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Guereca Tallies 23 Kills as Lobos Rally to Defeat Falcons

USAFA, Colo.— It’s hard to beat a team that refuses to quit.

The New Mexico volleyball team trailed 2-1 in Tuesday’s match against Air Force and fought back to force a fifth set and ultimately won the match (23-25, 25-20, 17-25, 25-18, 15-5).

With the win, the Lobos earned their 10th conference win of the year and improved to 19-9. For reference, the last time the Lobos had 10 conference wins was in 2015, with the Lobos finishing 17-14.

Outside hitter Uxue Guereca was an absolute force, recording a match- and career-high 23 kills with just four errors on 42 attacks for a .452 hitting percentage, and recorded her seventh double-double of the year with 10 digs.

Guereca was one of two Lobos to finish with double-doubles, joined by Melissa Walden, who compiled a match-high 33 assists and 13 digs for her 12th double-double of the year.

Defensively, Alena Moldan registered a team-high 14 digs and Avital Jaloba led with five assisted blocks, including the block with Guereca to clinch the match.

The opening set had 16 ties and seven lead changes with Air Force pulling away late 22-20. An Elizabeth Woods and Guereca block brought UNM back within one at 22-22 and again at 24-23, but the Falcons took the first set 25-23.

Guereca started off the night with four kills in the opening set and Jaloba adding three on four attacks.

New Mexico jumped out to an early lead in the second set, scoring four of the first five points and stretching out the lead to 9-3 on a Woods solo block. Air Force answered to close within one at 11-10, with the middle of the set remaining close before the Falcons tied the set at 14. After a tie at 18, the Lobos gained the upper hand with a Kassie McGill kill and a McGill and Jaloba block. UNM closed with the four points, including a successful challenge that reversed the score, two Kaitlynn Biassou kills and a final Guereca kill for the 25-20 set win to even the match.

Biassou tallied four kills in the set, hitting .667 (4-0-6), with Guereca adding three, as the Lobos outhit the Falcons .167 to .048. Biassou finished with 12 kills in the match.

The Lobos held the lead early in the third set, getting out to a 6-2 advantage, but like the second set, the Falcons closed the margin to tie the set at 10 and took an 11-10 lead. Air Force maintained the lead in the 25-17 set, with the Lobos getting as close as two at 17-15.

Set four was close from the start, with four ties in the first eight points before consecutive Guereca kills ended the exchange of points. While Air Force tied the set at eight and took a 9-8 lead, UNM responded with the next three points on kills by Woods and Biassou and a Falcon ball handling error. A 4-0 run that included a Kali Wolf service ace propelled UNM to a 16-10 lead. The Falcons pulled as close as 19-17 before a Guereca kill and Air Force attack error provided some cushion. The Lobos again closed with the final four points on a Wolf kill, a Wolf and Woods block, a Falcon ball handling error and a Chloe Clark service ace to clinch the set at 25-18 and force a fifth set.

Guereca again led with five kills, with Biassou adding four and the Lobo defense contributed two timely assisted blocks.

After Air Force won the first point of the fifth set, Guereca and the Lobos responded with a 7-0 run on a Biassou kill, four Guereca kills, another Wolf service ace and an Air Force attack error. The Falcons closed the gap to four at 7-3 before New Mexico went on another run, this time 6-0, on two Guereca kills, two Moldan service aces, and a Biassou and Jaloba block for the 13-3 lead. Air Force scored just two more points in the set before a Guereca kill pushed UNM to match point and a Guereca and Jaloba block sealed the match.

Guereca finished with seven kills on eight attacks for an .875 hitting percentage, while the Lobos hit .429 and held Air Force to one kill and a -.222 hitting percentage.

“Incredibly proud of our team tonight,” stated head coach Jon Newman-Gonchar. “It took every player firing on all cylinders to get the win tonight. Gutsy response in the fourth, then a massive Lobo fight in the fifth. I can’t wait to get back after it Saturday against a very strong Fresno State team.”

The Lobos remain on the road for their final regular season match against Fresno State on Saturday, Nov. 20 at 2 p.m. MT. With the win, the Lobos also remain in contention for the Mountain West Tournament.