The Lobo women’s volleyball team earned a split at home this week, dropping their first game to San Diego State but recovering for a solid win against Fresno State.
The University of New Mexico’s latest win broke a three-game losing streak, putting the team’s record at 11-9 overall and 3-5 in Mountain West Conference play.
UNM started strong against the San Diego Aztecs, capitalizing on early errors to take the lead and win the first set 25-20. However, the Aztecs proved to be tough competitors and fought for every point, edging their way past UNM 25-23 in the second set. Momentum shifted in the Aztecs’ favor, carrying them to a set three win 25-16 and a narrow victory in set four, putting the final scores at 20-25, 25-23, 25-16 and 27-25.
Despite the loss, Lobo players managed to shine, both individually and as a team. On offense, Mariessa Carrasco led with 12 kills, and Lauren Twitty pulled off her seventh double-double of the season with 10 kills and 10 digs. Yasmin Tan drove in nine kills, which was a career best, while Victoria Spragg hit seven and Carson Heilborn contributed four.
As a team, the Lobos also achieved 13 blocks in the game, which was a season high, and managed to hit at a .173 clip — only slightly under the .202 hit percentage posted by the Aztecs.
However, the Aztecs won the battle on kills, 66 to 47, bolstered by heavy hitters like Alexis Cage, who posted 21 putaways. They also fell behind on digs, 68 to 54, as well as on assists, 61 to 44. Those deficits ultimately proved too much to overcome.
The story was very different when UNM met the Fresno State Bulldogs for their “Lobos Love Pink” match dedicated to breast cancer awareness. Lobo players stayed focused, fended off a late counterattack and returned to winning form with set scores of 25-22, 25-19, 25-27 and 25-16.
“Coming off a couple bad losses, I think we decided we needed to push through and needed to fight,” Spragg said in a release.
Perhaps it helped that that Lobos were playing for a cause as well, since the team is 9-1 on breast cancer awareness matches under head coach Jeff Nelson.
Elsa Krieg, a former UNM volleyball player and the director of operations for the New Mexico Cancer Research Center, helped to organize a raffle and auction in conjunction with the game. It included merchandise such as autographed player jerseys, as well as sports packages for UNM football and golf.
On offense, Lobo players appeared to step up their game against the Bulldogs. Twitty led with 12 kills, followed by Carrasco with 11 kills, Hailey Rubino with nine kills and both Carson Heilborn and Spragg notching eight kills apiece. It marked the first time Rubino returned to full action since her injury against Portland last month.
Defensively, UNM also remained strong, edging out Fresno State on blocks, 12-11, and on digs, 47-43. The Lobos limited the Bulldogs to a .128 hit clip while enjoying a .246 hit percentage of their own. Ultimately these factors paved the way for a much-needed UNM win, stemming the tide of their recent setbacks.
Perhaps this confidence booster will be precisely what the Lobos need, because they will almost immediately return to the road on Monday, Oct. 16, when they will head to Las Cruces to play against their Rio Grande Rival, the NMSU Aggies.
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 email@example.com or on Twitter @AaronTCowan.