Sept. 3, 2011
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Lobos trip to Flagstaff, Ariz., ended in disappointment Saturday night, as they lost in the championship matchup of the Fiesta Bowl Classic to host school Northern Arizona by a score of 3-2.
UNM came out slow, falling behind two games to none, but showed its grit by taking games three and four to even things up at 2-2. It looked like it might be a quick night for the Lobos, but the team refused to quit and turned what looked like a dud of a match into a fantastic night of volleyball.
This was the second time in as many weeks the Lobos saw themselves in the championship match of a tournament. This time, they wanted things to go a little differently than they did in their loss to No. 5 Nebraska in the MCM Elegante Tournament on Aug. 27. Unfortunately, things didn’t go the Lobos way this time around either.
The Lumberjacks and their loyal fan base used the home court to their advantage. Northern Arizona looked very comfortable and in sync throughout the matchup, and their crowd didn’t let up on the Lobos for one second.
The Lobos led the majority of the matches throughout, but for whatever reason, they just couldn’t close out the lumberjacks. As usual, UNM was led by its trio of senior captains, Allison Buck, Ashley Rhoades and Kelly Williamson. Even though the Lobos made a match out of it, they just didn’t have enough to come back from the 2-0 hole they dug themselves into to begin the match.
“I’m really disappointed,” head coach Jeff Nelson said. “I really think we beat ourselves. We made 48 errors between hitting and serving.”
Game One: Northern Arizona 25, Lobos 17
The Lobos came out sluggish in the first set, quickly falling behind the Lumberjacks 20-12. Sophomore Ashley Newman tried to keep the Lobos in it, recording three kills during her rotation. Feeling the urgency, Williamson dug deep to record two consecutive points with a block assist and a kill to bring the Lobos within six, trailing 14-20. The Lobos just didn’t quite have enough as they lost the set 17-25 to NAU. Sophomore Lexi Ross actually led the team in kills after the first set with four.
Game Two: Northern Arizona 27, Lobos 25
Rhoades came out fired up in the second set, accounting for the Lobos’ first four points by way of two kills and two blocks. Besides an early 3-3 tie, the Lobos controlled the lead for most of the match. Rhoades and fellow senior captains Williamson and Allison Buck all played very well in the set. Buck played outstanding defense, recording eight digs, Rhoades finished the set with five kills while Williamson added six kills. The Lobos began to fall apart late in the set, however, as NAU made a run that tied the game at 24-24 and again 25-25. The Lumberjacks proved to be too much for UNM, as the Lobos let the set get away from them, losing 25-27.
Northern Arizona was on fire throughout the first two sets, recording a hitting percentage of .310 as a team. Senior outside hitter Kobi Christensen, hitting .500, had a game leading 14 kills after the second set as well.
Game three: Lobos 25, Northern Arizona 17
The Lobos got redemption in the third set by taking it from the Lumberjacks, 25-17. Rhoades continued to play aggressive as she racked up an eye-popping nine kills in the set. If the Lobos planned to make a comeback, this was the set that gave them confidence to do so.
Game Four: Lobos 25, Northern Arizona 22
The Lobos continued to show their grit as they claimed their second set in a row to tie the match up at 2-2. Rhoades and Williamson provided the kills, while Mariah Agre dished out the assists, 14 of them for the set. The Lobos took the set 25-22 and found themselves in the middle of a showdown heading into the fifth and final set.
Game five: Northern Arizona 15, Lobos 13
If there wasn’t already enough drama, the fifth set provided a sufficient amount of it for the match to be considered a soap opera. The teams were neck-and-neck throughout the entirety of the final set, with eight lead changes in all. UNM challenged, but didn’t have quite enough to hold off the Lumberjacks as Northern Arizona took the final set 15-13 and the match, 3-2.
“Some positives we can take from this weekend are that our backcourt players played really strong this weekend,” Nelson said. “Ashley Rhoades really stepped it up and I thought Mariah (Agre) set a lot better than she did last weekend.”
Three Lobos make the all-tournament team:
Mariah Agre (Agre had a season-high 57 assists against NAU)
Ashley Rhoades (Rhoades recorded a season high 25 kills against NAU)
Allison Buck – named Most Outstanding Libero of the tournament
The Lobos will next host the Comcast/Sheraton Lobo Invitational Sept. 9-10 at Johnson Center. UNM will face UC Irvine, Montreal and Portland State over the two day span.