Oct. 12, 2010
Thursday: Lobos at Wyoming, 7 p.m.
Saturday: Lobos at Colorado State, 7 p.m.
GoLobos.com: GameTracker, stats, recap
MWC This Week:
Thursday: AFA at BYU, UNLV at Utah, UNM at Wyo, TCU at CSU
Saturday: AFA at Utah, TCU at WYO, UNLV at BYU, UNM at CSU
"You won't like me when I'm angry,"
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
It's a little bit of a stretch to picture Lobo volleyball coach Jeff Nelson as The Incredible Hulk. He's a bit too nice. Kind of like his Lobos.
But Nelson says if his Lobos need to paint a face onto their anger, if they need a target for their fierceness, he is wiling to be the sacrificial, well, Hulk.
The UNM nice-guy coach is willing to become a bad-boy coach in practice, if that changes his nice Lobos into net-biting, ball-spiking wolves. And one thing is certain: The Lobos won't be too happy with Nelson if he goes Hulkish in practice.
"We have to get more killer instinct. We have to be more fierce," said Nelson. "If that means that I have to make them so angry at me, and that that's what bring them together, then we'll do that.
"I have to figure a way to bring them together. We are playing well, but when a team pushes, we are not pushing back. I think in some ways we are too nice. We have to find a way to get a little more fierce."
Nelson's Lobos are coming off a three-game loss at TCU. It was a match in which the Lobos were ahead in each of the losses: 25-21, 27-25, 25-23. Nelson said his Lobos could have won each game but "we found a way to lose all of them."
Which also means the Lobos failed to find a way to any of them.
Nelson went to Fort Worth hoping to leave that Lobo niceness out of the trip and replace it with some road toughness. His Lobos played well at TCU most of the time and extremely well some of the time. But they did not win and UNM takes its 0-2 Mountain West road record to Wyoming on Thursday and Colorado State on Saturday.
The formula for winning the MWC title is to protect the home nets and get a couple of breakthroughs on the unfriendly MWC road. So far, there is only one league team that is undefeated at home and also has some breakthroughs.
That's No. 16 CSU, which actually has four road wins that package nicely with the Rams' one home win. The Lobos are 2-0 in Johnson Center and 0-2 in their travels. Wyoming is 2-2 on the road and 1-0 in Laramie.
If the Lobos are eyeing this two-match swing as a possible breakthrough, obviously Wyoming is the best bet. But the Cowgirls' pre-conference mark of 15-1 looks like it might be more than simply the product of a light pre-league schedule.
Wyoming pounded San Diego State 3-0 in Laramie. UNM lost to SDSU. Wyoming also posted a 3-1 win at BYU. Wyoming also got the expected 3-0 win over Air Force and lost at Utah and at UNLV.
The Cowgirls, and most MWC teams, will be looking at UNM as a key contest to win. CSU probably is heading toward "lock" status for an NCAA bid and the Lobos are probably still considered the No. 2 team in the league.
But not by much. UNM can be beaten and there are a lot of MWC teams with plans to slip into that No. 2 spot behind CSU. If the MWC only sends two teams to the NCAA tourney, that No. 2 spot will be hotly contested - and coveted.
The Lobos probably will see some of that heat in Laramie.
"We have to get it on with Wyoming," said Nelson. "They are much improved. They do a good job. They've had some surprise wins, and they've had a bad loss or two. They are inconsistent, but they are dangerous and someone we have to prepare really well for."
"We still have some things to do (improve). We are playing good ball, but we are not finishing matches. We need to pick it up and get back to where we want to be."
The good news for UNM is that the Lobos have not lost a league game at home. Any UNM road losses can be avenged in Johnson Center. But a breakthrough is key for all teams who are home tough.
CSU (1-0), TCU (3-0), Wyoming (1-0) and UNM (2-0) are the only league teams yet to lose at home.
"There are a ton of teams muddled with two or three losses and it's not just in our conference, it's the same way in the region," said Nelson.
CSU obviously has risen above the MWC muddled crowd. The Rams are ranked No. 16 and are undefeated in league play, but BYU and San Diego State pushed them to five games.
"They have had two five-game matches, which I wouldn't have predicted," said Nelson. "They are the best team in our conference, but everyone is beatable."
On The MWC Volleyball Trail: