LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- The Lobos’ mission on the Mountain West road to UNLV and San Diego State was to return to Albuquerque with a sweep. The mission is half completed.
New Mexico rolled the UNLV Rebels 3-1 (25-15, 22-25, 25-19, 25-16) Thursday night in the Rebels’ Cox Pavilion to avenge a hurtful four-set defeat the Rebels slapped on the Lobos on Oct. 12 in Albuquerque.
It was a sweet and decisive payback.
The Mountain West road win pushed the Lobos ahead of UNLV with an 8-3 mark while the Rebs skid a notch down the MW standings at 7-5. The victory advanced UNM’s season slate to 18-4. The Rebels fell to 12-9 overall.
The Lobos move on to San Diego State for a 1 p.m. (MT) match on Saturday vs. the Aztec team that was predicted to dethrone Colorado State for the 2014 title. UNM beat SDSU in five games in Albuquerque.
The Rebels won in Johnson Center by holding UNM to its lowest hitting percentage in Mountain West play at .162. The Lobos hit better in Vegas with a .264 hitting mark that included a .324 percentage in game one and a .345 percentage in the final set.
The Lobos threw out a dominating performance at the net as Chantale Riddle had 20 kills, Cassie House had 18 and Julia Warren added 13. Those three Lobos all hit over .300 with Warren the highest at .321 (13-4-28).
The Lobos got defensive balance in the back row, too, as Miquella Lovato had 18 digs, Hannah Johnson had 16 digs and Warren added another 15. Lexi Ross led UNM in blocks with one solo and four assists. Johnson added 51 assists to her impressive digs’ total.
UNLV hit .190 over the four sets going .086 in the final game. The Rebels best hitting effort came in their 25-22 win when they hit .333.
Set One: New Mexico 25, UNLV 15
The Lobos jumped on the Rebels early, took control with a quick 6-1 lead produced by a Riddle kill, and never looked back. The Lobos went up 10-3 off a Riddle serving ace, and 12-5 off a kill by Ross. UNLV threatened to climb back into the match at 13-9 off a kill by Madeline Westman, but a block by Riddle and Ross pushed UNM up 16-11 and the Lobos coasted to the easy 25-15 win.
The Lobos hit a solid .345 in the set with 14 kills to only four attack errors. Vegas hit .129 in the 10-point loss. UNM had three service aces to none for UNLV.
Set Two: UNLV 25, New Mexico 22
The Rebels put up a better fight in the second set. The Rebels went up 7-6 before a kill by House and a block by Skye Gullatt allowed UNM to reclaim the lead at 8-7. A kill by Julia Warren made it 11-8 in UNM’s favor before the Rebels battled back into ties at 13-all, 14-all and 15-all.
One of the teams needed to make a little run. The Lobos went up 17-15 on kills by Riddle and Warren, but UNLV charged into an 18-17 lead. Coach Nelson called a timeout. The Lobo got a kill from Warren to form an 18-18 count, but a service error by Lovato gave the Rebs a 19-18 lead. UNM used a Riddle kill and a Vegas attack error to become the first team in the 20s, leading 20-19.
The stretch run obviously was going to be the key. UNLV got back-to-back points to go up 21-20. UNM called for another team huddle. The Rebs had a service error to bring UNM into a 21-21 tie. A block by Ross and House pushed UNM up 22-21. The Lobos never scored again. The Rebels finished sharp at the net, threw out a 4-0 run to grab the 25-22 win and evened the match at 1-1 going into the break.
The Rebs hit .129 in the first set, but warmed up to a .333 percentage in the second set with 17 kills to three errors. UNM matched the kill number (17), but had seven errors. UNM hit .213 in the second set.
Set Three: New Mexico 25, UNLV 19
The third set was more like the second set than the first. It was a dogfight from the get-go with ties at 2-2, 4-4, 5-5, 6-6, 7-7, 8-8 10-10 and 11-11. The Lobos then got some separation. A Riddle kill followed by two UNLV attack errors helped UNM scratch into a 14-11 lead. UNLV pulled to 14-13 and 16-15 before UNM again separated into a 21-15 lead. In this match, that six-point lead looked huge. UNM closed to the 25-19 win using a Riddle kill to finish it.
UNM hit .217 in the third set and UNLV hit .179. The Lobos had 15 kills and the home team had 12 kills. At that point, Riddle had 16 kills and House had 12
Set Four: New Mexico 25, UNLV 16
The Lobos held on to the momentum earned from their strong finish in set three and took control of the match-deciding set with leads of 4-1, 10-5 and 15-10. The Lobos used a strong middle stretch to seal the deal going up 19-11. That was too big a lead to hand to a Lobo team playing well. UNM powered to the 25-16 win with Riddle getting the final kill of the night.
The Lobos dominated the net and ended the game with a .324 hitting percentage. UNM had 17 kills against five attack errors. UNLV struggled to .086 with nine kills and six net mistakes.