In front of a home crowd of 2,252 screaming fans, the UNM volleyball team beat in-state rival New Mexico State in a five-set see-saw battle Tuesday at Johnson Gym.
Head coach Jeff Nelson said he was satisfied with his team’s fight and perseverance.
“You could tell that we really wanted this one,” he said. “We didn’t let the pressure get to us, and we kept taking it to them.”
UNM improved to 5-5 overall with the win, while the Aggies dropped to 6-4. The victory also gave the Lobos bragging rights in the Rio Grande Rivalry for the second straight season.
“This is a big win for our regional ranking,” junior outside hitter Kelly Williamson said. “We can now officially say that we are the best team in the state.”
The Lobos started out shaky in Game 1, quickly falling behind 1-0 after a quick 25-20 wake-up call by NMSU.
“They came out guns blazing,” Williamson said. “We made too many errors (in the first game) and basically handed it to them.”
In Game 2, the Lobos responded by outhitting the Aggies .410 to .185 for the 25-16 shellacking. UNM posted 21 kills to NMSU’s eight.
“We went into the locker room pumped up,” senior right-side hitter Taylor Hadfield said. “It was a major momentum shift for us. We got our offense rolling, and we cut down on our errors.”
The Aggies took Game 3 for a 2-1 advantage, but the Lobos bounced back with a 25-17 win in Game 4, setting the stage for an exciting finale in game five.
“We made it interesting,” Hadfield said. “The crowd was really loud in the fifth game.”
The Lobos jumped out to an 8-3 lead in the fifth game and never looked back. Two NMSU hitting errors and a Hadfield kill sealed the Aggies’ fate for the 15-7 win.
“This feels so good,” senior outside hitter Lisa Meeter said after the match. “We talked about what we needed to do before the game and that was basically to go out and fight to the end.”
The Lobos were paced offensively by Williamson, who notched a career-high 20 kills. Hadfield chipped in 19 kills, and Meeter added 14. Junior libero Allison Buck led the back row with 15 digs, while senior setter Jade Michaelsen dished out 50 assists.
NMSU’s Kayleigh Giddens led the Aggies’ offense with 15 kills.
“You’ve got to hand it to NMSU,” Nelson said. “They put up a fight and weren’t going to hand it over to us. They’re a great team and a great program, and they’ve got some great athletes. We were just the better team tonight.”
*Volleyball vs. South Florida
Friday, 5 p.m.
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