The New Mexico volleyball team finally got an opportunity to play in front of its home crowd after opening the season with six consecutive matches on the road.
Even though the Lobos were able to get to play on their home court, the results continued to mimic the ones the team has experienced on the road.
The Lobos swept UT Arlington in three straight sets, 25-17, 25-18 and 25-14, to open the Lobo Classic on Sept. 8 at Johnson Center. UNM followed up that performance with another win later that same evening, as it waged a marathon, five-set battle against the Portland Pilots, eventually coming out on top, 25-19, 28-30, 26-24, 22-25 and 15-10.
However, on Saturday, despite close numbers, the team could not quite fend off the Northern Colorado Bears, falling in three close sets, 25-19, 25-21, 25-21. It was the third consecutive invitational in which the Lobos took the first two matches and lost the closing one, bringing their record to 6-3 on the season.
UNM protected home court aggressively with both Lauren Twitty and Mariessa Carrasco each recording eight putaways, followed by Victoria Spragg and Hailey Rubino, who racked up five kills, and Carly Beddingfield, who added four more. Ashley Kelsey and Twitty also served up two aces each.
On defense, Kelsey notched 12 digs, followed by Twitty with 11 digs, giving her a second double-double for the season. Carson Heilborn contributed 25 assists.
As a team, the Lobos delivered eight total blocks and held UTA to a negative .067 hitting percentage, while averaging a .278 clip themselves. It was the first time since their 2016 season opener against Abilene Christian University that Lobos have held a team to a negative average on hits.
In the second matchup, the Lobos kept the morning momentum going, slugging it out to final victory against the Portland Pilots, which seemed to please UNM head coach Jeff Nelson.
“It’s just a great win. Portland’s a really great team,” he said.
On the offensive side, Twitty recorded a career high of 19 kills and 17 digs, her third double-double for this season. Carrasco and Spragg notched 12 kills each, followed by Rubino with seven kills and Yasmin Tan with five.
Defensively, Kelsey put up 21 digs, while Mercedes Pacheco and Twitty recorded 17 each. Rubino and Heilborn tacked on 12 more. Carrasco also posted six blocks, a match high.
The final game, as with tournaments for the past two weeks, proved the toughest for the Lobos.
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On the offensive side, Twitty continued to deliver dominating performances, notching 13 kills and 11 digs — her fourth double-double of the season — earning her the tournament MVP title. Carrasco followed with seven kills, while Spragg and Tan each drove in six more. Overall though, UNM’s hit clip under-performed at .090.
On defense, Kelsey recorded 10 digs — enough to earn Outstanding Libero — and Pacheco contributed eight more. In spite of that, the Bears’ defense notched 53 digs and 11 total blocks, which is the highest UNM has encountered all season and proved too much to overcome.
The Lobos will next head to Toledo, Ohio for the Blue/Gold Invitational on Sept. 15 and 16, where they will face Youngstown State University for a second time, as well as the Toledo Rockets and the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles.
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 contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @AaronTCowan.