aggie defense held and limited AS to a field goal.  Whew.  3-0 AS.  Nick Jeanty was in as the Aggie quarterback.  He’d started many of the games last season when Tyler Rogers was injured then too.  It was a three and out with no progress.  Payton Theisler made another great rugby-style punt to put AS deep in their own territory.

I could see Pistol Pete working the crowd in the lower bowl.  The roving concessions were selling hot chocolate and lemonade this time.  The Mountaineers first play was a 30 yard rush.  A pass following that put them on the Aggie 9.  Again, the Aggies kept them back for three downs, but they went for it on 4th down on the goal line and made it.  10-0 AS.  The Aggies go three and out.  There’s a bad snap on the punt which only makes it out to the Aggie 40.  The Mountaineers score on the next play.  17-0 AS.

Ron turned to me, “You think they’ll make it to 100?”  “We may be part of history,” I replied.  Jack Nixon and Preston Williams were rather subdued on the radio for the game.  They spent a good deal of time discussing their Thanksgiving meals at one point.  With the on-field action waning, I noticed Coach Doug Martin’s wife was out roving on the sidelines.  Well, she seems to be rather attractive, if not outright hot.  Perhaps I’m not angling for the coach to get booted at the end of the season.

The Aggies go three and out.  In three series in the first quarter, the team will end up with 0 yards of offense.  They didn’t advance the ball a single yard on their possessions.  All their plays lost yardage or only made it back to the line of scrimmage.  Wait, what’s this?  An attractive blonde producer for Aggievision showed up in our section and handed everybody coupons for free What-A-Burgers.  Hey, showing up here suddenly just paid off.  She asks everyone to make a “Guns Up” sign for the camera later.  No problem.  On field (and less interesting and less attractive), AS got the ball back.  They drove into Aggie territory and made a 4th and 2 to end the quarter.

2nd Qtr
The stadium lights come on.  Though early, it’s getting dark with the cloud cover.  A fan misses a 15 yard kick for money in between quarters.  The pretty blonde producer walked him out to the field.  She’s hustling out there.  The Aggies keep the Mountaineers out of the endzone, and the field goal attempt is missed.  The Aggies take over with a new quarterback, Conner Cramer.  Unfortunately, it’s still a three and out.  I find myself watching the pretty blonde Aggie trainer on the sidelines.  I’d seen her last game running out on field to tend to injured players.  She’s watching the game closely obviously.

The blonde producer on the sidelines points up to us, telling us to be ready during the challenged call on the field.  She’s watching the game too and rooting for the team.  The Aggies hold off another AS series, stopping them on another 4th down attempt.  It’s our moment!  Our section goes “Guns Up” as we end up on the video board for a What-A-Burger promo.  Back to the game, Cramer takes a late hit on a QB keeper.  It’s a penalty and the first Aggie first down of the game.  The Mountaineer player was also ejected for targeting.  Xavier Hall then rushed for a first, and Cramer rushed for another first.  The Aggies were in the red zone.  Unfortunately, there’s a twice-tipped ball in the endzone that results in a Mountaineer interception.

I noticed an injured player was hobbling around on the sidelines.  The pretty trainer followed him around for a while, before he finally gave in and got on the table to get his ankle tapped up.  The cheerleaders now have jackets on, as it’s a bit cooler.  AS had the ball, but the Aggies forced a fumble at midfield.  On the next play, Cramer, after a great scramble, connected with Tyrian Taylor for a 50 yard touchdown strike.  17-7 AS, and at least the Aggies won’t be shutout.  The cheerleaders come over to the crowd around midfield and started throwing little footballs to them.  One of the girls, perhaps unsure of her arm, handed her ball to a player to throw.

AS got the ball back and marched down field.  In the red zone, there’s a sack, which forced the Mountaineers to try a field goal, which was successful.  20-7 AS.  Aggies got the ball back with little time on the clock.  The drive didn’t go anywhere before the half ended, but Cramer did layout a good block for Larry Rose III rushing.  During this quarter, I noticed my old boss going down the stairwell.  I caught him when he came back up to say, “Hello.”  I was also able on congratulate him as I’d noticed looking at the roster last week, that his son, Brett Kowalski, is playing on the team.  I remember sitting for him once and playing cars on the floor with him when he was a little kid.  They grow up so fast.  
The senior band members were introduced on field with their friends and family.  Two French horn players were graduating.  The whole French horn section was with them and marched in formation behind them.  A tuba player was introduced.  Behind him on the other side of the field, the other tuba players charged out on to the field and started dancing.  The band started their performance a little late.  I could see a Sun Belt official in a vest below us enjoying the show, so I’ll guess it met with conference approval.  As halftime started winding down, the players started to take the field.  The marching band refused to yield.  The band actually won that contest and finished their set.  The players had to wait to start practicing and warming up.

3rd Qtr
The Aggies received the kickoff.  It was another three and out.  This one could have been much worse as there was a bad snap and a bad throw on one of the downs.  AS didn’t get a first down, for a seeming three and out of their own, until the punter ended up running for it on a fake.  The crowd collectively groaned.  Even I kind of saw that coming.  The Aggie defense held them to a field goal.  23-7 AS.

The Aggies got the ball back.  They go for it on 4th down on the AS 40, but turn it over on downs.  I rushed to the bathroom finally, and picked up a hot chocolate at the concessions.  It was $3, a relative bargain for stadium food and tasted good too.  The Mountaineers punted on their possession.  Pinned deep in their own territory, Cramer went for a bomb on third down from his own endzone, and it was intercepted at midfield.   AS got a big rush on a third and long to take them inside the Aggie 10.  Their quarterback took it in himself for the touchdown.

[Edit: So I'm watching a Mexico sports show Sunday night after writing this to find out who won the F1 championship.  They're doing a top 10 list of plays of the weekend.  That interception was like #4 on the list.  I did a double take as it came up on screen.  I didn't think it was that great a play, much less internationally awesome.  Last year, when the Aggies got an interception that was caught between the guy's ankles, now that was awesome.]

The crowd began to desert.  I found myself looking more at the women on the sidelines than the guys on the field, trying to get some value out of the game.  Pistol Pete, who’d been leading the cheering on the sidelines during the last series, seemed a bit apologetic.  He came up into the crowd again.  Maybe he was actually apologizing.  Several of the senior citizens around us started to leave, saying “See you next year,” to each other.  “Where else am I going to go to?” answered one of them.  Ah, the doomed resignation of committed New Mexico State Aggie football fans.      

4th Qtr
The Aggies went three and out on their next possession.  In other news, the sun set in the west.  At least things were moving along quickly, like the Mountaineer quarterback going for 40 yards and a TD on a keeper on the next series.  37-7 AP.  There was some heavy promotion at the stadium of the basketball double header next week at the stadium.  The women and the men’s teams will be playing.  I’ll be at work.  I felt like a dope not going to their first DH a couple of weeks ago on Veteran’s Day when I could have gone.

Me and Ron meet another co-worker who had been sitting in a nearby section the whole time.  Her and her husband had season tickets in the lower bowl, but moved up to the upper bowl, since it seemed kind of deserted.  At the south endzone, Striking the Wonder and his human were resting on the promotional couch.  He hadn’t had much to do during the game retrieving kicking tees.  Oh, it would have been nice to have had a warm pet in my lap last week.  Actually, it’d be nice anytime.

Oh, yeah.  The game.  Aggies got the ball and end up punting.  At least they’ve gotten better about false starts since last week.  AP ball.  On one play, their quarterback turned around and handed off to the wrong side and missed the running back.  There’s a turnover on downs.  The Aggies moved downfield, mostly on Cramer’s legs.  Turnover on downs inside the AP 10.  The Mountaineers assume the victory formation to end the game.  Thank you Appalachian State for not running up the score and not dragging out the game.  The Aggies didn’t play badly against a good opponent and didn’t beat themselves at least.  They were missing Tyler Rogers and some other players were lost during the game.  Connor Cramer certainly showed some promise.

The Mountaineers celebrated on field.  They’d won a share of the conference championship, I think.  It was complicated as described over the radio and I didn’t care.  Their fans celebrated in the stands.  The Pride band was still playing as we left.  I don’t think they wanted to leave.  The fans around us pledged to return next year, though it was contingent on ticket prices not getting raised next year.  The pre-game show had an interview with Athletic Director Mario Moccia.  He made the case that they’d made sure that there were always value seats available for any casual fan who wanted to come to an Aggie sporting event.  This is good, but don’t do that on the backs of regular fans who want decent seats.  He wished for a budget that allowed them to do more promotions to draw in more people who aren’t necessarily sports fans.  Good point, but a winning program is always the best sports promotion.

Outside the stadium, flocks of birds were chirping away.  They must have been Appalachian State fans.  Traitor birds!  The free What-A-Burgers after the game were delicious.  The back of a previous football ticket had a two-for-one coupon for Caliches frozen custard, which was also delicious.  Thank you NMSU sponsors for those two promotions.  The Aggie football team was 2 and 2 in games me and Ron attended this year.  (We actually only missed one home game, which was a dramatic double OT win.)  Unfortunately, they lost all their games on the road (one game still pending).  Amazingly, Ron, who mopes and complains about the team, seems to be committed to going back next year.  This might be a sign he and the rest of the hardcore fans need to be committed.  It’s very strange, but I’m still willing to go myself.  See you next year.


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

NMSU Aggies vs Texas State Bobcats Football 11-19-16

At 3:30 am Saturday morning, it seemed unlikely that I’d be going to a football game in 10 ½ hours.  My boss, Ron, and I had just finished a computer upgrade at work.  He’d wanted to go to the game.  Ron was even interested in going to the WAC Volleyball championship game afterward.  Unfortunately, while we were at work, I watched our beloved Aggie girls lose their semi-final game over the Internet.  So, if they weren’t going to be at the championship, neither were we.  Somehow the both of us managed to get some sleep and be up and ready in time for the football game.    

While getting ready, I hopped outside for a minute in sweats before getting dressed to check the temperature.  It didn’t seem too bad.  The wind was nippy so I ended up putting on three layers (undershirt, long sleeve shirt, and a hoodie sweatshirt).  With the game starting in the afternoon, hopefully it would finish before it got too cold in the evening.  Ron showed up to pick me up wearing just his Aggie t-shirt.  I gave him my new Aggie hat, since I gave up on it fitting my head.  At least he now had some head protection.  Ron, let us say, has more natural insulation than I do.  I’d never seen him get cold anyway.  I mention all this as a precursor as to what was going to occur and that we weren’t totally unprepared for some cool weather.
We parked in front of the Pan-Am Center, thus reminding me again of the volleyball team’s loss.  The New Mexico State Pride band rhythm section was out in front of the building, which seemed like an odd place for them to be right before a game.  Walking to the stadium, we got an answer from a couple of passing fans going in the other direction.  Our opponents today, Texas State, had been in a bus wreck and the game had been delayed for an hour and a half.  I’ve heard varying accounts of the damage, but the bottom line seemed to be six injuries, thankfully none of them serious.  I’d heard a cheerleader was hurt, but I didn’t see any cheerleaders on their sidelines later.

Not really having anywhere else to go, we went ahead and got tickets.  Ron preferred the upper bowl seats to get a commanding view of the field, though not the cheerleaders.  The fellow in line in front of us was wearing an El Paso Chihuahuas hat.  Inside the gate, some pleasant young women were handing out programs.  Somehow they seemed familiar.  Looking twice, I saw that they were wearing NM State Softball sweatshirts.  I abandoned Ron to go talk to the girls for a second.  I just told them I’d been to some games and enjoyed watching them play.  Most of the players were brand new freshmen.  I asked if they were being punished or hazed having to be out here.  I’d like to name names of the players, but they looked different out of uniform and with their hair down, so I’m not sure who was who.  Maybe they’ll have an autograph session next year and I can ask.  Seeing these ladies was a bright spot for the afternoon.

Inside, I finally broke down and paid $4 for a slice of pizza at the Papa John’s tent.  I was hungry.  The pizza proved to be room temperature as was the soft drink I purchased with it.  Even then, it was still pretty good, so I can’t complain too much.  Out on the field, I thought the Aggies were practicing in warm up jerseys, but actually it was Texas State.  They had finally arrived and confusingly, they wear the same colors as the Aggies.

Having plenty of time to kill, I ended up back at the Concessions, looking for a hot drink.  There wasn’t anything advertised on the board, but the vendors were yelling out, “Hot drinks!”  Fearing a trick or being screwed (or only being offered coffee, which I don’t drink), I didn’t enter.  Hey, I just spent $4 on lukewarm pizza.  I had a right to be suspicious.  I did meet two co-workers there though.  Over the course of a long conversation, I found out that in return for our business’ sponsorship of the new skybox, we had the use it for the Cruces-Mayfield game for 10 years.  On the way back, I bought a small sack of cinnamon almonds from a vendor girl who looked like she was already freezing.  That act of pity was my best move of the day; those things were absolutely delicious.      

Back at the seats, I’ll make the suggestion to not sit in the front row of the upper bowl.  My view was blocked by the stair railing.  Thankfully, we got moved before the game started.  There was plenty of room.  Attendance was listed at 6,200+.  The lower bowl on the fan side eventually filled in pretty well.  The upper bowl didn’t.  The student section was sparse.  (If the administration could sell those seats, they’d do it.   Except for games against the Lobos, I doubt the students would care.  I think they only care about the tailgating outside.)  There was a high school football playoff game going on across town at the Field of Dreams complex, which was likely hurting attendance at both events.  

(This is from  Isn’t it a great pic?)

It was deceptively sunny out, but the cold breeze was making things miserable.  The PA was playing some highly inappropriate hard core rap music before the game.  Yeah, when I decided to sing along with it, it was amazing how wrong certain words suddenly sounded.  Thankfully, the Aggie Pride band came out to play before the game.  (Actually, I was listening to the end the high school game on the radio.)  A squad of soldiers came out to unfurl a big flag for Military Appreciation Day at the stadium.  OMG!  The cheerleaders ran out in their usual mini-skirts and tank tops.  They had to be freezing to death.  The Texas State Bobcats were politely introduced as they slowly shambled on to the field.  They got a round of applause.  I didn’t want to feel sorry for these guys, but you kind of had to.  Then the Aggies charged out on field, waving an American flag, a New Mexico flag, and the various Armed Services flags.

1st Qtr
The radio call came in inexplicably late in covering the first series of the game.  I don't know what they were doing.  This is going to be a busy quarter here.  Buckle up.  The Aggies received the ball and got a first down, but had to punt.  The first attempt was stopped by an overly brave Ref running into the middle of the play to blow it dead.  Strange officiating.  The subsequent punt was muffed by Texas State.  Two Aggies just missed falling on the ball in the endzone.  The Bobcats worked the ball out from their own 3 yard line.

Pistol Pete is spotted.  He's wearing camo under his western vest.  Suddenly, there's a possible fumble on the field.  Sunlight on the video board makes it impossible to see the replay, but the Ref's called it for the Aggies.  There's older gentleman in front of me who's really into the game.  He's fun to listen to.  The Aggies got near the Texas State goal line.  Quarterback Tyler Rogers walked to one of the ends, maybe to call a timeout or to change the play.  No!  It's a direct snap to running back Larry Rose III.  He tosses the ball to wide receiver Johnathan Boone, who passes it to Tyler Rogers in the endzone.  Touchdown!  What a great gadget play.  7-0 Aggies.

Texas State receives the ball and then fumbles on their own 23.  Two plays later, Rogers hits Royce Clayton for another touchdown.  Royce just came back from an injury.  This is very encouraging.  14-0 Aggies.  Even more shocking, two PAT's are made with no drama by Parker Davidson.

The cheerleaders are now wisely, but belatedly wearing jackets.  On Texas State's first play, it's an interception by Shamad Lomax.  Rogers scrambles this one in himself from the 8 yard line.  Let me sum this up for you.  Tyler Rogers has passed, rushed, and caught touchdowns this quarter.  The PAT has a bad snap, the ball is dropped, but somehow the kick is good.  21-0 Aggies.

The Bobcats get a first down, but Terrill Hanks picks off a screen pass at midfield.  Rogers nearly runs it in on keeper, but gets caught from behind.  Preston Williams, doing color commentary on the radio, tells him he needs to run faster.  Rogers hits Tyrian Taylor for another TD.  28-0 Aggies.

2nd Qtr
Even the fans get in on the scoring action.  Between quarters, a guy boots a 10 yard field goal and wins a $100.  Ron, who had wandered off, returned with two piping hot cups of hot chocolate.  God bless him.  There was vendor wandering around selling them.  Not only were they life-savingly warm, but also delicious.  I wish I could make hot chocolate taste this good at home.  However, Ron is cold in his t-shirt.  I've never seen him cold before.  The sun is going down and it’s getting colder.

Texas State got the ball, but went out on downs quickly.  For some reason, their punter apparently wasn't used to kick the ball away.  Bad choice.  It was a six-yard punt.  The Aggies have to punt too, after a missed deep ball that got an "Ooooh" out of the crowd.  The Bobcats next play was another interception by Lomax.  Are you kidding me?  The Aggies end up with the ball right back where they punted from.  The Aggies first play is a swing pass that is fumbled.  However, Texas State can't move it and they turn it over on downs.

The next series, the Aggies got a 20 yard pass downfield off an early snap that everyone on field and in stands thought was yet another false start, except for Rogers and his receiver.  (The Aggies had about five of them to this point.  Obviously, it wasn't hurting their offense.)  There was an apparent touchdown pass to Rose, but it was called off upon review.  He'd stepped out of bounds on the way to the endzone before making the catch.  The Aggies settle for a field goal.  31-0 Aggies.

Jack Nixon on the radio gave a half-hearted promo for the WAC Volleyball championship this evening.  I am momentarily panged with regret and hurt.  The Bobcats again turn it over on downs in Aggie territory.  Rose rips off a 30 yard run.  There's a chop block penalty on the goal line against the Aggies, though it was an Aggie player that came off the field hurt.  No problem.  Rogers finds Anthony Muse from 18 yards out for another touchdown.  38-0 Aggies. Inexplicably, the Aggies called a timeout right before the PAT to ice their own kicker, but Davidson kicks it through again.

Texas State goes three and out.  Gregory Hogan makes a tremendous one-handed catch to try and keep an Aggie drive going, but he's ruled out of bounds.  Too bad.  That was highlight reel stuff.  The punt by Payton Theisler pins the Bobcats inside their own 10.  Not bad, given that he kicked it from deep in Aggie territory.  I can see the poor Sundancers in their skimpy outfits jumping up and down on the sidelines.  They're trying not to freeze to death before their halftime performance.  And at halftime, it was 38-0 Aggies.

Ron jumps up for the bathroom before I can.  Nuts.  At least I get to watch the halftime show.  Sweet Caroline plays while the band sets up.  The Sundancers were dancing like crazy on the sidelines before the show started.  They were troopers out there performing along with the band.  It's a great show of course.  At the end, the band comes up to the sidelines and performs the Aggie fight song in front of the stands.  Great showmanship.    Ron doesn't return, and I still need to go.  The hot chocolate vendors would come by, but as much as I wanted another, I didn't think I could hold any more fluid.  I had to settle for shaking for the rest of the game, thus making my notes even more illegible.

Quite a bit of the crowd left at this point.  Who could blame them?  The Sundancers went back to the student side of the stadium, where they huddled up next to the wall under blankets.  The cheerleaders came back out in long pants.

3rd Qtr
On the Aggies' second possession, Muse made an incredible circus catch in the endzone after a tremendous scramble by Rogers.  Again, it is called off as Muse had stepped out of bounds before he was thrown to.  How often could this penalty happen in a normal game?  It turns into a field goal.  41-0 Aggies.

I finally run for the bathroom during the Bobcat's possession.  They manage to drive it downfield.  On a play near the endzone, there are four flags on the field for two different penalties, both against the Aggies.  One of the Aggies is ejected for targeting the Texas State quarterback.  It's considered a questionable call by the fans, who boo the call and applaud the player as he comes off.  After all that, it only results in a field goal.  41-3 Aggies.

4th Qtr
Things are going quickly at this point.  The Sundancers, in jackets and long pants, perform in the north endzone.  The old guy in front of me uses his binoculars to watch.   I don't blame him.  At the other end of the stadium, the troops manning the cannon, which goes off on Aggie scores (hope they brought plenty of ammo today), are doing jumping jacks to keep warm.

The championship winning Aggie Equestrian team was honored on the field between possessions.  That was nice of the university, given that they've disbanded the program after this year.  This is only an “Aggie” college after all, and this was the only team that worked with animals.  The girls there were mostly in elegant, but highly impractical, evening wear for the ceremony and were freezing.  Ron came back and reported that the girls had walked past him on the way to the field.  It was like a troop of models going by.

On a Bobcats’ possession, a receiver nearly jumped into the stands going after a ball.  With the play over, he stopped to chat with a couple of fans in the front row.  I'd love to have heard that conversation.  The Aggies got another field goal to make the score 44-3.  Both teams finally put in their backup quarterbacks.  Pete was working the crowd below us, twirling his guns, taking pictures with the fans, and sitting down and chatting with them.

Again, Theisler got off another great, rugby-style punt.  It went from the Aggie 20, hit the sideline, and rolled to the Texas State 2.  The Bobcats end up having to punt from their own endzone, giving the Aggies great field position.  Nick Jeanty, now the Aggie QB, threw a screen pass to Jaleel Scott.  Scott fought through several defenders for 20 straight yards for a TD.  The PAT was missed.  Davidson's leg must have gotten tired.  50-3 Aggies.

Texas State did finally get off a good drive on their final possession.  There was a great 30 yard pass into double coverage to get them on to the Aggie end of the field.  Finally, a rushing play gave the Bobcats a touchdown.  50-10 Aggies would be our final.  Ron and I were already walking out of the stadium as the Aggies went into in the victory formation.  We were trying to beat the crowd (what was left) and the opposing team’s exit, as they have to cross the main entrance to leave the stadium (a definite design flaw).  Unfortunately, we didn’t make it.  The Texas State guys all had a “thousand yard stare” going for them as they quickly strode across the concourse.  I would have liked to have said something encouraging to them or given them a round of applause, but they wouldn’t have noticed and it might have come across as sarcastic.

We walked past the Pan-Am Center, which was lit up for the volleyball championship.  I was sorely tempted to suggest going in, but the match was moments away from starting, and we were both cold and hungry.  If only the football game had started on time.  At least dinner at Schlotzski’s was great.  I did have a cup of Carvel ice cream there.  Even at the risk of re-freezing myself, I just couldn’t resist it.        

Well, it was a victory against a team that was 0-6 in conference, 2-8 overall, and had been in a bus wreck that morning, and I didn’t feel any better about the Aggie volleyball team losing.  Even without the wreck, the Aggies were favored in the game.  However, they not only took care of business, they did so decisively on both sides of the ball.  That was encouraging.  The defense just dominated in this game.  On the offense, Tyler Rogers threw three touchdowns, ran for one, and caught another.  Perhaps just as impressive, he threw no interceptions (indeed making many good decisions in passing) and was not sacked.  It wasn’t like they weren’t trying to get him either.  On several occasions, he eluded pursuit in a Houdini-like fashion.  The offense just needs to work on those false starts.  The team has one more home game next weekend against a good team.  We hope all this success carries over.

Monday, November 21, 2016

NMSU Aggies vs UTRGV Vaqueros Women’s Volleyball WAC Tournament 11-18-16

I wasn’t actually at the game.  Does it count that I meant to be at the game?  I had to be at work for a very long night (3:30 am) to do a scheduled upgrade to the computer, but I was able to watch the match thanks to the WAC digital network.  Actually, I’d been watching the other tournament games too.  I even saw the Aggie girls there watching the games on Thursday, which only pissed me off even more about not being able to take the week off to go to the tournament.  I could have been sitting there with them, showering them with praise, basking in their presence, and fawning over them with admiration.  [Honest Edit: This likely would not have occurred, but I would have told them “Good luck,” if I’d seen them.]

In the game preceding the Aggie match, the CSU-Bakersfield Roadrunners were beaten by the Utah Valley Wolverines.  At the time I had severely mixed feelings about that result.  Not that I’ve seen a huge number of games at the university, but Bakersfield had the distinction of the being the only opposing team that I’ve ever hated.  When they beat the Aggies last month, I had to cool off for a couple of days before I wrote my recap.  For the tournament, I was definitely looking ahead to seeing a re-match.  I wonder if the Aggie girls were thinking the same way.  (Of course they were.)  However, in a terrible personal admission, I would have wanted to have seen Bakersfield if they’d in the championship game, even without the Aggies there.  What can I say?  Like the Aggies, the Roadrunners have that almost indefinable quality of charisma, which is what makes both teams so compelling to watch.

The broadcast was well done with the familiar professional call of Adam Young.  He was joined by a retired coach for color commentary and even a sideline reporter.  There were some cut-away segments, including scenes from the conference awards dinner.  Ariadnne Sierra (“Ari”) won libero of the year and looked very nice in an evening gown.  Carol Grasso of Bakersfield won player of the year.  I’d kind of wondered whether the players fraternized or not between the teams.  I still don’t know.  For some reason, watching the video, I could almost sense some sort of tension between the tables.  Probably, my imagination.

Being at work, I wasn’t taking notes during the match, so I can’t give a play-by-play recap.  I’d seen the Aggies beat UTRGV in straight sets early in October.  I’d noted that the Vaqueros had a good record on the game program, though the Aggies were actually undefeated against them lifetime.  (I got that stat from the paper and I kind of question it, since I haven’t heard it mentioned anywhere else.)

This night, the Aggies dropped the first two sets to the Vaqueros.  The first was close, the second wasn’t that close.  Coming out of halftime, the Aggies rolled on them in the third set.  The fourth set was again close and tight.  At one point late, four of five serves went into the net, as both teams seemed nervous.  The Vaqueros got to a match/set point first, and I mentally cringed having foreseen this as a bad scenario for the Aggies to be in.  Sure enough, the next point ended it.  The Aggies would not be playing in the championship tomorrow.  UTRGV celebrated on court.  A few of the girls fell to the court, perhaps in relief.  (This was okay.  I just got mad about Bakersfield’s win because they were celebrating during the match.)  [Honest Edit: Hey, this was a lot easier than writing out pages of play-by-play.]

The newspaper listed Alisha Watson of the Vaqueros being instrumental in their victory.  UTRGV would also win the tournament the next day over Utah Valley, with Alisha named the MVP.  They will go on to the NCAA tournament, some games of which will be held here in Las Cruces.  [Edit: This is what's on the Aggies' schedule poster.  I find no evidence elsewhere that such games will be occurring here.  Did the poster-makers jinx the Aggies this year by putting that on the schedule?]  The Aggies do have one more game versus UTEP, but it’s in El Paso on a weeknight and I won’t be able to go.    

My Saturday night schedule just opened up in a most unwanted sort of way with this loss.  My boss, who was with me during the upgrade, was all on board with seeing the Aggie girls play in the championship after going to the Aggie football game in the afternoon.  How we were going to stay up all night and go to two games the next day seemed a little questionable.

After an hour and half delay on the football game, we got out of the stadium just as the volleyball championship was starting.  I was tempted, but after freezing for the last couple of hours, I couldn’t ask Ron (or myself) to do anything else for the evening except eat dinner.  No offense to the Vaqueros or the Wolverines, but they weren’t enough of a draw.  (They played three sets, but they were all close.)  I did briefly entertain the thought that the Aggie girls might have been there watching and that I still had a chance to sit with them.  Thank goodness that didn’t happen.  I didn’t even recognize myself in a mirror when we went over to Schlotzski’s.  After a couple of hours of exposure, I looked like a German POW surrendering at Stalingrad.

I wonder what the crowd was for the game.  The Thursday games were not well attended.  The Aggie game got about 1000 by Adam’s estimate, which was larger than usual.  It might have looked a bit sparse on the broadcast in the 13,000 seat Pan-Am center, but in-person, it would have felt like a good crowd.  They seemed really loud in the broadcast for pretty much the whole match.

I suppose I need to tie a proper bow on this.  Over at Bleed Crimson, which I finally recently stumbled over (and an excellent blog, I might add), they interviewed Coach Mike Jordan before the tournament.  Three weeks later, he finally admitted that three of the girls were sick during the Bakersfield game.  Tellingly, he also said that a couple girls had injuries that were going to have to be corrected in the off season with surgery.  While Coach Jordan criticized the team for mental lapses and getting by on talent, rather than smarts, during the season (which was likely correct), late in the season, it looked like physical problems took over.  Simply, this wasn’t the same team I saw in September.

Sasha-Lee Thomas’ absence from regular play has been keenly felt.  I’ve seen her (on TV) absolutely takeover in a match against UMKC.  Regrettably, that was likely also the game that finished her off for the rest of the season.  Her ankle was already bothering her before playing.  She could barely walk afterward.  Thereafter, Sasha was only ever used in a limited fashion.  Losing her full-time really hurt.  In this match against UTRGV, they seemed to be keying their defense on Jordan Abalos.  They wouldn’t have been able to have done that if Sasha had been out there more.    

Team captain Abalos had been dominating earlier in the season, but I suspect she’s been hurting for a while too UTRGV game, more than she’s let on.  I’ve seen Jordan before fearlessly taking shots, even after missing several, and coming up big.  She seems to get better with more swings.  Since Jordan plays every point, I think she has had to pace herself since (or been used more sparingly in attacking), rather than taking the lead.    As Adam noted after the match, the Aggies had the Vaqueros beat on kills, which usually produces a win, but the Aggies’ attack errors did them in.  Without Jordan relentlessly attacking and Sasha backing her up, the team just wasn’t aggressive enough to cover the errors.

Without their two prime offensive weapons playing up to their full potential, the Aggies suddenly became very beatable.  Tatyana Battle has been carrying the team for the last few matches.  Being the primary attack option was a lot of pressure to put on a sophomore and she stepped up.  Tatyana just needed more help.  Kassandra “KC” Tohm was really good in this match.  She has star potential, but unfortunately KC has been the fourth attack option for most of the season.  It was a little late to change things up in the tournament.  Most of the points were pretty quick and decisive.  It’s strange to talk about an Aggie match, without mentioning Ari making a bunch of great saves, but there weren’t many long points for her to shine on.

Hannah Combs has shown some potential in limited play.  Bridgette Lowe has as well in other games, though I think she was only used in this match on the last point.  I’m convinced Megan Hart will be a force on this team in the future.  Her height makes for a downward angle on spikes that can’t be stopped.  I’ve been really disappointed that I haven’t seen Lexi May used with her, like in the UMKC game.  Though they play the same position, with their 6’5” height, I’d pick my spots to play the both of them on court at the same time.  The intimidation factor alone would be worth it.

Regardless of any match outcome, I deeply and passionately lov . . . err .  . .  think very highly of these wonderful young women.  I’m just sorry I didn’t get to see them playing in-person one more time this season.  I’m looking forward to next season as no one will be graduating and hopefully any injury issues will have been dealt with.  In the meantime, I’m going to miss these girls.  I’ll miss Brianna Ainsworth’s ever present smiles and sets, Ari’s acrobatics, Alexsa “Crash” Parker serving curveballs over the net, Sasha-Lee’s passion, and just watching Jordan play period.  While this has been a brief affair, it’s been a memorable one.        

I still haven’t figured out what an “out of system attack” is.  Maybe next year.      

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

New Mexico State Athletics Economics

I picked up this curious item at the courtesy table at an Aggie soccer match last month.  I’d glanced at it, but hadn’t actually read it until this weekend.  This isn’t going to an in-depth investigative report, since I don’t really know anything about this subject.  Nor is this going to be much of an opinion piece, since I don’t entirely know what to make of the numbers, and I won’t really be advocating for anything either.  So, this is just going to present some information and you can make of it what you will.

The magazine featured various team and player accomplishments for the academic year (which I’m presuming to be fall 2015 through spring 2016).  There are some good highlights presented for various sports.  On the back cover, the very last items talk about the Aggies’ economics.  I’m not real good at math, but let’s look at these numbers.  

Total athletics revenue is $5,268,418 (from adding everything up).  Guarantees are the biggest contributor at just under 40%.  I’m assuming this revenue includes games where the Aggies have been paid to play somebody, such as Texas A&M a couple of weeks ago.  The payout for that game was reported at $1.5 million, which would be more than ticket sales for all of last year.  I hate to keep pleading ignorance, but I don’t and can’t understand how this arrangement works between big schools and small schools.  Let’s just say, “Thank you,” to A&M and any other schools who want to pay our Aggies to play them.

Likewise, as much as I hate the NCAA (let’s not get off topic, this would be a severe detour to explain why I hate these sanctimonious bastards), we’re going to have to thank them and the conferences the Aggies belong to (WAC and Sunbelt).  Clearly, these organizations are willing to pay schools well to be their friends.  I guess this is why people put up with them.  

I’ve had my issues with the concessions at events, mainly that their products aren’t that great.  I notice they’re down 11%, which may have precipitated the change from Coke to Pepsi.  Given that it’s a non-profit operation, it’s unlikely that they’re going to change for the better in food.  They just may improve in the amount of sponsorship money they get.  The change this season to Underarmor will also boost income, I would guess in the licensing area.  Tenant income may include the annual Cruces-Mayfield game at Aggie Memorial.  That’s a major event for everyone involved.          
Let’s look a little deeper at the 22% of revenue that is ticket sales.  This doesn’t necessarily mean attendance, just sales.  I know that the place I work for, though not a major sponsor of Aggie athletics, does buy a lot of tickets, which they give away to employees and customers, some of which go unused.  Men’s basketball and football drive the bus in income with over 91% of total ticket sales.  The basketball team leads the way, because they’re pretty good.  As bad as the football team is, quite a few people still show up to watch them.  

Both programs are down in revenue compared to last year however, that was even with a “Stuff the Stadium” event for football.  This was before a dramatic increase in season and regular ticket prices, which has definitely turned a lot of long-time fans off.  Will the increase offset or even increase revenue lost from angry fans?  I’m sure football is hurting, since they’re not winning, and they’re about to become unaffiliated with a conference.  For the basketball team, if they get to the big dance, all will be likely forgiven.  

The rest of the team sports all had an uptick in revenue.  Since overall ticket sales are down, I’d say money lost to men’s basketball and football wasn’t going to the other sports.  Check out that 130% increase in women’s basketball.  They were a really good team last year and the $2 ticket promotion game probably made them quite a few new fans.  Baseball had a nice jump with a vastly improved team and, more importantly, stadium upgrades last year.  Another $2 promotion certainly helped.  (My workplace bought a bunch of these promotional tickets for both events.)  Baseball could use a new scoreboard (direct sunlight on the current one renders it unreadable), but other than that, I think they’re set.  

Volleyball, which is a good program at NMSU, had a nice increase.  Whoever is in charge of their promotions does a good job.  They’ve really made me feel like they want me as a fan.  Soccer had a huge increase.  Having been to a few games, I’m at a loss to explain that.  The fans there are terrible, the team isn’t that good, and the facilities are primitive.  The only thing I can think of to do for their grandstands would be to put a press box/suites up behind them, but that seems really unlikely.  Putting up some lights would allow them to play night games, which might help in attendance, but that would even be more expensive.  I’ve even overheard staff there complaining about how unsupported the program is.  Still, NMSU has only had it for seven years.  Aggie soccer is still in development.    

Softball had a 1% increase, which I assume accounts for myself and my boss going to several games.  I remember during a game with Missouri, where their fans mentioning that Ole Miss has free admission to their softball games.  When your football program makes money like theirs, you can give away the Title IX sports to the alumni.  Softball’s only problem is their stadium.  It’s the only thing that keeps me from really recommending it like I do the baseball since their upgrade.  Athletic Director Mario Moccia was interviewed on the radio during a game there and he acknowledged it.  Apart from another large, earmarked donation (which is how the baseball stadium got upgraded), I can’t imagine it happening.  (The program also mentions that the softball program lead all the rest in community service.  Congratulations on that.)  

You see, NMSU is having some money problems as a whole at the university.  I couldn’t speak as to why.  I do at least get the impression that the university is committed to its athletic programs.  I can at least compare them favorably to UTEP in El Paso.  In spite of having a much larger community, their storied basketball program is floundering and their football program, even with a stadium that gets on national TV every year with the Sun Bowl, sucks worse.  The Triple-A Chihuahuas couldn’t have picked a better time to have appeared and plucked all those frustrated sports dollars away from the university.  Their soccer program gets good attendance.  Their women’s basketball team is pretty good.  I don’t know about their softball or volleyball teams, but they’re both below the Aggie programs.  (The volleyball team plays at Memorial Gym, not the “Don.”)  They don’t even have a baseball team.     

NMSU’s men’s basketball team is fairly solid.  We hope the new coach, Paul Weir, continues the tradition.  The women’s team seems to be on a good track too.  Volleyball and softball both do well thanks to some good, long term coaching stability.  Soccer is a work in progress, but I think they are making progress.  But the football program is cursed.  I don’t know what other word to use.  It has to kill Moccia and every AD who preceded him to see the stadium filled for a high school football game and games against the Lobos.  (UTEP is too “big time” to play the Aggies here anymore.  No doubt NMSU would drop playing them if they weren’t close enough for Aggie fans to easily travel to.)  This attendance shows that the community would love to come out and see a good game.  They just don’t think New Mexico State football can provide a good game against any opponent.         

This continuously losing football program has the unfortunate effect of dragging down the other sports, at least in perception.  As shown above, football and men’s basketball are paying the bills, but people equate the football team losing with the rest of the programs being losers as well.  Even in basketball, where fans should know better, they’re never surprised when they lose.  Nobody’s expecting a Rose Bowl bid, but an Aggie football team that could qualify for a crappy bowl game would do wonders, and would boost all the other programs along with it.  

Unfortunately, I don’t have any answers.  I said at the beginning I wasn’t advocating for anything.  If smart people whose job it is to figure this stuff out are befuddled, somebody from the bleachers is going to be clueless.  I’m at least glad I discovered the smaller sports programs at NMSU.  I’ve really been well entertained by them.  I do have some fear they could disappear (like the equestrian program) or be severely degraded if the football program collapses, not from losing too often, but because of other financial problems at the university.  I’m pretty sure that the football team doing well would alleviate that concern.  It’s just a question of how.           

Monday, November 7, 2016

Cleveland Indians vs Chicago Cubs World Series 2016

Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant charged the weak grounder.  It was going to be a tough chance on a slow moving ball, but he cleanly bare-handed it.  The wet grass made for a poor throwing surface for an off-balance throw.  As he slipped, Bryant’s throw was a little high, but his aim was true and no fielding challenge for the sure, tall glove of first baseman Anthony Rizzo.  The runner, Cleveland Indian Michael Martinez, was out at first by a step.  As I watched the replay in super slow-mo, I couldn’t help but notice one out-of-place feature on Kris Bryant.  It was something no professional baseball player ever did while fielding a ball during a game.

He was smiling.

He was smiling the whole time.

I was asked multiple times who I thought would win this World Series.  How could anybody answer that question?  We’re talking about a pair of teams with legendary championship droughts.  This was truly uncharted territory for sports fans.  Somebody was going to have to win, that much was certain, but how such a thing was going to occur, much less the result, was beyond human precognition.

In truth, my loyalties were a bit divided.  As many sports fans, I had long yearned to see a Cubs’ championship in my lifetime.  I had watched the Cubs as a youth on cable on WGN America.  A couple of years ago, I spent many afternoons watching them play at my parents’ apartment.  I got to see the nascent beginnings of this years’ cadre with the debut of Anthony Rizzo in that time.  But when my parents cut their cord and the Cubs simultaneously deserted national daily broadcasts, my loyalties waned.  Though many Cubs’ games were broadcast nationally this year, somehow my personal relationship with them had ended.  It was like they’d hit the big time, and I felt left behind.

The Chicago Cubs were picked by everyone, including me, at the start of the season to get to the World Series.  With the immense weight of history, fans, and pundits upon them, this team more than shouldered that burden.  They ran away with their division.  Even with a serious challenge by the Dodgers in the playoffs, it truly looked like the only thing that could beat the Cubs was themselves.  They came into this championship as the undisputed heavyweight favorite.

By contrast, the Cleveland Indians had flown under the radar for much of the regular and post-season in spite of having a great team.  I mentioned them in my notes about the season as they won 14 in a row through June and July.  That impressed the heck out of me.  While watching them beat the Kansas City Royals in a game, I offhandedly referred to them as “the chosen ones.”  I probably didn’t mean it at the time, but later in a September game, I learned that four of their starting pitchers had double digit wins.  At that point, I took them seriously.  Unfortunately, they lost two of those pitchers going into the playoffs, though that didn’t slow them down a bit.  The Cubs had the stats, but the Indians had the intangibles, especially their two-time World Series winning manager, Terry Francona.

Having the second-longest championship drought in baseball and being the underdogs, I just couldn’t root against the Indians.  By the same token, I knew these Cubs a bit better and liked them with their funky manager, Joe Maddon, and that big “little kid” Rizzo, and the absurdly handsome Bryant.  Even my Cardinal fan Aunt Judy was for them.  Who could root against a team trying to win it all for the first time in over a century?  I was committed to enjoying the celebration of whoever won, and lamenting the Shakespearean tragedy of the opposing fan base.  It was going to be tough on whoever lost, I thought, devastating.  I was wrong in the end and glad for it.

For such a momentous baseball/sports/cultural event, my coverage for this event was lacking, but I make little apologies for watching these games rather than trying to write about them.  Like the Battle of Clontarf in 1014 between the Irish and the Norse, this event was too important to be trusted to mere historians or Sabrmatricans, and passed directly into legend to be recounted in the songs of the skalds and bards and bloggers.    

Game 1 Cleveland, 10-25-16, Indians 6, Cubs 0
My first note of the series was “Scream.”  The Cleveland fans were excited.  Right before this first game, I’d wondered if Cub Kyle Schwarber was sufficiently recovered from his early season injury to play as the DH.  Cubs’ management was thinking along the same lines and activated him.

But tonight was all about the Indians.  Cory Kluber dominated the Cubs’ heavy hitters with 8 of the first 9 Cub outs being strikeouts.  He was helped by a wide strikezone.  For offense, his “light-hitting” catcher, Roberto Perez, hit two home runs.  It was a Cleveland wind that night that pushed out a couple of Indian home runs, while knocking down a couple Cub ones.

Game 2 Cleveland, 10-26-16, Indians 1, Cubs 5
 Jake Arrieta had a no-hitter going into the 6th, until the broadcasters jinxed it.  His only run came on a wild pitch.  Schwarber could indeed still hit with a couple of RBI’s.  Rizzo and Ben Zobrist also knocked in runs.  The game was played under a threat of rain, but they just got it in.

Game 3 Chicago, 10-28-16, Cubs 0, Indians 1
Holy cow!  The Wrigleyville streets were crowded like Mardi Gras.  The first pitch of the game was a strike and the crowd roared.  However, this would not be a game of uproarious emotion, but rather extreme nervous tension.  The nervous fan reaction shots in the stands were priceless.  This was a pitcher’s duel, in spite of a stiff wind blowing out of Wrigley Field.  Another wide strikezone may have contributed to that.

The Indians had a great chance in the 5th with the bases loaded, but the inning ended with a double play.  But, they would finally push across a single precious run in the 7th.  The Cubs had runners on first and third with two out in the 9th.  Javier Baez at the plate, let out a huge breath right before he struck out to end the game.  The tension was even getting to the young players in this one.

This was the first game I noticed the Marlins Man wasn’t behind home plate.  He wasn’t present for the entire series.  Was he ill?  Was even he priced out of these tickets?  The regular ball girl at Wrigley was there.  She’d been there when I was watching a couple of years ago.  I wonder how those positions are filled.

Game 4 Chicago, 10-29-16, Cubs 2, Indians 7
This time the wind was blowing in, but the balls were flying out.  Carlos Santana hit a home run in the 2nd.  Joe Buck reported that the bleacher fans immediately threw the Indian ball back.  Bull.  They switched it out with a BP ball and threw that back.  Well, that’s what they do in the regular season.  Perhaps they did toss the real ball back, not wanting to jinx the team.  Given that Kris Bryant also had two errors in the inning, I’m thinking there was a switch.  

Jason Kipnis pretty much sealed it with a 3-run homer in the 7th.  This ball may have also been thrown back (yeah right).  There was a cutaway shot of the stands in Cleveland.  The Indians had opened up the stadium for fans to watch the game on the big screen there.  The seats were full and the fans were going crazy.  In the 8th, Andrew Miller gave up a homer to Dexter Fowler.  This one was caught by a Cubs fan with a mitt and obviously not thrown back.  This was the first time Miller had been scored on this post-season, and he’d thrown quite a few innings.

There was some guy in a Harry Carey outfit, hoisting a beer, behind the Indians’ dugout.  I saw him on the MLB International feed.  The moment I noticed the game was being broadcast on a Mexican station, I immediately switched channels.  I’d had more than enough of Joe Buck’s histrionic game call and John Smoltz’s endless nitpicking.  After the game, Cubs fans were cheering in the background of the post-game show like they’d won big, as opposed to being one loss away from elimination.  Meanwhile, I hadn’t seen more than a couple of Indians fans at these away games.  I’d seen plenty of Cubs fans in Cleveland.

Game 5 Chicago, 10-20-16, Cubs 3, Indians 2
In the first inning, Anthony Rizzo sent a monster foul ball out of the stadium and on to the street.  I think that was the first ball hit all the way out.  How could Fox not have had a camera view of the chaos that no doubt ensued amongst all the fans out there?  During the regular season, there are ballhawks on Waveland waiting for home runs.  This night there was block party going on, and we don’t get to see them fighting over a Rizzo ball.  I’m a bit irritated for other reasons, namely I forgot to buy any snack food for these weekend games.  How dumb was that?

The Cubs flashed some leather in this game.  In the 2nd, Rizzo caught a foul off a tip by catcher David Ross and a juggle.  Bryant also made a good play defensively later.  However, the Indians took a 1-0 lead on a Jose Ramirez home run.  The ball (cough) was thrown back.  In the 3rd, Jason Heyward climbed a wall to grab a Trevor Bauer foul.  Bauer actually applauded the effort.  A fan started to reach for it when it came towards him, but then he immediately thought the better of it.  In the 4th, Rizzo and Ross again met on foul pop up.  This time, Ross came up with it.  I know you guys are close, but you don’t have to do everything together.

In the bottom of the inning, Smoltz all but called a home run by Bryant to lead off the frame.  Joe Buck got to do his usual overdone home call.  It’s the same call he uses for deep fly ball outs.  He calls everything hysterically for posterity, just in case it’s an important play later.  Now these guys will be insufferable for the rest of the series.  I should have went with the Mexican broadcast.  Regardless of my snark, it’s an awesome shot.  The crowd finally has a reason to “Go crazy folks!  Go crazy!”  (Pity Joe didn’t get any of Jack Buck’s broadcasting genes.)  The whole stadium shakes.  The Indians shake too, and the Cubs end up getting three runs in the inning.  Francisco Lindor, playing with way more ability than experience, drove in another Indian run in the 6th, but the Cubs held on to win.      

Game 6 Cleveland, 11-1-16, Indians 3, Cubs 9
My notes are really sparse here.  I was watching at work and was busy.  The Cubs’ bats woke up big time.  Much like the NLCS versus the Dodgers, this many good hitters can’t slump forever.  Kris Bryant started it off in the 1st with a home run.  Indians’ centerfield, Tyler Naquin, did not have a good game.  Miscommunication with the right fielder, led to a fly ball dropping between them, scoring two.  He later struck out with the bases loaded.  Meanwhile Addison Russell had a monster game with a grand slam as part of a 6 RBI game.

Game 7 Cleveland, 11-2-16, Indians 7, Cubs 8
I brought my little stuffed bear, Bearly, to work with me, along with his Cubs baseball.  While I might be a bit ambivalent, the bear is definitely a Cubs fan and wanted to come.  (I should have gotten a picture taken.  He’s so cute.)  Dexter Fowler pops the seal on this game right off the bat with a leadoff home run to start the 1st.  The crowd seems to be about half Cubs fans, judging by color and cheering.  By the 3rd, the Indians tie it and Javier Baez accumulates his second error of the game.  The fan shots are nothing but people insane with tension.  In the 4th, the Cubs add two more runs.

The 5th, Baez hits a homer.  Anthony Rizzo has his arm around David Ross, who is playing in this last game before retirement.  Ross’ microphone picks up Rizzo saying, “I’m an emotional wreck.”  This doesn’t keep him from driving in Bryant for another run.  We’re at 5-1 Cubs when Jon Lester enters the game in the bottom of the frame with two on.  A wild pitch bounces and then hits Ross on the head and both runners manage to score.  5-3 Cubs.  Ross hits a home run next inning, 6-3.

There’s a shot outside of Wrigley field in the 7th.  Fans have gathered there in front of the marquee scoreboard.  In the 8th, Brandon Guyer, who’s having a great series off the Indians’ bench, doubles in a run, 6-4.  Aroldis Chapman enters the game.  Rajai Davis hits a two-run homer off him.  I nearly fall off the couch yelling, “I can’t believe this!”  I’m sure I’m not the only one.  Rain starts falling in the 9th, but doesn’t stop play.  Jason Heyward gets on, steals a base, and moves to third on an error, but is stranded there.  I don’t think anyone in the stadium is enjoying the game at this point, even the people in the $10,000 seats behind the Cubs’ dugout, but everyone wants to see what’s going to happen next.

Not enough tension for you?  How about a short rain delay to cool things off?  Myself and my boss, Ron, who’d been watching with me, decided to leave work finally.  At one point in the 9th, his boss, who working very late, asked to be walked out.  Me and Ron looked at each other as we were on the edge of our seats waiting for the next play.  Ron reluctantly volunteered.  When I got home, I immediately turned on the TV to find that they were playing the 10th and the Cubs had men on.

This rain delay has been credited for the Cubs’ victory.  Jason Heyward, channeling Hunter Pence, took the team into the weight room and gave them a highly effective motivational speech.  Ben Zobrist, named MVP for this play alone, drove in a pinch runner.  Miguel Montero would drive in another.  But, it wasn’t over yet.  In the bottom of the 10th, Guyer again got on and, again, Raijai Davis drove him in with two outs.  At 8-7, we complete the loop this post started with as Kris Bryant got the final out.

And there we had it: the perfect World Series.  There was no massive umpire interference.  No major goats.  There were questionable managerial decisions, but on both sides equally.  There wasn’t any signature moment, such as Hosmer’s mad dash to home last year.  Ironically, Rajai Davis’ Game 7 home run was the most memorable hit.  No unexpected heroes, like Royals’ bench player, Christian Colon, driving in the winning run in extra innings in that same game with Hosmer’s play.  There weren’t even any real heroes.  The players mostly performed as they had all year.  All those great, but overused pitchers ended up failing, one by one, in the end.  Again in Game 7, Aroldis Chapman got the win, but blew the save.

No, this series featured two great teams who were both pushed to their limit and beyond.  There was nothing to be ashamed of, and it truly was a team effort.  Afterward, even in sorrow, Terry Francona had a glint in his eye, waxing about how great it was to have been a part of that Game 7.  Reportedly, even Indians fans could smile about the game.  Even in losing, they’d won a tremendous memory.  

The Cubs win the World Series.  With that, an entire category of symbolism and metaphor has been destroyed.  There’s no more generational angst in the Windy City.  All’s right with the world.  I slept well with happy dreams.  In the morning, somehow in some small way, the world really did seem irrevocably different and better.  There was a lot hand-wringing before and during the series about a Cubs win possibly destroying their fans’ defining “lovable loser” character.  I think Cubs fans wanted what the Red Sox achieved in their long-awaited championship: respect.  After this wait, after this series, after that Game 7, they certainly earned it.  

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

NMSU Aggies vs UTRGV Vaqueros Women’s Soccer 10-29-16

I arrived at the New Mexico State Soccer Complex 10 minutes late for the start of the match.  I was still deeply unhappy with the result of the volleyball match 10 minutes ago.  I actually made sure to check the scoreboard, which is visible from the parking lot, before I paid for a ticket.  If anyone had already scored I would have turned around and left.  It was scoreless.  I decided to go in.  I was really only here because I’d planned on being here before I left home, not because I felt like going.  Why I was going to soccer games here in the first place, I still haven’t figured out.

The grandstand was full, likely owing to it being Senior Day and the regular season finale.  I could only easily find a seat in the front row near midfield, and in front some loud, obnoxious fans.  It took a few minutes adjust to the complete disconnect between watching a volleyball game in an indoor arena to being at an outdoor soccer match joined in progress.  It was like switching channels between two sporting events, but in fact I had actually physically switched locations.

Our opponents were the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, who will called the Vaqueros from here on out to save my fingers.  Does it make sense to name a Girls’ team Vaqueros, male cowboys?  Vaqueras maybe?  Is that a Spanish word?  They are decked out in bright orange.  The Aggies are in white with crimson trim.  The more I see them, the more I want one of those jerseys.  The Vaqueros seemed to have a bit of a size advantage.  
I was about 15 feet from the sidelines, so I could really see the action when it came by the crowd side of the field.  I could actually see the girls sweat and even hear them hitting each other.  The very real possibility of the action flying into my face kept me very alert.  (It wouldn’t surprise me if that wasn’t the reason why most of the play occurred in the middle and far side of the field.)  Much of the play for the match was on the Aggie end of the field.  This caused the soccer crowd no end of consternation, which they voiced continuously.  It was like sitting next to the coach on the other side of the field, multiplied several times over.  Thank goodness these people weren’t at the volleyball game to make a bad situation worse.  The credit I hand them is that they show up pretty consistently (as per the program attendance figures) for a team that isn’t that good.  

The first Aggie chance I see happened at 14’ (left in the half) on a breakaway.  There’s a collision between the player and the Vaquero goalie.  12’ and there’s a mess in front of the Aggie goal.  Thankfully, the Vaquero’s didn’t have the numbers to capitalize on the opportunity.  10’ the Vaqueros get a great rush downfield in front of the Aggie goal which fizzles without an open player to pass to.

“Be aggressive!” a fan right behind me screamed out.  10 seconds later after a turnover, he shouted, “But don’t collapse your defense!”  That’s great.  I’m sure that helped.  4’ Aggie #18 Reilly Marks made a solo breakaway and took a shot between two defenders.  “Pressure!” shouted the man behind me for the hundredth time as the Vaqueros worked the ball back into the Aggie end.  1’ Aggie keeper #1 Ashley Martin collided with a Vaqueros player.  The player went down and had to come out.

The half ended at nil apiece.  Officially, the Aggies had 3 shots on goal to the Vaqueros 2, but the opposition had dominated the match in ball control and opportunities.  A fan screamed at the Vaqueros to go to the locker room, which seemed really unnecessary.  It might have been one of their own fans.  The locker room is part of the nearby football stadium.  (I think it’s the Coca-Cola Weight Training facility for the football team, which is awkward since the university just switched to Pepsi.)  The Aggie girls stay on the field for halftime instruction.  I’m not sure if there’s room for both teams to use the building at the same time.
Halftime entertainment was another game of musical soccer, which the PA had a good time with.  I like this guy, but there’s not a whole lot of announcing to do at a soccer match.  Substitutions are called out, announcing “One minute remaining,” counting down the last 10 seconds, credit for opponent goals, and those, oh so sweet, Aggie “Goooooooooooooal!”calls.  Baseball and softball are kind of limited to just naming players.  Volleyball announcing gives the scoring, but some personality can be put into it.  The top end is the football announcers, whose job is to motivate the crowd, along with giving play results.

There’s some people in the crowd wearing Texas A&M shirts.  Maybe that’s near UTRGV.  The A&M Aggies will also be the NMSU Aggie football team’s opponent a couple hours later at College Station.  (The final of that was like 55-10.  You can guess who won.  NMSU actually beat the spread and earned $1.5 million to act as A&M’s tackling dummies for the evening.)  I decided my seat was officially terrible as these A&M shirts and everybody else walked in front of me during the game.  Kids running up and down the aluminum planks shook everything in the front row, including me.  At least the warm afternoon sun was well behind me, and sitting up front, I was shaded by everyone behind me.  I still had the Gatorade I bought at the volleyball game with me for hydration.

The second half began.  #0 Raeann Garcia was now between the pipes, err . . . in the net for the Aggies.  Actually, I had to read about that on the website.  I got confused by the switch at the game and thought I’d written it down wrong.  I wasn’t there for starting player introductions to begin with.  No explanation was given for this platooning of goalies.  Perhaps Ashley was injured on that last play of the first half.  A fresh keeper may have been a good idea anyway, because Raeann was about to get a workout.  

44’ the Vaqueros took a long shot on goal, followed by roller.  Both were stopped.  The loudmouth behind had moved for the second half, but don’t worry, there were still plenty of idiots around me shouting out instructions to the girls.  38’ there’s a two on two in front of the Aggie goal.  Great defense by #28 Sarina Stockton (I think, it was hard to see the number that far away) stopped the drive, but she paid the price and came off hurt.  37’ Raeann came out to stop a breakaway.  32’ #10 Aileen Galicia took a long shot at the Vaquero goal for the Aggies’ first chance.

At this point, after that crushing volleyball loss, I was in a really bad mood and was starting to expect a loss, or worse, a scoreless tie.  I was mentally telling myself, if these girls lose or tie or go scoreless here, I’m not coming back next season.  Enough is enough.  I can’t stand these people in the grandstand, and I don’t even like soccer to begin with.  Okay, now we have some real stakes involved in the outcome.            

At 29’ we had possibly the play of the match.  Raeann came out to the top of the box to make a diving deflection of a shot.  The ball remained in play in the box.  Another Aggie player ran to the net and kicked away a second shot.  The ball was still loose in the box.  Raeann finally smothered a third shot rolling on the ground.  The crowd roared and applauded in approval.  (Finally, they’re happy.)  The whole exchange took seconds, but was riveting.

24’ on a near corner kick, Aileen made two headers on the play before the Vaquero keeper caught it.  21’ a near miss on the Aggie goal.  20’ two Aggies almost get to a dangerous back pass to the Vaquero goalie.  I don’t know why coaches allow their players to do that.  16’ Raeann made a jump save.  15’ the Vaqueros employ some trickery on a penalty shot at the top of the box.  Fakes by a couple of players allowed a third to get a clear shot on goal.  It just went a bit too high.  11’ the Aggies mounted a good coordinated attack.  The final shot just went wide.  9’ Raeann caught a chest high shot.  8’ remaining and a shot is kicked into the base of the stands hard enough to shake the whole structure.  Good thing that didn’t go into the crowd.

6’ there’s a busted Aggie play on the right wing in the Vaqueros’ box.  #3 Audrey Chavez powered through a defender to pass the ball to Aileen.  She’s covered, but forced her way forward to find an opening and took the shot.  It was a hard angle, but the ball flew right into the upper left corner of the Vaqueros’ net.  “Goooooooooooooooooooooooal!”  The opposing goalie had no chance on it.  None of that play should have worked for the Aggies.  They were outnumbered and in a bad position.  The Vaquero defense probably had it played right.  Aileen and Audrey just willed their way past them and in to score.                
For the next five minutes, there was not much drama, as the Vaqueros were unable mount any offense.  They knew they’d been beaten today.  The Aggies won 1-0.  The Vaqueros had dominated the match, but come away with nil.  The official shots on goal stat showed it even at 4 to 4 surprisingly.  My player of the game is #0 Raeann Garcia.  She may have only played a half, but it was a heck of a half.  Finally, I was worried that my plain crimson shirt with the big Aggie button stuck on it was unlucky and I wouldn’t be able to wear it to games anymore.  I’m relieved.

After the match, the girls came out to midfield to wave to the crowd.  After a talk by the coach, the Senior Day ceremonies started.  Unlike a couple of other such ceremonies I’ve seen, the opposing team didn’t stick around to watch or participate.  The girls made two lines and the seniors walked between them, one at a time, and received roses while the PA read off their accomplishments.  #22 Gabby Campbell’s exit was particularly memorable as one of the team’s captains.  At 4’11” she’s a crowd and team favorite for her tenacity.  As the PA put it, “Gabby wears a size 3 cleat, but is leaving behind some big shoes to fill.”  The girls gathered for a picture by the grandstand where the graduating seniors’ numbers had been sprayed on the field.  I wished I’d had a camera.  The fans were invited to go down to the field to talk to the players.  I was tempted, but I needed to go get dinner and the World Series started in a half hour.

So, this made everything better after that disappointing volleyball loss.  No, no not really.  Still stings.  So I’m now a dedicated soccer.  No, I still intrinsic problems with the sport, and I’ve even found a new reason to dislike it: the fans.  I’d been warned about soccer fans, but I thought that kind of bad behavior was just limited to international matches (in particular Mexicans at US vs Mexico matches).  I never dreamed that’d be an issue at a small college affair.  The ubiquitous old man and his annoying cheering seemed positively quaint compared to the rest of the crowd.  At least he was cheering for the girls, not yelling at them.    

But, I admit, I’ve generally enjoyed the experience of watching these games in-person.  This may mostly have something to not being able to change channels there at the stadium.  Having a few cute girls on the field hasn’t hurt either.  This brings me directly to Aileen Galicia, who has been a definite selling point for the program for me.  She has a very slight build, but plays with the relentless determination of a star player.  This isn’t the only time I’ve take over in a match.  I would not be surprised to see Aileen continue playing at a higher level when her college days are done.  If NMSU can recruit and develop a couple more girls with her attitude and ability to play with her, this program would be a winner.

Okay, they won today.  I’ll be back for some more next year.  You guys earned it.    

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

NMSU Aggies vs CSU-Bakersfield Roadrunners Women’s Volleyball 10-29-16

Boy, this is hard.  Two days later and I’m still upset.  I actually re-wrote parts of this three times, which is why it’s late.  Things started bad for me right off the bat.  I’d heard the radio commercial offering free t-shirts to the first hundred fans.  I showed up an hour early only to hear a lady in front of me get told that they’d already run out.  I never found out what the shirt looked like, so I’m not sure how sorry I should be about it.  This turned out to be the least of my disappointments.

At least I came prepared for a wait and listened to Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson on audiobook.  Unfortunately, I could just barely hear it over the stadium music.  The CSU-Bakersfield Roadrunners were practicing on court.  They have some pretty good-looking warm up uniforms.  The program listed them as a senior heavy team, and they don’t have a lot of height up front.  The Aggies came out in pink sweatshirts.  There was stretching, practicing digs and sets with the coaches, and remind me to never show up this early again.  

The cheerleaders arrived the worst for wear and looking unhappy.  One-gunned Pistol Pete was with them.  Adam Young was at the broadcast table looking bored, waiting to start calling the game.  The crowd filled in nicely right before the match, perhaps about 900 to 1000 (though it was listed at 700+).  They were the smart ones.  The regular PA voice was not present.  For some reason that felt like a bad sign.  The soccer PA would have been a good alternate, but he would be working a soccer match later that afternoon.  The Roadrunners were unimpressed with the introductions, especially when they got muffed and the Aggies got introduced out of order.            

Set 1
Honestly, the action was so fast and furious I couldn’t hardly keep up with any notes.  Both teams seemed well-matched and playing well.  For the Aggies’ part, #6 Tatyana Battle got a pair of aces in a row on serve.  Bakersfield #16 Carol Grasso was tagged by Adam on the radio as their star player.  She had a massive, hard beach volleyball style serve, but her first was dug out well by #4 Ariadnne Sierra (“Ari”), and turned into a kill by #20 Sasha-Lee Thomas.  I noticed #12 Megan Hart seemed to be jumping better than I’d seen before and got a kill.  

At 11-8, Ari made three great digs and #3 Jordan Abalos finished it with a kill.  Ari came right off after that play and stared gulping Gatorade.  She was gassed.  Adam had said earlier that her, Jordan, and Sasha-Lee had all been sick with the flu.  (Those were the ones I heard mentioned.)  This was the first evidence I really saw of it.  Anybody in the crowd who wasn’t listening to the radio, or didn't know the girls personally, probably wouldn’t have known about this.  Ari came back in after a minute.  Late in the set, Tatyana served up two more aces and the Aggies won 10 points in a row off her serve.  The Aggies took the first set 25-14.  That score really doesn’t give you an idea of the high level of play that both teams had going.

Ari was all smiles afterward, so she seemed okay.  6’5” Megan Hart started high-fiving her teammates.  She teased 5’2” Ari, who couldn’t hope to reach her raised palms.  Jordan Abalos’ grandmother was again in attendance and was featured on Flex cam with Pete.  The music was good from the DJ.  Everything seemed well.

Set 2, Aggies 1, Roadrunners 0
The girls changed sides.  Now that I had a good view of their bench, I immediately noticed that the Roadrunners had no lack of confidence and had a lot of spirit.  They took an early lead.  On one point, one of the girls tried to climb the official’s ladder to save a point, so they really were into it.  The Aggies managed to tie it at 9-9 on a blocked shot.  11-14, there was major contention after a kill by Jordan was called off.  Coach Jordan and crowd screamed at the official.  (I should mention that it was mostly an adult crowd, not a huge number of kids.)  

Adam had said in a previous game that Tatyana’s defense was a bit suspect.  She had a couple of missed digs in this set in a row.  She seemed surprised by them.  Maybe there was a coverage issue.  I suspect the Roadrunners were actually aiming at her.  To her credit, Tatyana did much better in the rest of the match.  At 12-17, Jordan got a kill shot hard enough to knock down the defender, but this was pretty much the only Aggie highlight of the set.  The Aggies won an ugly point at 17-21, which prompted a Bakersfield timeout.  They would come back out and win the set 18-25.

Set 3, 1 all
To cut to the quick of it, same score for this set, 18-25 Roadrunners.  Jordan seemed exhausted and was making errors on offense and defense.  I’ve seen her play a bit hurt, but her steady presence still allowed her teammates to take up the slack.  She’s played every point in every game I’ve seen, while the other girls all get cycled in and out.  Jordan is just so valuable in every part of the game.  If she wasn’t well, I would have suggested taking her out for a spell and letting Sasha-Lee captain the team.  Unfortunately, Sasha was having an even more quiet game and likely wasn’t well herself.

There were a few highlights.  #1 Brianna Ainsworth got a great dump kill.  Tatyana reeled off another ace.  #15 Hannah Combs made the first appearance that I’d seen and got a kill.  #14 Kassandra Tohm (“KC”) got a kill and an ace.  And, that attractive sideline reporter from the football game appeared.  She was in shorts this time.  Whew.  I am cheating on the volleyball girls here, looking at another girl at the same event?

Set 4, Aggies 1, Roadrunners 2
My first note of this set reads, “Aggies looking peaked.”  It’s looking like they were playing that first set on pure adrenaline.  When they had that shock loss to the Lobos a couple of weeks ago, it was right after having played the day before.  I’m sure the Lobos did too, but they were playing at home.  The Aggies were no doubt fatigued from play and the trip.  This is feeling the same.  

Coach Mike Jordan blows up over another questioned call.  He has his captain, Jordan, talk to the official, but the coach gets the yellow card.  (I wonder what the etiquette is about talking to officials in this sport?)  The Roadrunners are, meanwhile, all enthusiasm.  At 4-3 KC gets a kill and it’s the first Aggie lead since the first set.  Roadrunner #13 Sydney Haynes rattled off several points on her serve.  (I hate to admit this, but I kept noticing her during the match.  She was rather striking.)  Jordan comes back with a kill and an ace.  With the score tied at 12, Bakersfield takes a timeout.          
14-14 the Aggies take the point, but only after an overrule by the head ref.  The crowd was standing and up and arms over the original call.  The Bakersfield coach almost got yellow carded on the overrule.  I don’t know if the officiating was bad this day, or if the emotions were just really running high here.  I wouldn’t say this was a turning point in the match, but rather the last gasp.

At 15-18, I finally see Jordan get frustrated on court.  It’s a bit of a shock.  Having some small idea of what she’s like, no doubt she was mad at herself.  The Bakersfield girls are out-cheering the crowd at this point and running on to court every time they win a point.  I even see one of the young men ballhawking on the sidelines clearly get irritated with them.  (The usual young girls that work the sidelines seem almost oblivious to the score.)  Adam called out the Aggies getting blocked on a point by “the worst blocking team in the conference.”  

The crowd started getting into it late, and I can’t hear the game call in my earplugs.  (I couldn’t cheer myself as I was having my own problems getting over a cold.)  18-23 was a truly epic point that seemed to take a full minute, which would be an eternity for a volleyball point.  The Roadrunners took it and that was it.  19-25 final, 1 set to 3, Bakersfield wins.  The Roadrunner girls storm the court like it was a championship.  The Aggies’ 26 match WAC winning streak comes to an end.  I suppose the Aggies could take it as a point of pride that beating them in a game that probably didn’t hugely matter would elicit this kind of emotional reaction.  (I don’t think there’s bad blood between the teams either, certainly not a long-standing rivialry.) 

Looking over the stats from the paper, the girls got close to their usual numbers.  Tatyana may have really carried the team this day for the most part, but she needed help.  Unfortunately, the team got an abundance of stats they didn't want in errors.  Grasso for the Roadrunners did well, even with her flamboyant serve not working, but nothing really jumps out on the other side.  In other words, the Aggies did themselves in.  Credit the team’s talent that they kept it close in the three losing sets, but they didn’t have that extra energy to beat an inspired opponent.  Not that I know anything about volleyball, but cycling out all of the sick girls more to keep them fresher might have helped.  Having the team’s two 6’5” towers, Megan Hart and #24 Lexi May (who I don’t think ever entered the game) playing together would have really maximized the Aggies’ height advantage.            

Well this sucked.  I found myself taking this loss overly personally, to the point of even questioning my own self worth during the end of the match.  Oh well, the crowd deserted the arena immediately, and me with them.  I’m not sure where everyone else was going, but I was already late to get to the nearby Aggie soccer match.  I’d already figured out beforehand that somebody was going to have to win this match real efficiently for me to be on time for both events.  I would have been okay with being late for a win.    

Just to make me feel even worse, there were tables set up in the concourse where the players would be doing another autograph signing.  I felt like I was running out on them.  I already had a signed poster and doubted I could be charming and informed in front of the girls again, but I would liked to have said something supportive to them.  I hope they still had a good crowd for autographs, though if some of the girls are sick, should they really be meeting with the fans?  

This would normally not merit mentioning in a recap, but I’d been fighting a cold all week.  (I’m calling it a cold because I never needed to puke.)  I was still going to work, and I was mostly okay until Thursday night when I exerted myself helping to set up a meeting.  I shouldn’t have gone in Friday (certainly not as grumpy as I was), but I was better by the end of the night.  After taking some Thera-flu-ish stuff and sleeping all Saturday morning, I was okay to go to sit down to watch volleyball (and soccer afterward) that afternoon.  

That said, I can’t imagine having full-blown flu and going out and playing volleyball at a high-level the next day.  Since the girls played great on Thursday and the radio broadcast didn’t mention anyone being sick that heard (unless I missed it), I kind of have to assume they got sick the day before the game.  At least three key Aggie players were likely either doped up on cold medication or, if that’s not allowed by the NCAA, they were really gritting it out hard.  In either case, even getting one good set out of them was impressive.  They weren’t going to be making good decisions or playing sharp consistently under these conditions.    

Of course, nobody on the team would make an excuse of this.  “We were terrible,” and “Honestly, we deserved that,” and “They outcompeted us,” were the LC-Sun News quotes from Coach Jordan and KC Tohm.  I’ve seen some good, even impressive performances, by individual injured players this season, but this may have been multiple players playing through an induced mental fog and exhaustion.  I realize I’m highly biased, and I’m not going to get mad at the team whether they win or lose, but I’ll say they didn’t lose this game for overconfidence or overlooking this opponent, or even from playing sloppy.  This was a potential conference winning game.  You bet the Aggies wanted to win this.    

After the game in the radio interview, Coach Jordan said he wished he’d put in the reserves.  In the paper, he thought this loss was good for the team, to help re-focus them to closing out the season.  Perhaps there’s even some thought that these teams are going to meet again in the conference final, and the coach wanted to make sure the team would really want to beat the Roadrunners bad next time.  All that said, the coach really wanted to win this match.  Three of his best players sick, were still likely better than leaving freshmen out on the court for most of the game.  If this wasn’t an important game, winning the conference in front of the home fans, he might have done things differently.  As it was, all Coach Jordan could do was get frustrated that there wasn’t any combination of players he could use on this day that could win after Set One.  

The worst of all is this might be the last time I get to see the team this year.  I found out I can’t take the week of the WAC tournament off.  I could see the championship game on Saturday, but there’s no certainty of who’s going to be playing.  I say let’s try today’s match up again in the conference final with the Aggies at full strength.  We'll see what happens then.  

I hope this isn’t my last New Mexico State volleyball post this year.  If it is, I’ll just say now how much I have enjoyed watching and briefly meeting these lovely, pleasant, and talented young women.  Since nobody’s graduating this year, I can look forward to seeing them all again next year.  (I hope to see some of #2 Analyssa Acosta then.  She was so sweet during the autograph signing.)  Even with today’s loss, it’s hard to imagine the team improving on their record, but if they can improve their play with this year’s experience added to them, they’re going to be awesome.