After opening up conference play with a win, New Mexico has stumbled its past three matches and finds itself towards the bottom of the standings early in Mountain West play.
Fresno State (10-5, 1-3 MW) needed just three sets to send UNM home and back to the drawing board after a 3-0 sweep on Saturday afternoon.
“I just think it’s gut-check time,” head coach Jeff Nelson said in a release. “We were 10-4 and now we’re 10-7.”
Nelson said in the release that New Mexico (10-7, 1-3 MW) is especially struggling to find the drive to finish contests and stay in them.
Nelson said that is only one of the problems. The head coach said in the release that the team is stumbling without the drive and the effort, which is plaguing the squad.
“We’re really lacking any type of fight or drive on the big points,” Nelson said in the statement. “We’re not getting taken out of matches, we’re taking ourselves out late in matches.”
Back on the court for the first time in conference play was senior outside hitter Julia Warren. An MRI discovered Warren had a partial tear in her MCL, which has kept the captain on the sidelines since conference opened two weeks ago.
Though Warren played all three sets, her stat line was not remotely close to the numbers UNM is accustomed to seeing, with only one point coming from a service ace, two serving errors and just one dig.
It wasn’t just Warren who was having trouble digging balls off the hardwood. Fresno State was able to tally 45 kills while hitting an astounding .302 collectively.
“When you’re fighting, you’re digging balls and that was the lowest dig output I’ve ever seen,” Nelson said in the release. “To me, that kind of defensive effort is inexcusable.”
The Lobos only had 15 digs, compared to Fresno State’s 34, on an afternoon the Lobos would like to forget.
“We came out flat after losing that tough game Thursday night, but we got momentum back late in game one and I thought we were headed in the right direction,” Nelson said. “We talked in game two, halftime and game three that it was going to come down to some fight and desire and intensity and they were decent games, but we didn’t have that.”
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The Lobos did fight back after trailing 23-10 to make game one respectable in a 25-18 loss, but again couldn’t build on an 8-2 run in the next match.
UNM dropped set two by a 25-20 count ,followed by a 25-21 game three loss.
New Mexico will return home on Thursday in a huge match against Colorado State (9-5, 3-0 MW). The Rams got off to an unusual start in non-conference play, but have since found their groove, dropping only one set in three MW matches.
The Lobos will have to find their fight, and quickly, should UNM find its way back among the pack hunting for a conference title.
Liam Cary-Eaves is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers volleyball, women’s basketball and baseball. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Liam_CE.