Dec. 3, 2009
What: NCAA DI Volleyball Championships
Who/When: Lobos (20-9) vs. Hawaii (28-2), 6 p.m.(MT), Friday, Los Angeles
Online: GameTracker, results, live/free video on GoLobos.com
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
In looking at the UNM's Fearsome Fivesome net attack the Lobos plan to launch at the Hawaii Wahine, it's only fair to evaluate what's on the other side of the net.
The No. 3 ranked Wahine can either be called the Terrible Twosome or the Fearsome Foursome. Take your pick of your poison.
There is no question the Hawaii net attack begins with Kanani Danielson and Aneli Cubi-Otineru. Danielson averages 4.12 kills per set and Cubi-Otineru is at 3.12.
But there are more Wahine to worry about. Stephanie Ferrell comes into NCAA play with a 2.52 average and Amber Kaufman is at 2.44. This is a lot of Wahine whack at the net.
The Lobos might not have the dynamic player up front like they had in 2008 with All-American Jeanne Fairchild, but the Lobos have a whole lot of balance in 2009. That blend of Lobos has to come through in the Galen Center on the USC campus in order for the Lobos to march on in NCAA play.
"It's a great thing to have balance," said Lobo junior Lisa Meeter. "It alleviates the pressure on one person. It also gives Jade (Michaelsen) more option. We can run our offense even more intricately."
Said senior Rose Morris: "A lot of teams were able to key on Jeanne last year. They knew she was our go-to hitter. To spread the ball out, gives our hitters a lot more opportunities."
In 2008, you almost expected Michaelsen, UNM's All-Mountain West setter, to yell, "Here, Jeannie," prior to every set. That was a good strategy a year ago. The Lobos had a star at the net. This year the attack plan calls for balance.
"Now, that's it's finally here, I can't believe it. I'm ready to go." -- Lisa Meeter.
"We both have a little chip on our shoulder. We're not just excited to be in the tournament. We are expecting to win." -- Rose Morris.
"I don't' think they really expect anything from us. We'll give them a show. It's going to be a tough match." -- Taylor Hadfield.
"This year we felt a balanced attack was better for us," said Lobo coach Jeff Nelson. "We felt we had a lot of kids who could put up numbers on different nights and that's what's happened.
"That makes it harder for a defense to commit and it gives us the opportunity to spread things out and makes them (defense) work a little harder."
The Lobos' balance keeps an opponent on its toes. It also keeps the Lobos on their toes.
"I definitely have to be alert and prepared for any type of ball coming my way," said Lehne. "You have to be ready at all times. Jade might set to the outside, then to the back side, then switch it to the middle. It's really good to have versatile hitting."
When a team has one or two stars, the defense can gamble a bit and stack the defense around those key hitters. Fairchild often faced a double block (two defenders) in 2008. The UNM opponents in 2009 face a balance of Lobos -- a five-fingered attack.
"We have a lot of options," said Hadfield. "The other team can't put two people on you at once, so it really opens up your hits. Having one-on-one is such a good thing for us."
The Lobos plan to enter NCAA play loose, focused, energetic and respectful of their opponent. Hawaii rolls into Los Angeles a bit annoyed that the NCAA Selection Committee chose to give the No. 3 ranked team in the nation a No. 12 seed -- and not give the Wahine a home opener.
The Wahine probably have an argument. They are way good. They posted a 28-2 mark that included an undefeated run through the Western Athletic Conference. OK, the WAC isn't exactly a powerhouse of volleyball, but the Wahine did some nice things in non-conference, too.
Their only losses were to Texas and California, two Top 10 schools. The Wahine beat six Top 25 teams going 18-2 in those matches which included 3-0 sweeps of No. 4 seed/ranked Stanford and No. 9 seed/ranked UCLA.
Of course, no teams wants to go to Honolulu to play the Wahine. First, there is the travel. Second, there are the 7,000-plus fans that show up for Hawaii volleyball. The Wahine lead the nation in attendance -- by a lot.
The Lobos are coming into Los Angeles with a 20-9 mark as the third-place team in the MWC. It might not hurt the Lobos if the Wahine already are looking ahead to Saturday's game with the USC/Oklahoma victor.
"I don't know what they think of us and I don't know if they are looking ahead at all," said Meeter. "I know we are all focusing on Hawaii. We are going to do our part to cause some havoc."
Said Rhoades: "It's a good challenge for us. I don't know what they think about it, but we're excited to play them."
The Lobos are in their eighth NCAA appearance as a program. Hawaii has gone to 28 of the 29 NCAA Tournaments. The Wahine are riding a 24-game win streak.
"I think they'll (Hawaii) come out to prove something," said coach Nelson. "But we're not focusing on the fact that Hawaii is upset about where they are at (seeding).
"You have to play well this time of year and you have to be prepared. We`re more concerned about our side of the net."