The New Mexico volleyball team opened the season with two wins and a loss at the Cyclone Invitational and duplicated those efforts over the weekend in another impressive showing.
UNM racked up two victories to start the Glory Road Invitational in El Paso, Texas, which began on Sept. 1. The team notched wins over the Youngstown State Penguins and UTEP Miners, before getting stopped by the North Dakota Fighting Hawks.
The Lobos swept the Penguins in straight sets 25-19, 25-20, 25-16 on Friday at Memorial Gym and followed it up on Saturday by shutting down the Miners, the Glory Road Invitational host school, in another three set sweep, 25-22, 25-18, 25-22.
Those two wins helped New Mexico improve to a 4-1 record, but for the second invitational in a row, UNM was unable to escape unscathed.
On Saturday evening, the team hung tough but could not handle the trouble the Fighting Hawks presented. North Dakota (8-1) swept New Mexico 25-23, 25-15, 25-22. The defeat dropped the Lobos to 4-2 on the season, which has played all of their matches on the road so far—the only losses coming in evening matches.
UNM Head Coach Jeff Nelson said the team seemed to find a rhythm and improve as the match progressed.
"Overall, it was a very good start to the tournament and a good morning match for us," Nelson said in a release. "We started a little slow, but by the middle of game one were firing a little better. After that, it was pretty solid the rest of the way."
On offense, Hailey Rubino led the team with a career-high 13 kills, followed by Mariessa Carrasco with nine kills. Lauren Twitty and Victoria Spragg each recorded seven kills, while Carly Beddingfield scored five. Spragg also contributed three total blocks and Twitty tallied five digs.
On defense, Carson Heilborn led the game with 34 assists and nine digs, while Ashley Kelsey tallied 20 digs. Mercedes Pacheco contributed eight digs and also served three aces, which was a career best for her.
In their second matchup, the Lobos avenged a loss that occurred the last time the teams met in Texas. The victory was the Lobos' fourth sweep of the season, which dropped the Miners to a 0-4 record in the process.
On offense, Rubino continued to lead with a team-high of 12 kills, followed closely by Twitty with 11 kills and 12 digs, giving her a double-double. Spragg scored nine kills on ten attempts for an impressive .900 clip, while Heilborn tallied 30 assists and Sarah Lobo served up two aces.
On defense, Kelsey put in 11 digs, with Pacheco and Heilborn each contributing nine and Rubino notching eight more. Freshman Yasmin Tan recorded four blocks and Spragg and Carrasco each chipped in three.
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The third match of the invitational, on Saturday evening, proved more difficult for the Lobos, who stumbled trying to make it past the North Dakota Fighting Hawks, falling in three sets 25-23, 25-15, 25-22.
Rubino led on offense yet again, recording 10 kills. She was followed by Beddingfield who registered eight kills, along with Carrasco and Twitty who scored seven kills apiece. Heilborn turned in 34 assists.
On defense, Kelsey tallied 18 digs, followed by Pacheco who contributed 12 and Rubio with nine. Tan and Spragg also registered one block each.
The Lobos fought hard to keep things competitive against UND, tying things up 14 times throughout the three sets. However, their lower hitting percentage of .189 could not match the accuracy of UND who averaged .311.
The Lobos will return from the road to host their first home tournament of the season, the Lobo Classic, on Sep. 8-9. They will face off against UT Arlington, followed by Portland and the University of Northern Colorado at Johnson Center.
Aaron Cowan is a volunteer sports reporter for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers volleyball and men's and women's golf. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @AaronTCowan