The University of New Mexico volleyball team managed to wear down the Arizona State Sun Devils on Friday night and killed off a few lingering personal demons in the process.
The Lobos fought off four set points in the pivotal third set and rallied for an entertaining 3-1 victory in round two of the season-opening UNM Invitational at Johnson Center. The set scores were 25-23, 21-25, 29-27 and 25-20.
New Mexico, which swept Abilene Christian earlier in the day, will face Idaho today at 12:30 p.m. and conclude the tourney vs. Fairfield at 6 p.m.
However, Friday night was all about a hard-fought battle with Arizona State that seemed on the verge of slipping away in the third set. ASU used superb defense to pull out the second set and led most of the way in set three.
But UNM fought back to tie at 24, 25, 26 and 27 before finally taking the set on one of Cassie House’s team-high 17 kills. It was not the kind of set the Lobos would likely have won last season, when they often struggled to put away critical points and went 1-6 in five-set matches.
“We embraced the battle,” House said. “We talk a lot in practice about the grind and staying in every point. To be able to pull together like that and make those words reality feels so great.”
Julia Warren racked up 14 kills, and Devanne Sours added 12 along with 10 digs for the Lobos. Libero Ashley Kelsey finished with 23 digs.
“Ashley really came through in sets three and four,” Lobos coach Jeff Nelson said.
ASU’s defense was stronger in set two, digging one Lobo shot after another and gradually frustrating the home team and a rowdy crowd announced at 1,851. Meanwhile, UNM’s defense broke down late in the tying set.
“(The Sun Devils) outhustled us and really got after it in set two,” House said. “We talked about it at intermission. We had to come out more intense and get the momentum back.”
The match was clearly in the balance late in set three, when UNM’s two setters (Carson Heilborn and Lise Rugland) seemed to make the right decisions at the right times. Heilborn had 24 assists, Rugland added 23.
UNM 3, ABILENE CHRISTIAN 0: House collected 10 kills and Victoria Spragg hit .700 with seven kills as the Lobos overpowered the Wildcats early Friday. The set scores were 25-15, 25-19, 25-13.
In other tournament matches Friday, Idaho beat Fairfield 3-0 and Abilene Christian 3-1, and ASU swept Fairfield 3-0.
BEACH TRYOUTS: UNM will hold open tryouts for beach volleyball on Sept. 13-14 at 2:30 p.m. at the sand courts near the Casas del Rio dorms on main campus. Prospective players must be full-time students and provide proof of health insurance.