Aug 24, 2013
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- If Saturday night's annual New Mexico volleyball Alumnae Match was any indication of how the season will go forJeff Nelson's 2013 squad, Lobo nation can expect great things.
The current Lobos topped the former Lobos in three-straight sets, 25-12, 25-14 and 25-23, and added a fourth-set win, 25-13, just for good measure.
The group of former Lobos was stacked with three All-Americans in Jeanne Fairchild, Ashley Rhoades and Allison Buck and included other former greats Jordan Russell, Ashley Newman, Allie Suiter, Reta Dominguez, Melissa Rohr and Sheila Mendez.
But this year's blend of talented newcomers and talented veterans overpowered the has-beens.
New Mexico set the tone early, running the score of the first set to 15-6 thanks to work in the front row by redshirt junior Chantale Riddleand freshman Julia Warren and tough serving by senior Miquella Lovato and redshirt sophomore Elsa Krieg. The alumnae managed a few more points in the opening set, but the current 'Bos kept on rolling to a 25-12 win.
"From the start, we wanted to force pace and we did," Nelson said.
The younger Lobos again controlled the second set and cruised to a 25-14 win.
"Both Julia and Cassie House hit around .500 in the first two games, which is exciting and shows the potential they have," Nelson said.
Warren finished the night with six kills and no errors in 12 attempts while House ended with seven kills and one error on 16 swings. Warren added 10 digs and House recorded two block assists.
Nelson wanted to use Saturday's match -- the only exhibition contest for UNM -- as a chance to give everyone playing time before next week's season opener.
New Mexico went with a different starting lineup in the last two sets. The alumnae hung around in set three and rattled off five-consecutive points to take a 21-18 lead, but the current Lobos managed to fight back and claim the set, 25-23, and clinch the match, 3-0.
Riddle had 10 of her match-high 20 kills in the third game while freshman Devanne Sours added three.
The fourth set went as the first two, with the young Lobos taking control early and and not letting up until the scoreboard read 25-13.
Sours and senior Lena Skipper paced the Lobos with two kills apiece in the fourth set.
Perhaps the most exciting part for Nelson is the options he has this season. Last year's Lobo squad that went 20-13 was stricken with injury and often the headmaster was left scrambling to piece together a workable lineup.
"We've got depth and offense in all five positions and we didn't have that last year," Nelson said. "We still had a pretty good year, but we didn't have that depth and not only do we have that now, but we've got starters behind starters ready to come in if things aren't going well.
"We had two weeks of two-a-days and I'd say we maybe had two practice out of 22 that weren't really good. The work ethic has been fantastic. When you're working that hard, you're going to get better. I've really enjoyed them a lot."
Rhoades and Buck, both 2011 grads, paced the alums with nine kills apiece. Fairchild (2008) added eight. Russell dished out 28 assists while recording 11 digs. Buck, Dominguez and Rohr also added 11 digs.
"We know all those girls over there [on the other side of the net] so we know we have to work hard," Riddle said of the competition. "They're great athletes and great players so we have to outwork them and try hard to get up on them fast.
"We're working hard every day in practice and in weights. We're really looking forward to opening in Arkansas in a couple of days," Riddle added.
The Lobos open their season on the road at the University of Arkansas Invitational, Aug. 30-31. New Mexico has two matches on its opening day - the first against UMKC at 12 p.m. MT and the second against the Razorbacks at 6 p.m. MT. The Lobos close out opening weekend against Northwestern State on Aug. 31 at 3 p.m. MT. UNM's home-opening weekend is Sept. 6-7 as the Lobos host the Sheraton Airport Classic which draws Idaho State, Georgia Tech and UC Riverside. New Mexico opens against UC Riverside at 1 p.m. MT on Sept. 6 before taking on Idaho State later that day at 7:30 p.m. MT. The Lobos' final match of that tournament is against Georgia Tech at 2 p.m. MT on Sept. 7.
After seeing how his team handled a no-slouch alumnae crew, Nelson believes his Lobos will be ready for opening weekend.
"I think we're right where we want to be, everyone is healthy and we can start the season next week at Arkansas with some confidence and knowing that we've got a lot of players ready to go," Nelson said.