Strug­gling Lo­bos fall to San Diego St.

Mis­takes cost New Mex­ico, which has dropped four of it past five matches

Albuquerque Journal - - SPORTS - BY KEN SICKENGER JOUR­NAL STAFF WRITER

The Univer­sity of New Mex­ico Lo­bos did not earn pass­ing grades in vol­ley­ball 101 on Thurs­day night.

Ac­cord­ing to coach Jeff Nel­son, the Lo­bos did not fol­low the game plan in a 3-1 loss to San Diego State at John­son Cen­ter. In­stead of play­ing to its own strengths, UNM too of­ten helped out the Aztecs, who walked away with a 20-25, 25-23, 25-16, 27-25 vic­tory.

Out­side hitter Alexis Cage and libero Devyn Pritchard had mon­ster per­for­mances for SDSU (9-11, 3-4 Moun­tain West). Cage racked up 21 kills, 15 digs and hit a tidy .362 for the Aztecs, con­vert­ing key points when­ever her team seemed to need them. Pritchard, mean­while, had a match­high 29 digs.

Nel­son cred­ited Cage and Pritchard but felt his own team played a role in their suc­cess.

“We told our hit­ters not to go mid­dle-back (where Pritchard lined up on de­fense),” Nel­son said, “and they went there over and over. Our first two shots of the night went right to (Pritchard) and we never stopped.”

As for the 6-foot-2 Cage, “At some point our right-side de­fense has to step up and block her,” Nel­son said. “Didn’t hap­pen tonight.”

It was sim­ply a frus­trat­ing out­ing for the Lo­bos (10-9, 2-5), who lost for the fourth time in five matches. UNM had its chances to earn a dif­fer­ent out­come in sets 2 and 4, but was un­able to come up with key points when it needed them.

The fi­nal set was par­tic­u­larly tough to take as the Lo­bos fought off a match point at 24-23 on a Vic­to­ria Spragg kill. UNM then cashed in on an Aztecs er­ror to take a 25-24 lead but couldn’t fin­ish off the win. Yas­min Tan was stuffed hit­ting into a dou­ble-block to give the Aztecs a 26-25 lead, and the Lo­bos couldn’t come up with a loose ball at the net on the clinch­ing point.

Tan fin­ished with six kills and was UNM’s most ef­fec­tive hitter with a .545 per­cent­age. Mariessa Car­rasco led the Lo­bos with seven kills but hit .238, while Lau­ren Twitty man­aged just six kills and hit neg­a­tive .040.

“That’s the fifth match in a row Lau­ren’s hit zero or neg­a­tive,” Nel­son said. “She’s one of our lead­ers and we don’t have a lot of al­ter­na­tives on the out­side. She’s got to be more pro­duc­tive and our set­ter (Car­son Heil­born) has to make the of­fense bet­ter. We’re mak­ing it way too easy on peo­ple right now.”

Youth could be part of the prob­lem. With nine fresh­men on the ros­ter, UNM is the fifth-youngest squad in Di­vi­sion I this sea­son.

But Nel­son said his on-court ro­ta­tion could get even younger for Satur­day’s “Lo­bos Love Pink” match against Fresno State.

“We’ve got to stop ex­cus­ing our­selves for be­ing young and do a bet­ter job stick­ing to the game plan,” he said. “We need to shake some things up for Satur­day and I’m lean­ing to­ward play­ing the fresh­men more. Our last cou­ple out­ings just haven’t been good enough.”

PROMIS­ING IN PINK: The Lo­bos will don pink jer­seys for Satur­day’s 2 p.m. match in sup­port of breast cancer aware­ness. Gift bas­kets and other prizes will be raf­fled off or avail­able through silent auc­tion with pro­ceeds to ben­e­fit the UNM Cancer Cen­ter.

It will be UNM’s 10th an­nual “pink” match and the Lo­bos have fared well in the past nine. They’re 8-1 wear­ing pink jer­seys at home, with the lone loss com­ing to Wy­oming in 2014.

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