New Mexico Lobos Volleyball – Johnson Center
Wednesday: New Mexico 3, San Jose State 0 (25-10, 25-14, 25-17)
By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
It was a bitter-sweet ending for several reasons because the end of a season always stings and then there was the senior thing. New Mexico said goodbye to three special seniors Wednesday night in Johnson Center: Lena Skipper, Lexi Ross and Miquella Lovato.
And then it got real sweet. The Lobos took to the court and simply pounded their way past San Jose State in two convincing sets -- 25-10, 25-14 -- and sealed the sweep in a tougher 25-17 final set.
“We looked great tonight,” said Lobo Coach Jeff Nelson. “Everybody did their job and that’s a great team when you can play everybody in your lineup. I’m just grateful our kids were ready to go and finish the great season that they started.”
The Lobos got the three-game sweep on Senior Night and in the Lobos’ final game of the regular-season to grab second place in the Mountain West’s 2013 race. The victory over the Spartans handed UNM a 24-7 mark – the most wins by a UNM volleyball team since 1988 when the Lobos went 25-5.
“It’s a great record and it speaks to our leadership and the drive the kids have,” said Nelson. “We had a great year. We’re proud of the accomplishment of this group. They have put up some huge numbers and broken some records.”
Nelson was referring to the numbers slapped out through 24 wins and 31 games. The Lobos put up some great numbers Wednesday night against San Jose State, too. This was a powerful statement from a young team.
“Going forward, we are really excited,” said Nelson.
The Lobos were dominant in the first two sets (25-10, 25-14) vs. San Jose State and went into the break leading 2-0. The Lobos hit .522 in the first set and .321 in the second.
The Spartans looked like they were going to come out of intermission and roll over in the third set as UNM jumped up 6-0.
Instead, the Spartans roared back to form a 6-6 tie. The Lobos then went up 8-6, but the Spartans again came back into an 8-8 lead. UNM held the lead most of the way to the final count, but the Spartans were playing with more spark and scratched to 17-16 before UNM pulled into a 20-16 bulge.
It wasn’t easy most of the match, but the Lobos were dominant down the stretch for the 25-17 win.
The Lobos threw out their usual balanced game of passing and defense, but there was some brutal work thrown down at the net as New Mexico hit at a .378 percentage with 42 kills against eight hitting errors.
Chantale Riddle had 20 kills against two hitting errors to post a .474 hitting percentage. Cassie House had eight kills and no miscues and hit .381. Skye Gullatt hit .500 with five kills and one error.
The Lobos were strong on defense, too. Lovato had 17 digs and Hannah Johnson added 11 digs and 33 assists. Skipper had nine digs to go along with six kills.
San Jose State hit .000 with 23 kills evened out by 23 attack errors. UNM totaled 55 digs to 29 for the visitors from California.
The victory gave Nelson’s Lobos sole possession of second place in the Mountain West. Colorado State was the regular-season champion and will receive the league’s automatic bid to NCAA play.
New Mexico finished 24-7 on the season and 14-6 in league matches. Second place is the highest the Lobos have finished in the Mountain West conference and it's the second time the Lobos have finished runner-up. The 2010 squad went 12-4 in league play and also finished second to CSU.
The 14 league wins is the most in Lobo history and the 20 MW contests is also the most conference matches UNM has ever played.
The Lobos' winning percentage was .774 -- the highest of any team coached by Jeff Nelson in his 18 seasons as a head coach. The previous high was his 2003 squad at San Francisco (23-8; .742).
New Mexico finished 14-2 in three-set matches, 7-2 in four-set matches and 3-3 in five-set matches.
The three seniors grabbed the court microphone at the end of the match and said a final farewell to their strong fan group.
“I didn’t think this would be a real emotional group and they weren’t,” said Nelson of his three seniors. “They know they have done some great things. For the last two weeks, we talked about their legacy. I think they knew what they wanted to do.”