The Lobo beach volleyball team will travel to Tavares, Florida to compete in the Stetson Beach Invitational on Friday and Saturday.

New Mexico (3-5) won just one of its three matches last week, but made some strides in closing the gap against a pair of nationally-ranked teams on Sunday.

The Lobos were narrowly defeated 3-2 against Arizona State and fell to Arizona by a score of 4-1 on Sunday.



In the newest DiG Magazine poll, the Lobos were ranked 22nd, as well as 23rd in the AVCA poll.

The team has a tough schedule in front of it, as UNM will face three top-20 teams over the six matches it will play this weekend at the invitational.

Head coach Jeff Nelson said he is excited to see how the matches play out and wants the team to start strong.

“I’d like to see us pick up a few wins this weekend,” Nelson said in a release. “The matches are going to be close. I’d like to see us get on top of them.”

On Friday, the Lobos face No. 17 (DiG) Florida Atlantic (8-2) in their first match, followed by No. 12 (DiG) and No. 8 (AVCA) Georgia State (6-4) as the second opponent of the day.

The final test of the day will come against Morehead State (0-0) in its first competition of the season.

Lobo beach volleyball is also scheduled to meet against Jacksonville State (1-10) and No. 14(DiG)/No. 12(AVCA) Stetson (2-7) on Saturday. The team will conclude play in another season opener against Lincoln Memorial (0-0).

“I think we’ll be competitive,” Nelson said. “It’s a matter of pulling out those tight matches.”

The head coach said he expected some close matches between the Lobos and the three nationally ranked teams as he believed New Mexico earned some valuable experience against the top-ranked teams last week.

Top seed Cassie House and Ashley Kelsey (4-4), as well as No. 2 pair Devanne Sours and Lise Rugland (5-3) will be relied on heavily to anchor the team.

Both of the tandems posted solid performances in the previous week, holding their own against some brilliant duos from top-10 teams.

The regular No. 3 spot Marisa Doran and Eastyn Baleto have gone 5-3 so far and could be a major factor as well.

Nelson said that the team will also need more consistency from the No. 4 and No. 5 positions.

Julia Warren and Lauren Twitty (5-3) had been dominant in the No. 5 slot, but they lost two matches after a 5-0 streak on court five.

Jackie Baro and Carly Beddingfield (2-4) have split their time between the third, fourth and fifth positions.

Many of the schools competing this weekend have budding beach volleyball programs and it will mark the first-ever meeting between New Mexico and all six opponents.

The Lobos begin play at 8 a.m. against Florida Atlantic, with the other matches that day occurring against Georgia State at 10 a.m. and Morehead State at 2 p.m.

Bo Yu is a sports reporter for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers beach volleyball, track and field, cross country and volleyball. He can be reached at sports@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @Bo_YuB.