The New Mexico beach volleyball team and head coach Jeff Nelson seemed excited by the challenge of splitting this weekend's matches between traveling to Tempe, Arizona for a pair of matches on Friday before returning home Saturday to host a double-header.
“Big games on Friday, and more emotional games on Saturday,” Nelson said. “Both matches will be close and exciting. I want us to play our best ball this weekend.”
The head coach said Saturday should be special as it will mark the final regular season match for the seniors, and plans to have a presentation to honor those players.
New Mexico will begin the weekend by facing Arizona State for the second time this year, and then compete with California on Friday. The two home matches on Saturday will both be played against Air Force.
The Lobos (14-9) have played some of their best volleyball of the season as of late, and are enjoying a season-high seven-game winning streak over the past several weeks.
Nelson said he owed the success to the consistency of the Lobo players. He said the Lobos were getting more into their games and more experienced as the team has gotten deeper into the season.
The recent win streak could provide UNM with some much-needed confidence in the upcoming rematch with host Arizona State (12-14). The Lobos have struggled against ranked teams all season, but get another crack at it as the Sun Devils were ranked No. 19 in the most recent DiG magazine poll.
The two teams battled to the very last two points on Mar. 12, but the Lobos lost a heartbreaker 3-2 to the Sun Devils.
If New Mexico is able to exact its revenge, it would be the first win over a ranked team this season.
The match with California will also be against a nationally ranked opponent and a good test to see if UNM can demonstrate the ability to hand with a top team. The Bears (13-7) settled in at No. 18 in the DiG poll. The Lobos fought off the Bears 3-2 last year in the most recent meeting.
The matches with Air Force will be the first encounters between the two teams.
New Mexico’s line up should be back to normal with Cassie House and Ashley Kelsey (14-9) competing as the top pair.
In the No. 2 position, Devanne Sours and Lise Rugland have compiled a 17-6 season record. Sours twisted her ankle but still won her last match. Nelson said it was just a small tweak and believed Sours was in good condition.
Marisa Doran and Eastyn Baleto (16-6) will play on court three, while Julia Warren and Lauren Twitty (15-5) hope to extend their win ways at the No. 5 position.
The positions in the last pair are expected to be shared among Jackie Baro, Carly Beddingfield, Victoria Spragg and Chloe Crappell.
The Lobos begin play on Friday at noon against Arizona State and return to action when it faces California at 2 p.m. in Tempe, Arizona.
On Senior Day, the Lobos begin Saturday by hosting Air Force at 10 a.m., with match two between the schools scheduled for 1 p.m. in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
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.