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Lobos Open MW Championships Wednesday with Utah State

by Allison Weiss

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.— The culmination of 28 matches has led to tournament time for the Lobo volleyball team.

Entering as the No. 5-seed, UNM opens up the Mountain West Volleyball Championships on Wednesday, Nov. 23 at 1 p.m. MT in Fort Collins, Colorado against a familiar opponent in No. 4-seed Utah State, a team that the Lobos played less than a week ago on Nov. 17.

New Mexico clinched a spot in the postseason conference tournament in the four-set win Thursday over the Aggies behind a match-high 19 kills from Kaitlynn Biassou, a match-high 32 assists by Melissa Walden, a match-high three service aces from Alena Moldan and six assisted blocks by Avital Jaloba. Walden finished with a double-double with a team-high 11 digs with Kali Wolf also reaching double figures with 10 digs.

In doing so, UNM completed the season sweep of Utah State for the first time since 2017.

The Lobos swept the Aggies in Logan on Sept. 24 (27-25, 25-20, 32-30) in a match that contained two sets going to extra points and the Lobos trailing 20-14 in the first set and fighting off set point after set point in the third set. There was a total of nine ties and one lead change in the final set, with the Lobos fighting off eight set points and the only lead change occurring at 31-30.

Biassou led the way with a match-high 21 kills and hit an efficient .436 (21-4-39). Uxue Guereca was a force at the net, finishing with two solo blocks and four assisted blocks, joined by Jaloba’s five assisted blocks. Jaloba also made an impact from the service line with two aces.

In the season series, the Lobos outhit the Aggies .239 to .187 with Biassou hitting .416 between the two matches (40-8-77) and averaging 5.71 kills per set and 6.36 points per set.

UNM leads the series with Utah State 24-14 and has won five of the last six matches in the series. The two teams have met just once on a neutral court back on Nov. 22, 1980, a 3-0 loss for the Lobos.

The Lobos enter the tournament 17-11 on the season and went 8-10 in the MW, and are 3-1 on neutral courts this season. UNM is 6-3 in three sets, 7-2 in four sets and 4-6 in five sets.

Among the MW, Biassou is fourth in MW matches in kills and kills per set at 229 and 3.69, respectively, as well as points and points per set at 264 and 4.26, respectively. Jaloba leads the MW in conference matches in blocks per set (1.41) and had 18 more blocks than the next player, and Moldan is second in the MW in digs (296) and digs per set (4.17) in MW matches.

Jaloba’s 142 total blocks on the season ranks second all-time in single-season individual records, 10 behind the program record set in 2005, but is the program record in the 25-point rally scoring era, breaking Skye Gullatt’s record set in 2015 of 141. Her 122 assisted blocks ties Chantale Riddle’s single-season 25-point rally scoring record set in 2014.

Utah State enters the tournament 19-10 on the season and went 11-7 in conference. The Aggies lost their last two matches of conference play with a loss to the Lobos in four and a loss to Air Force in four. USU is 7-4 in three sets, 7-4 in four sets and 5-2 in five sets and are 6-4 in the last 10 matches.

Tatum Stall has a team-high 328 kills, averaging 3.07 kills per set and is hitting .231. Leah Wilton-LaBoy leads in assists at 609 (5.44 per set) and Beatriz Rodrigues is averaging 5.08 assists per set with 569 on the season. Shelby Capllonch leads with 33 service aces and has the second-most digs on the team at 314. Jordi Holdaway leads with 397 digs, 3.64 per set, and Kennedi Boyd has a team-high 120 total blocks (24 solo, 96 assisted) for an average of 1.07 per set.

Utah State is third in the MW in opponent hitting percentage in conference matches at .197, as well as third in assists per set (12.56), kills per set (13.54) and in service aces per set (1.63). Holdaway is third in the conference in digs per set in MW matches with 3.70.

The match will be streamed on the Mountain West Network.