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Volleyball: Lobos squander two-set lead, fall to Utah State

Lauren Twitty recorded her seventh double-double of the season behind 18 kills and a matching 18 digs and Kaitlynn Biassou matched Twitty for the team high with 18 kills of her own, hitting .438, but The University of New Mexico volleyball team was unable to find the elusive third set victory, falling to Utah State in five sets on Saturday afternoon at Dreamstyle Arena – The Pit.

The Lobos got out to a two-set lead in the match with 25-19 and 25-23 set wins, respectively, but were unable to close against the Aggies as the visitors took the third set 25-15, the fourth set 25-17 and the fifth set 15-11.

Making the first start of her career, Abbey Willison led at the net with three assisted blocks, a career high for the junior, and recorded her first collegiate kill. Freshman Alena Moldan reached double-digit digs for the 13th time this season, recording 20, the fifth time that the libero has posted 20 or more.

Both setters, Jaclyn Inclan and Maddie Freiwald accounted for 20-plus assists, with Freiwald reaching a season-high 28 assists for a match high. Inclan finished with 21 assists, with both setters just one dig shy of reaching double-doubles.

Tai Bierria tallied two of UNM’s five service aces in the match, the fourth time this season that the senior Lobo has recorded multiple aces.

In the opening set, there were three ties in the first six points before UNM pulled ahead with a 7-3 lead on a 4-0 run, which they wouldn’t relinquish. Utah State pulled within two at 10-8 when a successful challenge by Lobo head coach Jon Newman-Gonchar turned a 10-9 score into an 11-8 set, a lead that would expand to 13 at 22-9 on a 10-0 run. During the Lobos’ run, Twitty accounted for five-straight points on kills, with Danica Rowan registering two kills and Biassou one. The Aggies closed the gap on a 6-0 run before a service error by USU ended the run to make it 23-15. A Bierria kill gave UNM set point, which the Aggies fought off set point at 24-16 three times before another Bierria kill gave UNM the first set win, 25-19.

Twitty opened up the match with eight of UNM’s 18 kills in the first set, while Biassou hit .750 with three kills and Bierria added four.

Utah State got out to an early 3-1 lead in the second set before the Lobos tied the set at three. However, the Aggies would go up by three at 7-4, to which the Lobos would cut it to one at 8-7 before USU would build the Lobo deficit to five at 12-7. Following a Lobo timeout, the Cherry and Silver closed within two three separate times, with the latest being at 17-15, led by four kills from Biassou. UNM would go on to tie the set at 18 on an Aggie attack error, the first tie since three-all, but the Aggies regained the lead on the next play and went up 21-18. A Rowan and Willison block started the rally to tie the set back up at 21, which came on a Bierria kill. Utah State regained the lead on the next play to which the Lobos would tie on another Bierria kill and would take their first lead of the set on an ace by Inclan. An attack error by USU gave UNM set point, which USU fought off, before Biassou tallied her 10th kill of the match to help UNM win the set 25-23.

Biassou hit .667 in the second set with seven kills as well as recorded one assist, accounting for half of UNM’s total kills in the frame, with Inclan aiding with eight assists.

The third set started off with a USU challenge, resulting in a call that was overturned for the USU point as the Aggies got out to an early 4-0 lead and would lead the remainder of the set. A service error put the Lobos on the board and would start the rally to pull within one, led by two Biassou kills. USU would answer to go up by five at 9-4 before a Biassou kill ended the 5-1 run. The Lobo deficit went back to five at 12-7, but UNM couldn’t get closer than four before USU pulled ahead by six, 15-9, at the media timeout. USU’s lead grew to nine at 21-12, which the Lobos would get as close as eight at 23-15 before USU extended the match with a 25-15 set win.

Biassou again led the Lobos in the set with four kills and Inclan added six assists.

A Biassou kill opened the fourth set and the Lobos would be the team to get out to an early 3-1 lead. USU would go on to tie the set at four and take a 5-4 lead, which extended to 8-4 on what would be a 7-1 run. An attack error by USU momentarily brought the Lobos within three at 8-5 but the Aggies maintained their lead at 10-5 and would later lead 15-9, causing a Lobo timeout. A Biassou kill, a block by Tan and Twitty and a Bierria ace brought UNM back within three at 15-12 before the Aggies would go on a run to go up by eight at 24-16. A service error would fight off set point for the Lobos, but the Aggies would win the set 25-17 to force a fifth set.

The Lobos got on the board first with a Biassou kill and would add a Twitty kill for their 16th kills of the match to start the fifth set. Utah State answered to tie the set before another Twitty kill regained the Lobo lead. An Aggie attack error pushed the lead back to two, but back-to-back USU kills pulled the Aggies even with the Lobos.  A service error put UNM back in the lead to which USU would tie on the next point. Twitty again stepped up with the cross-court kill to push the Lobos in front, to which the Lobos would build on the lead to go up 8-5. USU answered to tie the set at eight and took a 9-8 lead, forcing a Lobo timeout. The Lobos pulled back within one at 10-9 on a Bierria kill but it would be the closest the Lobos would get the rest of the set. A Biassou kill fought off match point at 14-10 before USU won 15-11.

UNM (5-13, 0-6 MW) returns to the road for its next three matches before returning to Dreamstyle Arena – The Pit to face Air Force on Saturday, Oct. 26.

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