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UNM volleyball wins two, faces rival NMSU on Saturday in the Pit

Mountain time has its advantages.

The University of New Mexico volleyball team worked late into Friday night and was rewarded with a hard-fought 3-1 win over Florida Gulf Coast at Dreamstyle Arena. UNM also swept Eastern Kentucky 3-0 earlier in the day and has a shot to win its Lobo Classic tournament if it can defeat rival New Mexico State Saturday at 1 p.m.

Tai Bierria came up big for the Lobos (3-2) on Friday night, racking up 13 kills and 10 digs as UNM outlasted the Eagles (3-2) by set scores of 25-23, 10-25, 25-23 and 25-18. Bierra was targeted by the hard-serving Eagles in set two but ended up getting the last laugh.

“They were coming after me,” Bierria said, “but honestly, my teammates picked me up and said don’t worry about it. That really helped me stay positive and get back into it.”

Lobo coach Jeff Nelson said his message after the second set was brief.

“I told them losing 10-25 is embarrassing and they needed to figure something out,” Nelson said. “They didn’t panic and got back to work. I was proud of them.”

Lauren Twitty added 10 kills, including the match-winner, and Mercedes Pacheco racked up 15 digs for UNM in the nightcap. The contest ended almost 12 hours after FGCU opened the tournament against NMSU — around 10:30 a.m.

Eagles standout Amanda Carroll, a Sandia High alum, suffered an apparent knee injury in the opening set and did not return.

Earlier, UNM won 25-16, 25-20, 25-18 over Eastern Kentucky. Bierria finished with a match-high 14 kills against the Colonels.

NMSU: Friday started on a sour note for the Aggies but ended on a sweeter one. NMSU (3-2) lost middle blocker Lia Mosher to an ankle injury in warmups for its morning match against FGCU then struggled to get any production from that position in a 3-0 (25-20, 25-12, 25-22) loss to the Eagles.

The Aggies already were without middle Brielle Sterns, who is out for the season with a shoulder injury.

“We’re not deep at that position,” NMSU coach Mike Jordan said, “so losing Lia was a problem. But we didn’t get one kill from our middles in that match. I’ve never had that happen in my coaching career.”

Tatyana Battle later had six of her 17 kills in set five as the Aggies rallied to beat EKU (25-18, 27-29, 25-27, 25-18, 15-9).

“We’ve got a lot of Jeckyll and Hyde going on right now, which is troubling,” Jordan said. “We had opportunities to deliver in sets two and three and didn’t get it done. Thankfully, Tatyana delivered in the fifth.”

Battle, a Cibola High alum, earlier eclipsed 1,000 career kills with 10 against FGCU. Savannah Davison had 21 kills to pace NMSU against EKU. Cleveland High alum Briana Ainsworth had 30 assists.

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