Oct. 6, 2012
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Freshman Alijah Gunsaulus recorded 10 kills and a career-best .444 hitting percentage to lead the Lobos in a 3-0 victory over Mountain West foe Air Force on Saturday afternoon in the Johnson Center. New Mexico improves to 17-4 overall and 4-2 in MW play while the Falcons drop to 7-11 and 1-3 in conference matches.
UNM worked with a roster of nine players and found itself with another new lineup as junior libero Miquella Lovato missed the match. Lovato is still battling a respiratory infection. Saturday afternoon's match was the second Lovato has missed in the last week and a half and just the second she has missed since her freshman season.
Junior Lena Skipper took over libero duties while UNM started freshmen Skye Gullatt and Alijah Gunsaulus and redshirt sophomore Chantale Riddle in the front row, while senior Jordan Russell and juniors Lexi Ross and Ashley Newman anchored the Lobos in the back row.
Head coach Jeff Nelson is pleased with the way his team has responded to all the changes.
"This was our fifth different starting lineup and I am not usually a guy who likes to make a lot of changes with that," he said. "Again today we had new passing rotations in every rotation, but our girls stepped it up and I'm really proud of them."
Skipper had a career match in her libero debut, tallying 16 digs.
"She has never done that (played libero) and she did a great job," Nelson said.
Lobo middle blockers Gullatt and Ross also put in a solid effort for UNM. Gullatt recorded a career-high eight blocks (including one solo block), and hit .500 on the afternoon, recording four kills on eight attempts and remaining error free at the net. Ross hit .333, getting eight kills on 18 attempts while committing just two errors at the net. Ross added four blocks.
Setters Johnson and Russell added 15 and 13 assists, respectively. Johnson also recorded a career-high seven blocks while Russell had a season-best two kills on dumps from the back row.
"I think it was a good mental match for us," Nelson added. "We had to adjust yet again and we handled it."
Gunsaulus says it was the Lobos' goal to make Saturday afternoon's match a quick one.
"We realized after Boise State that we can't keep winning games in five sets because it will wear us out," Gunsaulus said. "Our mindset was to play our game and get it done today. We wanted to pass well and serve well and we did."
The Lobos hit .206, recording 37 kills on 97 swings and held the Falcons to a .046 attack percentage. New Mexico put up 24 blocks to just 14 by Air Force.
New Mexico has a dozen days until its next match on Thursday, Oct. 18 at San Diego State. Nelson and the Lobos have been anticipating the much-needed recovery time.
"Hopefully the next time you see us everyone will be healthy," he said.
The Lobos next two home matches with NMSU on Oct. 23 and UNVL on Oct. 25 will be held in The Pit. Both begin at 7 p.m. The Rio Grande Rivalry match coincides with the Lobos' and UNM Hospital's Think Pink match. Fans who wear pink on Oct. 23 will get a $3 discounted ticket. There will be a number of prize drawings that evening as well.
First set - Lobos 25, Air Force 21
The Lobos claimed a 6-1 lead thanks to the serving of Russell and net play of Gullatt and Riddle, but a determined Air Force team answered with a 5-0 run, capitalizing on over passes and miscues by UNM. A couple volleys later, the Falcons took a 9-7 lead as a result of a Lobo attack error and a kill from Hillary Keltner. Air Force's lead increased to 13-8 as UNM struggled to produce a solid pass to start its offense. New Mexico found its blocking rhythm and came to within two points, 11-13, but the Falcons got a sideout on a New Mexico serving error and added two more points on kill from Cami Richan and another Lobo error to lead, 16-11. The Lobos put on a 4-1 run fueled by kills from Gunsaulus and blocking from Gullatt, Riddle and Johnson, and trailed by one point, 16-17. The Lobos eventually claimed a 20-19 lead by putting up four unanswered points, but the Falcons' Ayesha Hein helped Air Force hang around a a few more plays until a 3-0 run featuring a kill from Newman, an ace from Russell closed out the game, 25-21, Lobos.
Second set - Lobos 25, Air Force 14
New Mexico opened the second game with six unanswered points and continued to build off the lead through the set. The Falcons didn't make it easy, however, threatening with mini runs and lingering within three or four points of the home team. Consecutive errors by Air Force pushed UNM's advantage to 15-9 and the Lobos held a sizable lead the remainder of the set. UNM took game two off a block from Johnson and Ross, 25-14.
New Mexico hit .222 in the set, recording 11 kills on 27 attacks and committing just five errors. The Lobos put up two blocks and got plenty of deflections, putting Air Force's second-set hitting percentage at -.061 (8k-10e-33ta).
Third set - Lobso 25, Air Force 21
Air Force opened the game with back-to-back points off a Lobo miscue and a kill from Raquel Rosas. The Falcons held the lead until kills from Newman and Ross tied the set at 5-5. A block from Ross and Johnson followed by a kill form Gunsaulus put UNM in the lead, 7-5. The lead didn't last long as Air Force went on a 5-0 run to reclaim the advantage and then some, 10-5. A kill from Ross snapped the Falcon rout and a few plays later an attack error by Air Force tied the set at 12-all. The teams traded points until a kill from Gunsaulus followed by an attack error by the Falcons gave UNM a three-point edge, 16-13. A kill from Riddle followed by another Air Force attach error pushed New Mexico's lead to 18-13. Moments later Richan and the Falcons put on a 5-1 run, to come within one point of UNM, 19-18. Kills from Ross and Gunsaulus increased the Lobos advantage to 21-18, but the Falcons got another kill from Richan and a block from Rosas and Keltner to make the score 21-20. Strong net play form Gunsaulus helped the Lobos hold their lead, 23-20, and the Falcons called for a timeout. The Lobos pushed to set and match point off a kill from Johnson, but Air Force put up one more point before a kill from Gunsaulus ended the game and match, 25-21.
-New Mexico snapped its first-set losing streak of seven-straight matches, defeating the Falcons 25-21 in game one.
-Redshirt freshman setter Hannah Johnson recorded a career-high seven blocks, topping her previous career best of five set on Sept. 8 against UC Santa Barbara (five-set contest).
-True freshman Skye Gullatt recorded a career-high eight blocks (including one solo block), topping her previous best of seven set at Fresno State on Sept. 27. Gullatt also hit .500 on the afternoon, recording four kills on eight attempts and remaining error free at the net.
-Lena Skipper served as the Lobos' libero in place of junior Miquella Lovato who is still battling a respiratory infection. Skipper tallied a career-best 16 digs. Her previous was 13.
-Freshman Alijah Gunsaulus led the Lobos with 10 kills and a career-best hitting percentage of .444. The outside hitter made only two errors at the net on 18 total swings.
-The Lobos have nearly a dozen days to rest. Their next match is at San Diego State on Oct. 18.