The University of New Mexico volleyball team played their first home tournament on Sept. 10 and 11, beating Southeastern Louisiana University and Seattle University before suffering their first loss of the season at the hands of the University of California San Diego.
The UNM Tournament began with a match against Southeastern Louisiana, which the Lobos secured with a score of 3-0. The Lions had lost all four of their matches this season (excluding exhibition games) before their match with UNM. The Lobos dominated Southeastern Louisiana with their height, and UNM was able to win with ease.
This lopsided win was also an opportunity for UNM to show off their freshman middle blocker, Elizabeth Woods. Woods finished the match tied with star outside hitter Kaitlynn Biassou in total kills (9) and with setter Melissa Walden in hitting percentage (0.5). For context, Woods’ previous high in total kills was 5. UNM head coach Jon Newman-Gonchar made clear after the match that Woods keeps getting better day by day.
“We’re just thrilled she’s having the impact that she’s having,” Newman-Gonchar said. “No one is surprised by it. It’s kind of the expectation we had of her.”
The afternoon of Sept. 10 became a nail-biter as UNM faced the Seattle University Redhawks, where the Lobos lost their first set of the season. SU had played a total of eight matches and had only won two going into the match. The Redhawks still proceeded to be a challenge for the Lobos as they shared the height and attack skills of UNM; the last three sets of the match ended within four points and SU managed to win the third. Biassou had three new season highs against Seattle in kills (17), points (21) and total blocks (4), propelling the Lobos to a 3-1 win.
UC San Diego came into their match against the Lobos 1-7, but they held the size advantage and incredible attacking power. UNM libero Alena Moldan gave the Lobos their best defense with 22 digs, and Walden got the third-most assists of her season (33). All three sets were incredibly close, and middle blocker Avital Jaloba and Biassou were each able to contribute 11 kills, but it wasn’t enough to prevent a 0-3 loss. UNM seemed to let themselves go with 20 attack errors throughout the match.
UNM will have two chances to rebound from their first loss of the season before conference play, both against Northern Arizona University who is currently 1-6. UNM will face NAU in Flagstaff on Sept. 16 before playing them again in Albuquerque on Sept. 18.
Annya Loya is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @annyaloya