Netters try not to get spooked by Lobos, Falcons

On paper, this looks to be an easy weekend for No.17 Utah volleyball. But that’s why they play the game.

Cellar dwellers New Mexico and Air Force pay a visit to Crimson Court this weekend, and Ute coach Beth Launiere isn’t taking either lightly.

“These aren’t matches we should lose,” Launiere said. “But they are practicing just as hard as we are. They aren’t coming here to lose.”

When the Utes met New Mexico earlier, they almost didn’t escape. The Lobos took them to five games, with Utah eventually pulling out the fifth game 15-8.

“On paper, this is a team we should match up well against,” Launiere said. “But they played so well against us in Albuquerque that we aren’t taking them lightly at all.”

When they last butted heads, New Mexico beat Utah at their own game. The Utes were out-blocked 22.5-nine, something the Utes have addressed in practices leading up to this weekend.

Since their last meeting, the Lobos have looked anything but impressive, going 1-5. All five losses were sweeps, and their only victory came on the road against Air Force.

Overall, the Lobos sport a 7-13 record, with a 1-8 conference mark. Outside hitter Nicole Ryan is the chief offensive threat for New Mexico, averaging 3.27 kills per game. Ryan has had a difficult time with consistency, only having a .218 hitting percentage.

If New Mexico is struggling, then Air Force is down right rigor mortising. The Falcons are winless in conference play, with an overall mark of 4-15. A silver lining came in the last match, as Air Force took No. 9 Colorado State to four games before eventually losing.

Kristin Hamlett is the main Falcon offensive threat, posting a robust 3.42 kills per game.

Hamlett and the rest of the team will need to bring their A-game, as the Falcons have never beaten Utah in volleyball. The Utes hold a 13-0 advantage over Air Force, the only conference opponent to which they have never.

For the Utes, senior setter Tracy Neumeier is questionable, having been under the weather all week. Launiere says she is not sure if or how much Neumeier will play.

First serve for the New Mexico match will be at 7 p.m. Friday night, with Air Force also at 7 p.m. on Saturday.

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