UNM Women’s volleyball completed their season in a week of intense play, routing UTEP and UNLV at home, but falling to the Air Force Academy in their final match.
The Lobos now stand at 16-16 ( or .500) for the season and 7-11 in Mountain West play, which puts them 8th in conference rankings. This is the 10th season that Lobo volleyball has achieved at least .500 for the season in the 11 years that head coach Jeff Nelson has led the program.
UNM started the week with a match against the University of Texas El Paso Miners at Johnson. Coming off a three game losing streak, the Lobos were desperately hoping to flip that script and they found a way to do just that. In the end the Lobos swept the Miners, who now stand at 6-22 for the season, in three straight sets, 25-16, 25-16 and 28-26.
In a press release, redshirt junior Victoria Spragg said, "We've kind of been going up and down…so today was just a little redemption and showing ourselves and the fans that we can play volleyball”.
On offense, Spragg led with 10 kills, followed by Carly Beddingfield with nine kills and Mariessa Carrasco with six putaways. UNM managed a .219 hit percentage while limiting UTEP to a .162, and committed significantly less errors than UTEP, 14-21.
Lauren Twitty posted a match high 12 digs, followed by Ashley Kelsey who contributed 10 digs and Sarah Lobo who added nine more. Lobo also racked up a match-high 34 assists, and Spragg contributed seven of UNM’s nine blocks, to edge out UTEP by one on that metric. Together, all of this was enough to narrowly push the Lobos to a third set victory and clench the hard-fought win.
The next day, without reprieve, the Lobos went on to play their final home game against the UNLV Rebels. Despite stiff resistance, the Lobos managed to top UNLV on Senior Night, sending their lone graduating senior, Ashley Kelsey, off with a victory, 25-16, 25-20 and 25-20.
Kelsey did her part, contributing a game-high 16 digs, which pushed her standing to third highest in program history, at 1515 digs, exceeding Sharon Browning’s 1504 dig career.
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Other players also had impressive performances. Hailey Rubino led on offense with a game-high 13 kills, followed by Spragg and Beddingfield who each notched seven kills, and Twitty and Carrasco who contributed six. Lobo also recorded a match-high 36 assists.
As a team, UNM hit at a .173 clip while limiting UNLV to a .010 hit percentage. This along with fewer errors, 21-26, may have been the margin that UNM needed to get past their rival.
The third game of the week against the Air Force Falcons proved to be the most challenging. Despite impressive performances by individual players and a 2-1 early lead, the Falcons were able to rally and ultimately get past the Lobos, by scores of 18-25, 25-21, 25-26, 23-25 and 11-15.
Still, several Lobo players had truly exceptional game performances. Spragg racked up 13 kills, followed by Twitty who notched 11 kills and 13 digs, giving her a 13th double-double for the season. Twitty’s performance was the most from a player since Hannah Johnson in 2015. Lobo also recorded 42 assists, which marked her sixth match of the season with 40 or more assists.
However, in spite of these performances, the Air Force Academy (AFA) outperformed the Lobos on several key metrics, including kills, 61-49, assists, 58-46, and aces 10-4. Ultimately UNM hit at only a .152 clip compared to .172 for AFA and this better hitting translated into a close fifth set victory.
Now that indoor volleyball has concluded some of UNM’s team will now transition to beach volleyball, which will begin play in the spring.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @AaronTCowan