The University of New Mexico’s volleyball team has consistently won two out of every three tournament games every week for the past month. That trend continued at the Blue/Gold Invitational in Toledo, Ohio where the Lobos beat Youngstown State and Tennessee Tech but dropped a match to the Toledo Rockets, putting their record at 8-4 for the regular season.
UNM started strong in the morning game at the Blue/Gold Invitational against Youngstown State University — a team they faced and beat just two weeks earlier — at the Glory Road Invitation in El Paso, Texas. The results were virtually identical, with UNM posting a three-set sweep against the Penguins 25-21, 25-19 and 25-18 in the Savage Arena.
On offense, Mariessa Carrasco led with 10 putaways, followed by Lauren Twitty with nine kills. Victoria Spragg knocked in eight more kills, while Yasmin Tan and Ashley Kelsey each contributed six. Hailey Rubino, who had lead the team to victory two weeks earlier, was out due to injury, so Kelsey, who usually plays libero, stepped forward into a front row role.
Defensively, Carson Heilborn dominated with 33 assists. Twitty and Carrasco notched 10 digs each, followed closely by Kelsey who recorded nine digs and Heilborn who put in seven more. Spragg, Carrasco and Heilborn also all tallied two blocks each.
The evening game against the invitational host, the Toledo Rockets, proved more challenging. The Lobos dueled through three close sets, winning the second, but lost momentum in the fourth and final set, resulting in scores of 21-25, 25-23, 22-25 and 15-25.
Still, UNM had some standout performances. Twitty led the team with 14 kills and 10 digs to notch her fifth double-double of the season. Carrasco followed with eight kills, along with Carly Beddingfield who drove in seven kills and Spragg who contributed six kills and four blocks. Heilborn recorded 32 assists and four blocks.
Kelsey, back at libero, racked up 20 digs, followed by Mercedes Pacheco who added 14 digs, while Heilborn and Twitty each chipped in eight.
UNM continued to be hampered by the fact that one of their key players, Hailey Rubino, was out of commission due to injury. As a result, Toledo managed to limit the Lobos to a .172 hit percentage, while averaging a .219 clip with fewer errors.
In a release head coach Jeff Nelson said, “We’ve been a little disheveled since we lost Hailey, and we’ve got to settle back in and find ourselves.”
UNM capped the final game of the tournament Saturday afternoon with a win against Tennessee Tech. In a four set battle, they managed to secure the win 25-15, 24-26, 25-17 and 21-17.
Twitty led the offense with a career-high 20 kills, along with 12 kills from Carrasco and 10 kills from Beddingfield. Heilborn also stepped up with a game-high 43 assists.
Kelsey, in for Rubino, recorded 15 digs. Pacheco, playing Libero, notched 14 digs, followed by Tan who recorded 11 digs and Heilborn contribute 10 more. Spragg assisted with six blocks and Beddingfield made four.
Overall UNM outhit their rival with a team average of .278, compared to a .126 clip for TTU, and committed fewer errors, contributing to the win.
UNM will begin Mountain West Conference play, facing the Colorado State Rams on Sept. 21 in Fort Collins, Colorado and then the Wyoming Cowgirls on Sept. 23 in Laramie, Wyoming, followed by home games on Sept. 28 and 30. The full schedule can be found at www.golobos.com.
Aaron Cowan is a volunteer sports reporter for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers volleyball and men’s and women’s golf. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @AaronTCowan.