Sept. 29, 2010
Thursday: Lobos vs. Air Force, 7 p.m. Johnson Center
Saturday: Lobos vs. UNLV, 1 p.m. Johnson Center
GoLobos.com: GameTracker, LoboTV, stats, recap.
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
The first thing you have to realize about Air Force is that even though the Falcons get pushed around a bit in the Mountain West Conference, that doesn't mean they are pushovers.
The Falcons have the No. 2 hitter in the conference in Caroline Kurtz, who smashes the ball down and through opposing defenses at a 3.52 rate per game. The Albuquerque St. Pius X graduate is looking at a potential All-MWC season. She had one 20-kill game this year.
And if the Lobo team that showed up last week in San Diego State shows up Thursday night in Johnson Center, it might be Lobos who get pushed around.
"Anybody could beat us (if we play like that)," said Lobo coach Jeff Nelson. "Everybody has good players now. If you don't show up and play, you are going to be in trouble. Air Force is better and they have good players and they are coming down here to win."
The Lobos expected a tough preseason schedule to prepare them for the MWC wars and so far, that preparation hasn't been converted into a league win -- game or match. UNM was blasted 3-0 at SDSU.
The Lobos (8-6, 0-1) -- and Air Force (3-11, 0-1) -- are the only league members who did not win a game in Week One of MWC play although Lobos and Falcons only played one match.
Nelson didn't hold back any punches when referring to his Lobos' play in San Diego. In fact, the Lobo coach said he benched a few players in game three trying to send a message to his team. UNM lost 26-24, 25-22 and then skidded into a 25-12 loss.
"I decided it was time to sit some people and I stuck to my guns," he said. "I hope we learned a lesson from it.
"I wasn't a good match for us. We had been struggling with some chemistry issues, too much drama. It was our poorest match of the year and San Diego was hungry. It wasn't a bad loss for us. They are a good team and they are going to beat a lot of people, but now we need to take care of our business."
CSU --- 11-2 -- 2-0
SDS ---- 7-7 -- 2-0
UNLV -- 5-9 -- 1-0
Wyo ---- 15-2 -- 1-1
Utah --- 6-8 -- 1-1
TCU ---- 9-6 -- 0-1
UNM --- 8-6 -- 0-1
AFA---- 3-11 -- 0-1
BYU --- 3-11 -- 0-2
MWC THIS WEEK:
Nelson said he is expecting to see the other side of his Lobos against Air Force and against UNLV on Saturday.
The Lobos can play fantastic volleyball. Their team play and passing was outstanding in the games they won in a 3-2 win over New Mexico State. Nelson said he has seen that team in practice this week.
"We've had an amazing week of practice, " he said. " We have made some attitude adjustments.
"I think I needed to toughen up on them and we needed to work a little harder. The girls are motivated. They are working hard to get back on track and start working together as a team. I feel good about this week."
It might be a good time for the Lobos to play Air Force. UNM is coming off a sour performance at San Diego and a Johnson Center pounding of anyone would be a timely confidence builder for the Lobos.
For sure, either UNM or Air Force will lose their winless MWC status on Thursday. You have to give the big edge to the Lobos. They have beaten Air Force 13 straight times and lead the series 23-3. Air Force was 0-16 in the MWC race in 2009.
"This weekend is a chance for us to get back on track and gain some confidence," said Nelson. "We need to play well and work hard. I want to see that.
"We need to play well. UNLV has a couple of seniors who are very good players. When UNLV decides to play, they are a good team. I'm expecting two tough matches, but I'm also expecting to see a Lobo team with more energy, more fight and more discipline."
MWC Roundup: The No. 18 ranked Colorado State Rams are at the top -- no surprise -- with a 2-0 mark. The Rams got a scare from BYU, 3-11 overall, being pushed into a fifth game where CSU escaped with a 15-13 win. Lobo coach Jeff Nelson earlier gave warning that the young Cougars were athletic and capable, and likely would improve as the season progressed.