The University of New Mexico Women’s volleyball team played in an exhibition match on Saturday, Aug. 19 against the New Mexico Highlands Cowgirls. Following last season’s exhibition victory against the Cowgirls, the Lobos won 4-0 for the second year in a row.
UNM’s volleyball team had a strong season last year, going 17-12 in the regular season and 8-10 in conference play. The Lobos finished the season in fifth place, making the University’s second appearance in a row in the Mountain West Tournament.
Being an exhibition game, the final roster has not yet been released. There were several newcomers who competed during the match for the Lobos.
It was a clean sweep for the ladies in cherry. The Lobos were able to secure the first three sets with ease. It wasn’t until the fourth set that the Cowgirls brought their game, but it wasn’t enough to beat the Lobos who closed out 26-24.
The first set started strong for the Lobos with a series of powerful serves from one of the liberos, with an ace and a string of points. Setter, Melissa Walden showed up ready to play, getting an ace on her first serve of the match. This gave the Lobos a huge momentum advantage from the beginning.
UNM senior Kaitlynn Biassou missed her first serve of the match but came back better, never missing an opportunity to attack the ball from the opposite position. After service aces and errors by the Cowgirls, the Lobos secured set one with a solid 25-10.
UNM kept the pressure during the second set, particularly from Biassou who brought the flames and fire for the last season of her college career. She displayed a wide array of exceptional skills on the court, whether it was hitting, digging, blocking or serving.
“I just want to continue developing my craft in all aspects of my game. This is my last college season, so if I can just continue to better my game – whether it’s hitting, blocking or serving - I just want to tune it up,” Biassou said.
Lobos won the second set 25-15. The final point was scored off a failed block by the Cowgirls.
The Cowgirls started with the serve in set three, but the first point was immediately won by the Lobos off a tip by Elizabeth Woods. From there, UNM’s serves were on fire. The Cowgirls called their first timeout of the set with the score 6-1.
Out of the timeout, the Lobos continued to control the game, forcing the Cowgirls to call their second timeout with the score 14-2.
The Lobos couldn’t be stopped. Straight out of the timeout, UNM’s Kali Wolf scored on a kill and they refused to let their lead go, ending the set with a score of 25-6.
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The fourth set was the most competitive of the day. UNM brought out a completely different line up, which Highlands saw and responded to quickly.
Highlands’ Ashleigh Meyer served for six points, securing the Cowgirls an early lead. The Cowgirls were stopped by UNM’s Wolf with a kill point to shift the momentum, making the score 8-6 with Highlands in the lead.
This started a back and forth for the rest of the set. Highlands’ Aziza Morris kept the Lobos on their toes with consistent attacks at the net and strong blocks.
By the halfway point, UNM began substitutions to bring back some of the original lineup. The Lobos and Cowgirls were neck and neck until the final point was scored by UNM’s #5, securing the Lobos a win 26-24, which allowed the Lobos to secure their 4-0 sweep.
After the match, head coach Jon Newman-Gonchar expressed his confidence in the team.
“I’m proud of our team. They handled sets one and two, then set four. We made some changes with some new players and they showed that they are ready to play at a high level – ready to keep the standard for Lobo Volleyball,” Newman-Gonchar said.
The Cowgirls did not go without a fight, forcing the final set into a 24-24 tie. The Cowgirls played well, displaying solid communication, technical ability with the ball and unwavering confidence in later sets. It was a good match for the Lobos as they showcased new talent, upcoming strategies and the rock solid connection the players.
The season looks good for the Lobos as they go into the UCI Invitational that will start on Aug. 25. They will play three games away before coming back for UNM’s Lobo Invitational on Aug. 31.
BillyJack Davidson is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BillyJackDL.
Francesca Cicconetti is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at sports @dailylobo.com or on Twitter @fran_cicconetti.
BillyJack Davidson is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be reached on Twitter @BillyJackDL
Francesca Cicconetti is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached on Twitter @fran_cicconetti