Nov. 18, 2011
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.--It was the third meeting of the season between the fifth-seeded Lobos and No. 4 seed Wyoming--the second in eight days--and perhaps the most important meeting between the teams in the opening round of the Mountain West Volleyball Championship. Despite a great effort by New Mexico, the Cowgirls took the match, 3-1 (23-25, 25-27, 25-20 and 21-25).
With the win, Wyoming advances to the semifinals to face top-seeded Colorado State at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 19. Prior to the Cowgirl-Ram match will be seventh-seeded UNLV taking on No. 3 TCU at 5 p.m. To see the MW Volleyball Championship bracket, please Click Here.
The Lobos fall to 14-14 overall and 6-8 in the Mountain West. New Mexico concludes its regular season on Saturday, Nov. 26 at Long Beach State in Long Beach, Calif.
All four sets of Friday night's quarterfinal match between the Lobos and Cowgirls were close.
"As young as we are--we did a good job battling," head coach Jeff Nelson said. "We didn't give up. We had two games that were within two points, and honestly if we'd served a little better we would've won both of those games."
New Mexico sustained a big blow when Lobo senior and All-Mountain West honoree Ashley Rhoades came down awkward following a block late in the first set and injured her ankle.
The Lobos started out the set slow, finding themselves down 2-8 early. Stringing together kills by Rhoades, back-to-back service aces by Mariah Agre and kills from Chantale Riddle and Kelly Williamson, New Mexico worked its way back into the set and tied the Cowgirls at 19. Both teams traded points, and at 22-all, Rhoades went down.
The Lobos dropped the first set 23-25.
"We started game one poorly, but battled our way back," Nelson said. "Ashley went down and it's tough. Those things happen--especially in volleyball with so much play around the net."
Even though New Mexico found itself without one of its senior leaders, the team did not give up.
The Lobos stayed point-for-point with the Cowgirls in the second set, getting exceptional effort from Ashley Newman, who filled in for Rhoades in the front row. Heading into the tournament the sophomore was averaging 1.22 kills-per-set. In the second set, Newman tallied seven kills on 11 attempts for .636 accuracy.
While New Mexico's play at the net was strong in the second set, the Lobos were plagued by service errors, missing five after going error-free from the service line in set number one. The Cowgirls took set number two, 25-27.
The third set opened with back-to-back kills by freshman Elsa Krieg followed by a kill by Williamson for a 3-0 Lobo lead. New Mexico kept at it, using the arms of Williamson and redshirt freshman Chantale Riddle to take a 9-4 lead and forcing a Wyoming timeout.
Following the breather, Williamson came up big again for the Lobos with a service ace, making it 10-4. The Lobos maintained a comfortable lead--never fewer than three points--throughout the entire third set and claimed it, 25-20.
Williamson was a force to be reckoned with in the third set, recording eight of her 23 total kills for the night in the game. Her performance tied her career-high. Krieg assisted in the Lobo battle, recording four kills for the set.
"We came out really aggressive after the break and jumped ahead right away and I knew we were back in the match," Nelson said. "I thought that was a really good game, especially when you're down the player that leads the conference in hitting."
The fourth set opened in similar fashion as game three--with a Krieg kill. The Cowgirls and Lobos traded points and were locked at 4-all until a kill by Wyoming's Tamara Kitic prompted the Cowgirls to rally off a 6-2 run.
Kills by Riddle, Newman and Williamson helped the Lobos paw their way back and tie the set at 11-all. However, Wyoming's Reese Plante came up with a tie-breaking kill and sent the Cowgirls on another small 4-1 run, and New Mexico couldn't recover.
Wyoming kept a lead of two or more for a majority of the set.
A pair of Williamson kills late in the game made it 20-21, but three Lobo attacking errors and a New Mexico rotation error closed out the set 21-25 and gave Wymoing the match, 3-1.
"I think if Ashley had stayed in the game, we might have had a different outcome," Nelson said. "I'm still proud of the way we battled and the way people responded. I think Chantale Riddle really stepped up. Ashley Newman had a nice match. She had not had a lot of experience prior to this and really got out there and got after it. Elsa Krieg ended up hitting .200., which was a real positive.
"Obviously, Allison and Kelly our two seniors--had fantastic matches. I think Kelly was the premier player in the match."
Williamson led the Lobos with 23 kills on .288 accuracy (23-of-59). The senior also had two ace serves and one block assist in her final match at Johnson Gym.
Buck recorded 22 digs and one ace serve. Sophomore setter Mariah Agre had 54 set assists, two ace serves and one kill.
Williamson recognized the efforts of those who filled in and step up with Rhoades out early--Newman, Riddle, Krieg--and gave kudos to fellow senior Buck.
"In terms of the match--and the season in general--we've had all the parts, it's just that sometimes they come together and sometimes they don't," Williamson said. "I think in that third set they really did, and that's what I'm going to hold on to."
The Lobos hit .186 as a team, capitalizing on 62 of their 186 attempts. The Cowgirls recorded .228 accuracy, recording 54 kills on 161 tries.
Wyoming was led by junior Jodi Purdy, who had 13 kills, 11 digs, four block assists and two set assists. Reese Plante and Calli Miller added 12 and 11 kills, respectively.
This is the first Mountain West Volleyball Championship victory for the Cowgirls as they entered the conference tournament 0-9.
For more information regarding the Mountain West volleyball tournament, please Click Here.
The Lobos play Long Beach State at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 26 at Long Beach, Calif., for their final match of the season.