The University of New Mexico volleyball team won their first two matches of the season 3-1 during the Lobo Invitational at The Pit. The first match was against California State University, Fullerton on Aug. 26 and the second one against Abilene Christian University on Aug. 27.
While both matches began as nail-biters for the first two sets, UNM turned it around and took control of the court, winning three out of four sets played. UNM managed to beat both of their opponents in almost every single basic statistic except one: UNM was outpaced in digs against Abilene Christian 89-86.
“It’s a little bit of validation for all the hard work put in here. It's nice to see that the harder we work the more those results come on the court, and it's been nice to see we've been grinding and practicing good and pushing on them hard,” head coach Jon Newman-Gonchar said.
New additions to the team showed their support both on and off the court. Setter Anilee Sher joined UNM after transferring from Rider University. She had a team high of 43 assists against Cal State and 33 against Abilene Christian, leading in assists between both teams for both matches.
International freshman middle blocker Lea Zurlinden joined UNM from Fribourg, Switzerland. Zurlinden made a total of five kills with a .385 hit percentage against Fullerton and had six kills against Abilene Christian with a .308 hit percentage.
“Just excited to see the players that are able to come into this program and benefit us and add value,” Newman-Gonchar said. “It's really nice to see our team … Our lineup is gonna change throughout the year; that's the way it works.”
UNM junior outside hitter Uxue Guereca led UNM with the most kills: 15 against Cal State with a .205 hit percentage and 18 against Abilene Christian with a .241 hit percentage. She has already surpassed her 2021-22 season high in digs where she had 13 in a match against Wyoming.
“She's amazing. She's a testament to hard work. She's a testament to believing in yourself. She's a testament to pushing yourself beyond what you think of your perceived limits,” Newman-Gonchar said.
The Lobos are headed to their first away game against University of Texas, El Paso in El Paso for the Borderland Invitational on Sep. 1. Newman-Gonchar’s goal for the team is to be top three in the conference by the end of the season.
“We're excited to continue to build and grow and build and grow and continue to see what's in Texas,” Newman-Gonchar said.
Annya Loya is the news editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @annyaloya