Lobos Close Out Non-Conference with NAU Home-and-Home
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.– The University of New Mexico volleyball team closes out its non-conference schedule with a match at Northern Arizona on Thursday, Sept. 16 before hosting the Lumberjacks at the Johnson Center on Saturday, Sept. 18.
Thursday’s match will be streamed on ESPN+ while Saturday’s home match will be available on the Mountain West Network. There will be live stats available for both matches.
Saturday’s home match will be Frontline Worker and First Responder Appreciation Day as the Lobos thank all the heroes who have put it all on the line during the COVID-19 pandemic. All first responders and frontline workers who served during the pandemic can get free admission to this match by just showing an ID. In addition, the Lobos will recognize first responders and frontline workers during the match.
In Tuesday’s press conference, head coach Jon Newman-Gonchar spoke about the gift of failure and after losing its first match of the season, UNM has the opportunity to learn from the match and respond against NAU as they continue to prepare for the start of the MW season. NAU will be a great test for the Lobos and the format will fit more of the conference schedule playing two matches in two different locations two days apart.
The NAU record may be 1-6, but the Lumberjacks have played some notable teams in Florida State (lost 3-0), LSU (lost 3-1) and Arizona State (lost 3-1), while also dropping matches to Utah Valley (lost 3-1), Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (lost 3-1) and Stephen F. Austin (lost 3-1). NAU’s lone win came against UC Davis in five sets.
Lyla Hollis has led the team in kills through the first seven matches with 91 and is tied with Millie O’Ketter with nine service aces for the team high. O’Ketter does lead the team in digs at 84. Aubrea Bandfield and Kate Hatch are statistically similar in assists with 137 and 123, respectively, with Bandfield starting in six of the matches. At the net, Jordan Elder and Neche Newton are tied with 17.0 total blocks, but the Lumberjacks do have five players with 10-plus total blocks. As a team, NAU is averaging 11.5 kills per set, 10.8 assists per set, 1.5 service aces per set, 13.0 digs per set and 1.9 blocks per set, while hitting .180. NAU was picked to finish second in the 2021 Big Sky Preseason Coaches Poll, earning one first-place vote and 86 points.
Through the first three weekends of competition, the Lobos are standing out in several categories. UNM continues to lead the NCAA in opponent hitting % (.070), eighth in digs per set (18.32), 29th in kills per ser (13.82) and in assists per set (12.68). Alena Moldan ranks third in the NCAA in digs per set (6.07) and 26th in total digs (170), with Avital Jaloba 24th in hitting percentage (.432).
In the Mountain West, the Lobos are leading in total digs, digs per set, hitting percentage (.268), opponent hitting percentage, assists per set and kills per set. Moldan leads the MW in digs per set as well as in total digs (170), with Melissa Walden third in assists per set, Avital Jaloba second in hitting percentage and Kaitlynn Biassou fourth in points per set (4.16).
Sophomore setter Melissa Walden continues to be an assist machine, recoding 30-plus assists (30, 31, 32 and 39 twice) in five matches and 20-plus assists in the other three (25, 28 and 27)for a total of 282 assists, and is averaging 10.07 assists per set. The Aurora, Ill., native has produced the most number of assists in the Mountain West, with 11 more assists than the person in second. In addition, Walden registered six double-doubles, two a week (39 assists, 20 digs against Seattle U, 33 assists, 13 digs against UCSD, 30 assists, 12 digs against Cal State Fullerton; 39 assists, 12 digs against Fordham; 32 assists,13 digs against Green Bay and 28 assists, 11 digs against Abilene Christian), recorded 20 kills, including six against Cal State Fullerton, six service aces, 105 digs and 10 total blocks (one solo, nine assisted).
NAU and UNM have met 22 times previously, with the Lobos holding a 13-9 advantage in the series. However, the teams are 3-3 at NAU. The Lobos won the last match in three on Sept. 14, 2013 and have won three of the last four. The last time the two teams played in Flagstaff was on Sept. 3, 2011, in which the Lumberjacks won in five sets.
BECOME A PRIDE PASS HOLDER
Lobo fans can purchase Pride Passes to attend all home volleyball matches. For $50, fans receive admission for all soccer, volleyball, baseball, softball and track and field home events.
Fans can purchase their Lobo Pride Pass online here (CLICK HERE), or they can do so directly through the Lobo Ticket Office in person or on the phone (925-LOBO). The Lobo Ticket Office is located in The Pit and is open 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Tickets will be digital with tickets to each event uploaded into each pass holder’s account prior to the season.