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Setter Hannah Johnson digs the ball off of an Air Force attack at Johnson Center Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015. The Lobos beat Air Force 3-0 and play San Jose Thursday Oct. 29. 

Setter Hannah Johnson digs the ball off of an Air Force attack at Johnson Center Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015. The Lobos beat Air Force 3-0 and play San Jose Thursday Oct. 29. 

Volleyball: Good all-around play gives UNM sweep over Falcons

The Lobos’ newly acquired identity has translated into recent success.

A complete team effort allowed New Mexico to rid of Air Force in a three set sweep in Johnson Center on Tuesday night. With head coach Jeff Nelson’s new lineup, UNM has won four of the team’s last five matches.

“Air Force has been a team that has been tough this year,” head coach Jeff Nelson said. “They’ve given some teams some good matches… They’re a good team when they put it together and they didn’t tonight.”

The Lobos came out of the gates in dominant fashion, making quick work of the Falcons 25-18 in the first set. UNM’s offense was really clicking as the squad hit .321 compared to a .075 performance by Air Force (10-15, 3-7 MW).

However, the rest of the match was not as smooth as the first game. Nelson said the defense allowed some room for error from UNM’s offense.

“Our defense was really good tonight,” Nelson said. “Our offense kind of sputtered after game one to be quite honest.”

The team’s normally sure-hitting offense dipped in the second set hitting only .191, but New Mexico (13-10, 6-4 MW) still managed to squeeze out a win in the second set. Senior setter Hannah Johnson said it wasn’t that her squad lost focus, rather that Air Force came to play in the 28-26 second set victory.

“In the second set, Air Force woke up,” Johnson said. “Their hitters stepped it up so we know that our blockers really had to step it up.”

The blocking game was on point for the Lobos the entire night. New Mexico acquired 13 blocks to the Falcons’ five. Senior middle blocker Skye Gullatt was good for 4.5 of those blocks.

Johnson said the key to UNM’s success has been built on the continuity the team has built, courting a consistent lineup.

“I think everyone’s slowly finding their role in order to help this team succeed,” Johnson said. “Right now, our lineup is working really well so we’re going to stick with it until something changes.”

Ashley Kelsey has been the dominant name surrounding the Lobos’ recent lineup tweaking. The redshirt sophomore has found comfort in the middle of UNM’s defense, creating a change in attitude in the middle of a tight conference race.

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“Everyone’s competing. Everyone’s working hard and coming into practice and battling for each other, for this team and what this program stands for,” Kelsey said. “It’s been really fun.”

While defense surely has been a weighted concern, the Lobos have had to focus on correcting minor things, the small ball portion of the sport.

“When we made the change, we really said that passing and serving is going to be a very key factor for any game,” Nelson said. “That’s part of the game in general so we wanted to focus on passing and serving.”

Although Nelson said the passing game was not the strongest for the Lobos on Tuesday night, the coach said his squad put the ball in the right hands.

While the Lobos were able to walk away with a sweep, Nelson said the team needs to keep focus all the way through the match, something the team struggled with in the earlier stages of the season.

“They’re having fun out there but it got a little sloppy at the end,” Nelson said.

Liam Cary-Eaves is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at or on twitter @Liam_CE.


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