Oct. 22, 2009
Thursday: Vs. Wyoming, 7 p.m., Johnson Center
Saturday: Vs. Colorado State, 1 p.m., Johnson Center
Online: GameTracker, live video, results on GoLobos.com
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
Lobo Anna Lehne has a good idea. "We need to get that weird team out of here," said the University of New Mexico senior.
The "weird" team is Lehne's Lobos. It's the team Lobo coach Jeff Nelson calls Jekyll and Hyde. Sometimes the Lobos are good. Sometimes the Lobos are bad. Oddly, a combo of the two personalities might suit the Lobos best.
They need to be focused and calm like Jekyll. They need to be a bit nasty like Hyde.
The good, not weird, Lobo team (13-7, 4-4 MWC) is the one that won at Utah and at New Mexico State. The weird UNM team is the one that lost on the road to Brigham Young and at home last week to UNLV.
If the weird Lobo team shows up Thursday night against Wyoming (1-7 MWC), the Lobos could be in trouble.
"I think Wyoming is hungry to win one and for us to look past them would be crazy," said Nelson. "I think they have gotten significantly better. If we aren't prepared and focused, we're going to lose."
Part of the job description for Lehne and senior Rose Morris is to make sure the weird Lobo team doesn't surface again this season. Nelson challenged his seniors to take "ownership" in their last season as Lobos. UNM has three seniors on the squad this season: Morris, Lehne and Allie Suiter, a middle blocker from Littleton, Colo.
So far, it appears that leadership and ownership is most needed when UNM is looking across the net at a supposedly inferior opponent. Lehne and Morris said they are up to the challenge of motivating the Lobos for all remaining opponents.
"We took a major hit last week (3-0 loss to UNLV)," said Morris. "Everybody felt it, but the seniors especially. We seniors feel we need to take more control. That's not how we want to remember our last days playing.
"We plan to push the team in practice and let them know what the rest of the season means to us. We plan to give them something else to fight for."
One of the Lobos' goals for 2009 appears to be lost: their bid for a Mountain West Conference crown. Colorado State is running away with the MWC race with an 8-0 mark. They are ranked No. 25 in the nation. They are the cream of the MWC crop at 16-3.
A bigger goal -- the NCAA postseason -- is still within UNM's grasp. CSU presents to the Lobos a great opportunity to make another huge statement on the court and raise UNM's respect rating and RPI rating.
But first things first: Wyoming. The Lobos' plan for the rest of the 2009 season is to place their ducks in order and knock them off one by one by one. Wyoming is the next duck.
"The Wyoming game is really important," said Morris. "It's someone we are supposed to beat."
Said Lehne: "Wyoming is showing that they can compete. We aren't underestimating them. They are our main concentration. We need to get after them."
Said Nelson: "We came out thinking we could win the conference and there are a lot of things we haven't handled well. At this point, that's probably not a reality because CSU has done so well. We need to take the last nine, one at a time."
The Jekyll and Hyde aspect of this Lobo team has been, well, weird. They have risen up to the harsh challenges and produced big wins. They have some hurtful losses. But the Lobos are ranked No. 49 in the NCAA RPI rankings and are looked upon as one of the top teams in their region.
A loss to CSU really wouldn't damage that respect. A loss to Wyoming would be another major hit. Morris said a key for this group of Lobos is to play well from the beginning. She is backed by stats. The Lobos have won every match in which they won the first game. They have lost every match in which they lost the first game.
"When you are struggling, making adjustments that aren't working, you get kind of a panic feeling," said Morris. "Usually, other players step up and help you out. But some nights it seems that everyone is feeling that way, so there is no one to step up and help. We need to figure out how to stop that."
Said Lehne: "We've been here for four years and it's our responsibility to make sure we don`t let that happen.
"It's difficult to figure out what can cause something like that. We have heart. We love the sport. We are competitive. Something just hits us and it's hard to explain. But I don`t think it`s going to happen again."
If what Lehne says is true, then the "weird" Lobo team is gone. Let's welcome Dr. Jekyll. With maybe a dash of Mr. Hyde.
Lobo Notes: Thursday's night is Spike Hunger Night in conjunction with Albuquerque Rescue Mission. Fans are asked to bring canned and dry goods to the game. There will be collection bins throughout Johnson Center's Main Arena. ... Saturday is Cherry Crush. Fans wearing red will be allowed into the game for $3 for adults and $2 for youth (ages 2-18). Fans who can show a ticket for the Lobo football game later that day, get in free. There will be giveaways throughout the match from the UNM Bookstore.