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Lobo volleyball brings the beach home with two wins

Who says it’s no fun spending a weekend at home?

The University of New Mexico beach volleyball team made the most of a Friday in the home sand, grabbing back-to-back victories over Colorado Mesa and Abilene Christian at Route 66 Bowl.

They were UNM’s first home matches after starting the season with 11 straight on the road. The Lobos will finish their lone homestand of 2018 today with matches against Arizona State and Colorado Mesa at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., respectively.

After ending up on the wrong side of numerous close road matches, the Lobos (4-9) capitalized on an enthusiastic home crowd of more than 200 fans on Friday. UNM swept to a 5-0 win over Colorado Mesa with all five matches decided in straight sets. Two hours later, UNM had to work a bit harder for a 4-1 victory over Abilene Christian.

Lauren Twitty hits during UNM’s beach volleyball match against Abilene Christian on Friday. (Greg Sorber/Journal)

Home cooking, it seemed, agreed with the Lobos.

“Today was so much fun,” senior Eastyn Baleto said. “It’s so rare for us to play at home and we were super excited by the turnout. Things finally came together for us today and feeding off the fans was a big part of it.”

Lobos coach Jeff Nelson agreed.

“I think it was a good day for the group,” he said. “Everything about it. The weather and the crowd were great and we got a couple of good wins. It should build confidence for (today).”

UNM’s No. 1 team of Maddie Irwin and Erin Martin improved its season record to 7-6 with a pair of straight-set wins. The duo got some of the day’s loudest cheers from a contingent of Lobo women’s soccer players on hand to support Irwin, who played four seasons of soccer with the Lobos before joining the beach volleyball team this spring.

Irwin and Martin led nearly all the way in a 21-12, 21-17 win over Abilene Christian’s Jacey Smith and Kendall Bosse on Friday afternoon.

Baleto and Lauren Twitty were equally dominant at No. 2, rolling to a 21-11, 21-12 victory. Carly Beddingfield and Mercedes Pacheco dropped the day’s most competitive match in a 22-24, 21-9, 14-16 decision to ACU’s Amy Weiss and Kennedy Shelstead at No. 4 to keep the Wildcats alive in the overall match.

But UNM’s No. 3 team, Yasmin Tan and Chloe Crappell took a 21-19, 21-14 win, and Kayla Long and Abbey Willison wrapped things up with a 21-10, 21-14 victory at No. 5.

UNM’s Carly Beddingfield (21) hits past Abilene Christian’s Kennedy Shelstead. (Greg Sorber/Journal)

“For once all our teams were pretty much clicking at the same time,” Baleto said. “It feels nice to come away with some wins.”

UNM extended its home winning streak to 12 matches dating to the program’s first three years of existence. That streak figures to be tested today against Arizona State, which rolled to 5-0 wins over ACU and Colorado Mesa on Friday.

“They’ll definitely challenge us,” Baleto said of the Sun Devils, “but if we play like we did (Friday) and the fans give us another boost of adrenaline, I think we have a great chance.”