Recap by Terry Kelly, Assistant Director of UNM Athletic Communications
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The University of New Mexico volleyball team’s previous match with Fresno State this season went five sets and it was no surprise to head coach Jeff Nelson to see the teams go the full five sets again.
Luckily for the Lobos, though, this time they came out on top as they defeated the Bulldogs, 25-19, 20-25, 25-23, 25-14, 15-12 in front of 1,247 fans at Johnson Center Tuesday night.
“We knew it would be a war,” Nelson said. “They’re a great team. Korrin Wild is one of the premier players in the conference and she proved it tonight. She’s an awesome volleyball player. She came at us with everything.”
New Mexico improved to 23-7 overall and 13-6 in Mountain West play. The 23 wins is the most in the Nelson era and ties the Lobos of 1991 who also had 23 victories (23-6, coached by Laurel Brassey Iversen).
In a back-and-forth match, the Lobos saw only their sixth contest of the season go to the full five sets. The two teams took turns winning each of the first four sets before the Lobos used a balanced team effort in the fifth to claim at least a share of second place in the Mountain West. The Lobos had five different players record a point in the deciding set and hit .462 as a team.
“I think this is becoming a good rivalry,” Nelson said. “We knew they were going to give us everything they had, and we knew it would be a total team effort. Our kids did a good job staying focused and battling.”
Chantale Riddle led the attack for UNM with 18 kills, while Lexi Ross added 12 and hit a career-best .632 with no errors. Nelson was especially impressed with the way the senior Ross played.
“She had an amazing match tonight,” he said. “She really showed up as a senior. Miquella Lovato also played really well (with 17 digs).”
Skye Gullatt led the defensive effort with five blocks, including the match point in the fifth set.
After falling behind 9-10 in the opening set, UNM pulled away by scoring 16 of the final 25 points behind the strong play of Riddle and Ross. They finished with six and four kills, respectively.
The Bulldogs (17-14, 11-8) fought back to claim the second set, though. With the score tied at 17 apiece the Bulldogs quickly scored three points off kills by Lauren Albertson and Wild sandwiched around an attack error by UNM. The Lobos could not make up the deficit and the match was tied at 1-1.
The third set was the most tightly contested, with UNM taking it in the end 25-23. The Lobos had three set points but back-to-back attack errors by the home team helped Fresno State close the gap. Riddle closed out the set, however, with a kill off an assist from Hannah Johnson, who finished with a match-high 43 set assists.
The Bulldogs easily won the fourth 25-14 to set up the deciding set.
“We didn’t play well in game four, but we came back in game five and got a couple quick points,” said Nelson.
The Lobos close out the regular season Wednesday at 7 p.m. MT at the Johnson Center vs. San José State. It will be the final home match for seniors Skipper, Ross and Lovato.
“San José State is a different sort of team,” Nelson said. “They have two good outside hitters. They’re not quite as physical, but they’ve been really successful lately. I think it’s going to be a good match on senior night and our kids are going to need to be able to go again.”
Notes: UNM moved to 3-3 in five-set matches this season … it was the third-straight win for the Lobos … the 23 wins for UNM are the most since the 1988 team went 25-5.