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Volleyball: Falcons drop straight-set match to New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- The Air Force volleyball team dropped a 3-0 decision to New Mexico in Mountain West Conference action Oct. 3 in Albuquerque, N.M. 

After dropping the first set by a 25-7 margin, the Falcons fought hard with the host Lobos. Ultimately, Air Force fell by narrow 25-22, 25-20 margins in the final two sets. The loss dropped the Falcons to 8-9 on the year, while New Mexico improved to 11-5.

New Mexico opened up a 10-1 run to start the match, with junior Nichole Stilwell providing the Falcons' lone kill. The first four kills were tallied by different players. Following Stilwell's kill, classmate Julia Hansen, senior Michelle Harrington and junior Albuquerque native Caroline Kurtz notched scores. Stilwell added another score, while Kurtz tallied a pair of strikes. With the Lobos hitting .667 in the set, the Falcons fell 25-7.

Putting the first set behind them, the Falcons jumped out to an early 4-1 lead in the second. Kurtz and Stilwell teamed up for the first two points, while Stilwell added a pair of back-to-back scores to put the Falcons on top. New Mexico tied the set at four, but Air Force retook the lead, thanks to several miscues by the Lobos. Harrington put the Falcons up 8-7, while freshman Maiya Perich recorded a service ace to bolster the Falcons' advantage. The Lobos took the lead, but Kurtz and freshman Grace Konstanzer helped tie the set at 16. Perich tallied another ace and Konstanzer recorded a kill and an ace to put the Falcons up 19-18. New Mexico tied the match on the ensuing point and, despite another two kills from Kurtz, went on to win the set 25-22.

Despite a kill and an ace by Harrington and a pair of kills from Kurtz and Konstanzer, the Falcons found themselves in a 14-9 hole at the midway point. Another kill by Kurtz sparked a four-point Air Force run, which included a pair of assisted blocks by Stilwell (Kurtz and freshman Preslee Maki helped on the block). A kill by Konstanzer pulled the score within one at 15-14, but the Lobos quickly regained an 18-14 advantage. A kill by Stilwell sparked a 6-2 run by the Falcons. Perich and Konstanzer each tallied another ace, while Harrington recorded a kill and solo block and junior Jessica Hellmann tipped in a kill. The ace by Konstanzer tied the set at 20, but New Mexico tallied the final five points to win the set, 25-20.

Kurtz led the Falcons with 11 kills in the yearly return to her hometown. Harrington connected on five of 10 attempts, while committing just one error. Junior Kelly Spencer tallied a team-high 10 figs, whiel Stilwell led the team with a pair of blocks. Hellmann notched 26 assists and Perich led the team with three service aces. Freshman Julianne Haun, who made her collegiate debut at the 10-7 mark of the second set, picked up her first career dig during her first rotation.

Air Force returns to the Academy Oct. 8 to host Wyoming. The match is slated to begin at 7:30 p.m. at the Academy's Clune Arena.