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Lobos Cassie House (left) and Skye Gullatt block a CSU kill at Johnson Center on Nov. 7. The Lobos play UNLV this Thursday in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Lobos Cassie House (left) and Skye Gullatt block a CSU kill at Johnson Center on Nov. 7. The Lobos play UNLV this Thursday in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Volleyball: Lobos battle for pride with MW title out of reach

By Liam Cary-Eaves

Just last week the Lobos were in position to make a run at the No. 2 spot in the conference. This week New Mexico is fighting to stay above .500.

At the tail end of UNM’s four-game home stand, the Lobos couldn’t put together a win when they really needed one. Barring a major meltdown from one of the three teams ahead of UNM in the standings, New Mexico will look to maintain a fourth-place spot in the conference.

“Our chase is really, right now, are we going to end up third or fourth, probably, in the conference?” head coach Jeff Nelson said during Tuesday’s media luncheon. “We are going to need to still stay on top of things.”

The Lobos are currently 2.5 games behind third-place Wyoming (20-6, 10-4 MW) after falling to the Cowgirls on Thursday in a five-set thriller at Johnson Center.

Boise State (18-7, 10-3 MW) currently holds a three-game advantage over New Mexico as the second place team in the Mountain West. The Lobos have not faced the Broncos this season, but will be forced to venture to Idaho on Nov. 21 to take them on.

Colorado State (21-3, 14-0 MW) still holds an unblemished Mountain West record after Saturday’s three-game sweep of the Lobos. UNM has statistically been eliminated from any shot at the Mountain West title with the club’s 7-6 record in conference play (14-12 overall).

Head coach Jeff Nelson said it is hard to keep a team on track after being eliminated for any shot of first place, but he thinks his team is still looking to improve over the final five games of the season in hopes of climbing just one more spot in the standings.

“I think it’s hard, when you’re not playing for first, to not check out,” he said. “I think they’re on board and they’re going to work hard.”

The Lobos do not have any easy trip for the final five games of the 2015 campaign. UNLV and UNM will face off tonight in Las Vegas. The Rebels (13-12, 6-7 MW) will be looking to hit the even .500 plateau, while the Lobos hope to extend two games above the mark.

Following that match, New Mexico will depart for California to take on Fresno State for the final time this season before returning home to bid farewell to the squad’s three departing seniors.

“We have five matches in the next 12 days, four of those on the road,” Nelson said. “It’s going to be a challenge.”

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Although the Lobos have beaten UNLV and Fresno in their first meetings this year, Nelson said both teams will give UNM tough matches.

“I think there is a lot of pride in this program,” Nelson said. “In the last 10 years we’ve only finished below the middle once, and nobody wants that to happen.”

Lobos court two early signees

New Mexico announced the signing of outside hitter Lauren Twitty and J’Kaylee Clark to the 2016-2017 class in a release on Wednesday afternoon.

Twitty is joining a stacked senior class in Devanne Sours, Cassie House and Julia Warren this upcoming season. The senior from Briar Woods High School in Ashburn, Va. has developed quite the list of accolades in her senior campaign.

Twitty has been listed as a 2015 AVCA High School All-American, 5A All-Conference, a 2015 PrepVolleyball Senior Ace, 2015 PrepVolleyball High School All-American Highest Honorable Mention and the 2015 Under Armour All-American Honorable Mention, according to the release.

“Next year we have three senior outsides, so Lauren, being a big outside that can play six rotations, is really important for us moving forward,” Nelson said in a statement. “She’s complete and really experienced and will also add to the sand program.”

The Lobos addressed the need of departing middle blockers Simone Henderson and Skye Gullatt with the signing of Clark. The 5-foot-11 player out of Farmersville, Tex. will join 6-foot-5 sophomore Victoria Spragg and six-foot redshirt freshman Mariessa Carrasco.

One of the things that stood out in Clark’s recruitment is her athleticism, having partnered her volleyball play with track in the spring. The two-sport athletes fit Nelson’s bid for middles who make up for their lack of size with natural abilities.

“J’Kaylee is just a phenomenal athlete,” Nelson said in the statement. “Her jump will be the highest coming in that we’ve ever had. She’s really raised the bar in club last year, and then again in high school this fall.”

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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