The Lobo women’s volleyball team stumbled in their first Mountain West game with a loss to the Colorado State Rams, but rebounded Saturday with a victory over the Wyoming Cowgirls.
The split put the New Mexico season record at 9-5 overall and 1-1 in Mountain West conference play.
CSU proved to be a formidable opponent on their home court at Moby Arena in Fort Collins, Colorado, sweeping the Lobos in three straight sets 25-20, 25-18 and 25-20.
The Rams held a 10-2 record going into the match compared to 8-4 for UNM and were able to limit the Lobos on digs and hits.
The Lobos only notched 21 total digs — a season low — compared to 31 digs for CSU. UNM was also outhit by a significant margin, hitting at a .221 clip compared to a .337 hit percentage for Colorado State.
Still, there were bright spots in the box scores. Lauren Twitty led the Lobos offensively, driving in 14 kills, and helped the Lobos manage a season high nine blocks, compared to seven blocks for CSU.
"We've been working on blocking for two weeks and we blocked pretty well," head coach Jeff Nelson said in a release. "We had nine blocks in three games against a really good team."
Victoria Spragg contributed five kills and four blocks, while Mariessa Carrasco notched four kills and four more blocks and Ashley Kelsey scored three errorless kills and seven digs. Carson Heilborn also produced for the Lobos with 28 assists. However, those efforts were not enough to overcome the faster tempo of the CSU team.
Things were different on Saturday when the Lobos faced off against the Cowgirls in Laramie, Wyoming. UNM has never lost their first two Mountain West games in the 11 years that Nelson has been leading the team, and this year they did not let him down.
Despite close scores, UNM managed to edge out Wyoming, which dropped to a 6-8 overall record on the season, in a three set sweep, 25-23, 25-21 and 25-22.
Twitty drove in a career-high 25 putaways, the most for a three set match in program history. Only Julia Warren has scored more – with 28 kills in a four-set match against Utah State in 2016.
Spragg followed with nine kills, along with Carrasco with seven and Carly Beddingfield who contributed five more. Heilborn led the match with 40 assists.
Twitty also recorded 10 digs, which gave her a sixth double-double for the season. Hailey Rubino, who had been sidelined for the past five matches due to a foot injury, notched 10 digs and Libero Ashley Kelsey add nine digs.
Overall, UNM registered a .355 hit clip, compared to a .283 percentage for Wyoming. UNM also topped their opponent with seven blocks, compared to six for the Cowgirls.
"When you look at the box score, it's the kind you want. We won the hitting game, we won the digs and we won the blocking,” Nelson said of his team's performance.
The Lobos will return home where they will face the 2016 Mountain West champion Boise State Broncos on Thursday, Sept. 28 at 7 p.m. in Johnson Center. They will remain at home for a second match on Saturday, Sept. 30 at noon against Utah State.
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 reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @AaronTCowan.