The Fresno State Bulldogs beat the Lobos 3-1 (25-23, 25-22, 18-25, 25-20) at home on Thursday, Nov. 9.
Going into the game, the Lobos, the Bulldogs and the Colorado State Rams were in a three-way tie for second place in the Mountain West Conference.
This was University of New Mexico’s second loss against the Bulldogs this season. The Lobos are now 10-6 in conference and 18-9, and are currently tied for second place in the conference. With two games left in the season, the Lobos need to win one to clinch a spot in the conference tournament.
Lobo libero Giselle Groe is confident in her team to recover from the loss and come back stronger in their next match.
“It was a tough loss, but we know that we can play better and that we’ll come back stronger from this,” Groe said.
Although the Lobos lost, they showed up on the court – never backing down. UNM and Fresno are both competitive programs with competitive players, and they showed that on the court in the long rallies back and forth over the net.
Going into the game, Head Coach John Newman-Gonchar knew Fresno was a team that’s hard to go up against and how eager both teams were for a win.
“Fresno is not a team you can let get away from you … I thought they (the Bulldogs) wanted this thing really bad, and I thought some of those longer rallies that they won showed that,” Newman-Gonchar said.
The Bulldogs put up 15 kills in the first set and the Lobos trailed behind with 13. Both teams were eager to keep the ball in their favor throughout the whole night. The momentum stayed strong throughout the first set with 12 ties.
There wasn’t more than a two-point difference between the Lobos and the Bulldogs in set one until UNM’s Lauryn Payne missed an attack at the net, putting Fresno up 19-16.
Going into the second set, Fresno kept the Lobos moving on the court with long rallies and deep hits to the back corners.
Newman-Gonchar said these long rallies and the calculated swings at the net were where the Bulldogs managed to dominate over the Lobos.
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“They made some great scramble plays to keep rallies alive, and I thought we didn’t quite match their intensity … We weren’t quite catching up there,” Newman-Gonchar said. “That was as much frustrating as disappointing because we know we’re better than that.”
Early in the second set, the Bulldogs made the Lobos work, going on a five-point scoring run and putting them up 10-6 before UNM called their first timeout of the set.
The Bulldogs put up a hitting percentage of .238, holding the Lobos to .230. Typically the Lobos average a hitting percentage of over .290.
“They (the middle hitters/blockers) got defended pretty well. We gotta continue to spread the net out. We gotta be good in the middle third, the left third and the right third of the court to really bolster up our offense,” Newman-Gonchar said.
In set three, the Lobos put up their biggest point difference of the match thus far, 20-15, after a block by Uxue Guereca and Mattison Matthews.
UNM went on to score the five points needed to win the set, concluding set three 25-18. In spite of the third set win, the Lobos couldn’t keep up with the Bulldogs in set four – ultimately losing the match.
Despite a tough loss, the Lobos managed to put up some impressive stats throughout the game.
“We never give up. We truly embodied what it means to be a Lobo today. We never back down,” Groe said. “We all worked together really well and communicated throughout the good times and the bad times.”
Groe did her best to scramble throughout the backcourt and keep the ball in play for her team. By the end of the match, she had racked up 16 digs total for the night.
“Our team knows how good we are at defense. We’re just gonna elevate it in practice – keep working on our double pushes to cover more court,” Groe said.
Guereca and Melissa Walden both put up couple aces, contributing to a team total of six. The team put up 18 blocks total while the Bulldogs only managed eight on the Lobos.
The Lobos played their final home game on Saturday, Nov. 11 and won against the University of Nevada Wolf Pack 3-2 for their senior day game.
Seven seniors were honored at the game, but it was Kaitlynn Biassou who stole the show. She had 21 kills in the game to become the programs all-time leader in kills with 1636.
The Lobos next play against Colorado State in Fort Collins on Nov. 16. Both teams are 10-6 in conference play.
Francesca Cicconetti is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @fran_cicconetti.
Francesca Cicconetti is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached on Twitter @fran_cicconetti