The New Mexico beach volleyball team evened its performance at Stetson Beach Invite with a pair of wins and one defeat on Saturday in Tavares, Florida.
The Lobos (6-8) went 3-3 overall over the weekend, dominating some of their opponents while falling to the nationally ranked ones.
New Mexico dominated Jacksonville State (2-14) with a 5-0 sweep in its first match on Saturday. Then, New Mexico challenged tournament host No. 14 (DiG)/No. 12 (AVCA) Stetson (5-8), but fell 4-1. The team was able to rebound to end its east coast journey with a 5-0 victory over Lincoln Memorial (0-3).
So far this season, UNM has captured all six matches against unranked teams, and has been able to score at least one point against the eight nationally ranked foes. However, the Lobos have been unable to register a win against any of the top teams.
“Overall we have some work to do,” head coach Jeff Nelson said in a release. “We played well in different positions but not across the board.”
The Lobos again made substitutions in the lineup as a maneuver when trying to find advantages against the lineups of their opponents.
One change when taking on Jacksonville State was Victoria Spragg being paired with Jackie Baro to play in the No. 4 position, a battle they won 21-7, 21-13. Julia Warren and Lauren Twitty picked up the second point for the Lobos to sweep in the No. 5 spot 21-15, 21-6.
Marisa Doran and Eastyn Baleto clinched the duel on court three 21-3, 21-14. Top seed Cassie House and Ashley Kelsey continued the dominance 21-13, 21-18. In the No. 2 slot, Devanne Sours and Lise Rugland added another point (21-10, 21-9) to finish the job as the Lobos fought off the Gamecocks, 5-0.
In the third match, the Lobos’ sweep over Lincoln Memorial was a mirror image of the first match of the day.
Warren and Spragg played in the No. 4 position and won 21-7, 21-18. In the No. 5 spot, Carly Beddingfield and Chloe Crappell contributed a second point with a 21-15, 21-19 win to give the Lobos a 2-0 lead over the Railsplitters.
Sours and Rugland competed on court one and clinched the duel for the Lobos 21-11, 21-15. House and Kelsey dominated in the No. 2 slot 21-9, 21-8. Doran and Baleto swept 21-7, 21-16 to seal the match.
Despite the maneuvers, lack of consistency was ultimately the failure for UNM in its matchup against Stetson, as some of the pairs dropped close sets.
On court five, Warren and Twitty dropped in two sets 21-9, 21-17. The Lobos tied up at 1-1 when Doran and Baleto won 21-16, 21-17 in the No. 4 position.
Sours and Rugland saw their winning streak come to an end as they lost in straight sets on court two 21-13, 25-23. The Hatters sealed the victory in the No. 3 spot as Baro and Spragg fell 21-18, 21-11.
UNM also lost on court one as House and Kelsey fell in three sets 21-10, 21-19, 15-8 to give Stetson a 4-1 team victory.
“We played a ton of tough matches and continue to push for stronger play as we grow,” Nelson said. “We need to be more consistent throughout the lineup.”
The Lobos were able to avoid being swept with some shining play at the No. 4 position, but need to find a way to have at least three positions perform against the top tier team if they want to break through and take the next step.
New Mexico’s next challenge will come when it competes in the Wildcat Spring Challenge in Tucson, Arizona on Mar. 31 and Apr. 1.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Bo_YuB.