LUBBOCK, Texas – Texas Tech’s United Spirit Arena is a neat place to hold an athletic event. You can’t help but wonder if Jeff Nelson’s Lobos got much of a chance to check out the Red Raiders’ fancy digs.
And for Nelson, a former Red Raiders' coach, it was a short homecoming. The Lobos’ roll over the Raiders lasted only one hour and 30 minutes.
The Lobos made short work of the Red Raiders Wednesday night in Lubbock as New Mexico raised its season’s mark to 16-4 with a 3-0 non-conference sweep over Texas Tech.
The first game was a nail-biter. The Lobos used superior defense at the net to come up with a 25-23 win. The Lobos got better as the night wore on and posted wins of 25-19 and 25-10.
"I think we went back to focusing on our side (of the net) and our play,” said Hannah Johnson, who had 37 assists and six digs.
“After our last road trip, everyone talked about doing their job. The passers did a good job and our blocking was there. Everyone did a good job of doing what they do best tonight and that's why I think we were able to get the sweep."
Said Coach Nelson: "We just had a few rounds of sloppy passing that let them back in, but then in Game Three it was significantly better."
Johnson was right about the UNM blocking being a difference, and for sure that was a vital stat in the first game. The Red Raiders had 14 kills to 12 for UNM in that set. Tech had three aces and UNM had none. But the Lobos came up with eight blocks in that game while the Red Raiders came up with only two.
Net defense was pretty much the difference in Game One, but the Lobos continued to nip the Red Raiders in net defense throughout the match. In Game Two, UNM had four blocks to one for Tech while the kill stat leaned toward UNM 13-12.
The Lobos were on a roll going into the break and came out to dominate the third game 25-10. UNM led that game 3-to-1 in blocks, but the kill stat tumbled heavily toward the Lobos 15-8. Skye Gullatt had four kills and two blocks in Game Three and Chantale Riddle had four kills and one block.
The Lobos return to Johnson Center on Saturday (Oct. 26) with a 1 p.m. (MT) Mountain West contest against Nevada. The game is the Lobos’ annual “Dig Pink” match and all fans wearing pick can purchase a $3 ticket. There also will be a silent auction with all proceeds garnered going to the UNMH Cancer Center.
The Lobos pretty much silenced the United Spirit Arena after the second game with their superior play at the net. UNM registered its ninth sweep and the Lobos are 9-0 in three-set matches – the best in the Mountain West.
Riddle, a redshirt junior, led all players with 14 kills and 13 digs. It's her fifth double-double of the season. Freshman Julia Warren added nine kills, four blocks, two aces and six digs while freshman Cassie House and Gullatt, a sophomore, added five kills apiece. Miquella Lovato had 19 digs for UNM.
The Lobos had 15.5 stuffs at the net with four being listed as solos. That net defense helped UNM hold Tech to .096 hitting percentage (34-23-115). Gullatt led the Lobos with two solo blocks and six assists at the net. Riddle had six assists and Lexi Ross had five blocking assists. Riddle had a .438 attack percentage and Gullatt was at .364.
"I thought individually we had some good matches,” said Nelson. “Chantale Riddle had a great match with her kills, digs and blocks.
“Hannah Johnson did a great job - particularly in Game Three. She distributed the ball well and got our middles involved. Miquella Lovato had a great night digging."
Tech’s .096 hitting percentage is the lowest recorded by a Lobo opponent this season. Aubree Piper had eight kills for Tech and Rachel Brummitt had 17 digs.
The Lobos hit a .288 percentage (40-10-104) and their ten attack errors ties the season low. The Lobos’ side-out percentage in Game Three was 90 percent (10-of-11) which gave them a 62 percentage over the three sets.
The Lobos led 22-17 and 24-20 in Game One before Tech pulled to 24-23. UNM’s Johnson got a block to seal that all-important first win. UNM was up 13-5 in Game Two, but allowed Tech to pull to 16-15 before UNM powered away for the 25-19 win.
“In Game One and Two, we built big leads and then let Texas Tech come back and threaten,” said Nelson. “In Game Three, we challenged them (Lobos) to not have any let ups and to play a complete game.
“We did that and played solid from start to finish.”
The Lobos’ visit to Texas Tech returned Nelson to the site of his first head coaching job. He left Tech in 2002.
“It was a great reunion,” said Nelson referring to leaving Lubbock with a win. “The team responded well and I thank them for a great win.
“When you work for a place like Tech for that long, it’s fun to come back and see everyone, but it's also difficult and stressful. Our kids did a great job of stepping up and getting us a great win here."