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Senior middle blocker Skyle Gullatt offers an off-speed shot against San Jose State’s defense at Johnson Center Oct. 29. Gullatt is five blocks away from second place on the all-time block at UNM.

Senior middle blocker Skyle Gullatt offers an off-speed shot against San Jose State’s defense at Johnson Center Oct. 29. Gullatt is five blocks away from second place on the all-time block at UNM.

Volleyball: Lobos continue struggle to climb conference standings

New Mexico volleyball will face a major test this weekend, beginning with a game against Wyoming on Thursday night.

The race for first in the MWC appears to be out of reach for the moment, but the runner-up spot is wide open, with four teams right in the thick of things. UNLV, New Mexico, Wyoming and Boise State all sit above the .500 plateau, and all are in a position to finish behind the undefeated CSU Rams.

The Lobos currently reside half of a game behind the visiting Cowgirls, whose 8-4 conference record (18-6 overall) places them in sole possession of third place at the moment. With a win on Thursday night, the Lobos (14-10, 7-4 MW) can that spot in the standings.

“Hopefully it will be a great match. I’m expecting it will be. We’ve got a lot of work to do,” head coach Jeff Nelson said. “We really need to contain their middles and just serve really well to have success in that match.”

Nelson said he is excited at the opportunity to play one of the better teams in the conference with home support behind the squad.

“We’re hoping we can get a big crowd on Thursday night. Our crowds always help us,” Nelson said. “They do a great job over there and our fans are awesome, so hopefully people will come out and help us continue to move up.”

While the crowd may help, the Lobos will need the effort from some key contributors, who happen to be on the verge of reaching some major milestones.

Setter Hannah Johnson is currently second all-time in UNM history with 3,892 career sets. Although she is 282 assists off the leading mark (4,174) set by Jade Michaelsen, her 8.81 assists per set average would place her within shouting distance of that mark by the end of the season.

Johnson’s numbers have been bolstered this season with the help of middle blocker Skye Gullatt’s breakout offensive year.

"We’ve been working on speeding up her game, because she’s probably the fastest middle in the conference,” Nelson said. “She’s just really put up some big numbers, and I think if she continues, she has some shots at some post-season awards.”

Gullatt may be having the best offensive season in the middle blocker’s tenure, but her defense has never faltered. The senior is currently creeping up on taking sole possession of second place for blocks in program history.

Gullatt’s defensive stats have come in an untraditional way, according to Nelson. The coach said it’s unusual to see such great production out of a shorter middle blocker, but said her athleticism makes up for her lack of height.

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“Middle blockers are usually 6-2 (six-foot-two), 6-3, 6-4. -- Skye’s 5-10 with a huge vertical … Skye has a chance to be probably the smallest middle with the most blocks ever, so that’s pretty cool.”

Gullatt’s 430 career total blocks are five away from Chantale Riddle’s mark of 435, which she set just a season ago. For the top spot, however, Gullatt will need 35 blocks over the course of the next seven games, a possible mark to reach.

At her current pace of 4.41 blocks per match, she would finish the season with 30 more blocks -- just five off the UNM record. If Gullatt can add just one more block in each of the final matches, she will be able to claim ownership of the record.

While these records may be in the back of everyone’s mind, the Lobos main focus is to add onto their current hot streak having won five of the last six matches.

"Players are working harder than they ever have. I couldn’t be happier with their production and what they’re doing. I’m hoping for a big week for us," 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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