Aug. 27, 2009
MCM Elegante Lobo Classic
When/Where: Fri/Sat at Johnson Center
Lobos: Friday vs. Delaware, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday vs. Portland State, 1 p.m.; Saturday vs. UC Santa Barbara, 7:30 p.m.
Also: UCSB vs. Portland State, 5 p.m. Friday; USSB vs. Delaware, 10:30 a.m. Saturday; Delaware vs. Portland State, 5 p.m. Saturday
On Line: GameTracker, Lobo TV, results on GoLobos.com
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
Excited? Ready? Heck, yes! This is for real. The MCM Elegante Lobo Classic marks the season opener for the University of New Mexico volleyball team and these Lobos are revved up to prove they have what it takes in 2009 to be one of the top teams in the nation.
"It will be an amazing night," Lehne said of Friday's 7:30 p.m. opener with Delaware. "I'm so stoked. I'm so excited.
"I don't really get nervous, but we'll all be excited. It's fun to go out and compete to win especially when you get to do it in front of your home crowd."
The Lobos will unveil a new-look team (read no Jeanne Fairchild) and a funny-looking, blowup mascot this weekend as they begin to take the steps they hope will lead to a national ranking, a Mountain West title, and an NCAA bid.
"We are distributing the ball really well," said Morris, a product of Albuquerque's Sandia High. "We obviously went to Jeanne last year for a lot of our kills, but now we are distributing the ball more and looking to rely on everyone.
"We are excited and we want to put on a good show for our fans."
No doubt, there is enough talent on Nelson's 2009 roster to put on a show. These Lobos are talented, motivated and focused. They play a high-energy brand of ball.
"We expect to have a great season," said Nelson. "Those are the expectations of the program. I think when we get into a real match there might be some early mistakes from jitters, but this team should get over that quickly and take it to another level."
Nelson says a huge key to the 2009 season is controlling the ball and getting it to the right places and the right hitters at the right time. So far - in practice and exhibition work - the UNM coach likes what he sees.
"Our passing was very good (in exhibitions)," said Nelson. "The kids did a good job getting the ball into Jade's (Michaelsen) hands which allows us to run our system and create options. I thought Lisa (Meeter) and Allison (Buck) were fantastic in their passing."
The obvious loss for Nelson's Lobos in 2009 is not having Fairchild at the net to hammer the ball down into opponents' faces. The All-American and 2008 Co-Player of The Year in the MWC goes down as one of the best Lobos to ever attack a volleyball.
But UNM has the 2009 preseason Co-Player of The Year in Michaelsen, a setter who could become UNM's next All-American; a setter who has a lot of options on the Lobos' side of the net.
Last season, Michaelsen looked for Fairchild often and in key situations. This season Michaelsen can go in several directions to find several Lobos willing and more than capable at hammering the ball.
"In some ways, it's going to be easier for Jade," said Nelson. "I think Jeanne was Jade's safety zone last year and she would sometimes try too hard to set Jeanne."
Morris, Lehne and Allie Suiter are the three seniors expected to provide leadership on the court in 2009.
"I'm a captain and a senior and I take those roles seriously," said Morris. "My goal is to lead by example and I hope I can be that person for my teammates to follow."
Buck, a sophomore, has looked solid at libero. Junior Taylor Hadfield is pounding the ball nicely at the net along with Morris, junior Lisa Meeter, sophomores Kelly Williamson and Ashley Rhoades plus the seniors Lehne and Suiter.
"We have some kids who can hit the ball and they also move well on the court," said Nelson. "I think this team can do some really good things. I like our talent. I like our depth of talent. We will have seven or eight or nine players contributing instead of three or four."
Said Lehne: "We have all worked so hard to improve. You can really see that. We are a diverse team and we expect great things from everyone."