As picnic-lunch volleyball matches go, Saturday’s proved pretty tasty for University of New Mexico fans.
The host Lobos pulled off one of the biggest surprises of the Mountain West season, handing first-place Colorado State a four-set defeat and snapping the Rams’ seven-match winning streak. UNM earned its first home win over CSU since 2012 with a decisive 25-16, 25-22, 22-25, 25-14 victory at Johnson Center. The Rams had won 15 of the previous 16 meetings.
Better still for Lobos, they avenged their most lopsided loss of the season, a quick and painful 3-0 sweep Oct. 14 in Fort Collins that kicked off an 0-2 road trip to CSU and Wyoming. UNM atoned for both losses at home this week, having swept the Cowgirls on Thursday night.
“It’s kind of an overwhelming feeling right now,” Lobos coach Jon Newman-Gonchar said Saturday. “That road trip to CSU and Wyoming was our lowest point of the season emotionally. Winning these two matches at home is exciting and a feeling of relief at the same time. We have to get right back at it next week but for 24 hours we’re definitely going to enjoy this.”
Uxue Guereca had 14 kills, and Kaitlynn Biassou posted 13 for the Lobos (17-6, 8-4 Mountain West), who outperformed the Rams (14-7, 10-2) in nearly every statistical department. UNM had the advantage in hitting percentage (.250 to .161), blocks (21-9) and digs (63-46), but Newman-Gonchar credited his team’s work from the service line for setting the tone.
“Colorado State has two fantastic middles,” he said, “and our service pressure really helped to keep them off the net. Our service pressure and serve receive both were atrocious the first time we played (the Rams), so that was a big focus this time around.”
UNM setters Melissa Walden and Alia Rasmussen also did an effective job spreading the ball around as CSU’s net defense focused on slowing down Biassou. Elizabeth Woods (eight kills), Kali Wolf (five) and Kassie McGill (four) came up with big points, while Wolf and Avital Jaloba combined for 11 blocks.
The Lobos set an early tone, grabbing a 7-1 advantage and leading wire to wire in set one. A late kill by Jaloba and a clinching CSU service error decided a close second set.
CSU, which got 16 kills from Kennedy Stanford, came from behind to take set three, but UNM used an 11-3 run to build a 19-10 margin in the clinching fourth set.
New Mexico, which stands fourth in the MWC standings, visits Boise State (16-8, 5-6) and second-place Utah State (17-7, 9-3) on Thursday and Saturday, respectively.