Sept. 3, 2011
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - The University of New Mexico volleyball team claimed victory by defeating San Jose State, 3-1, in its second match of the Fiesta Bowl Classic hosted by Northern Arizona at the Rolle Activity Center in Flagstaff, Ariz. The Lobos are now 2-0 in the tournament and will next face host Northern Arizona tonight at 8 p.m. MT.
San Jose State gave the Lobos everything they could handle in the first set. Both squads battled back and forth in an extremely close game that had multiple lead changes. With the Spartans up 22-21, Lobo head coach Jeff Nelson called a timeout with the goal of lighting a fire beneath his team. Directly out of the timeout, the Lobos tied the game at 22-22, off an Ashley Rhoades kill, but unfortunately it wasn't enough as the Spartans took the first set, 25-22. Rhoades was the one constant for the Lobos during the first set, as the rest of the team struggled to find its rhythm. SJSU's Japhet Taylor was the thorn in the Lobos' side throughout the first set, as she compiled five kills with an impressive .625 hitting efficiency.
"Early on I thought we came out a bit too tentative," coach Nelson said. "I thought San Jose State outworked us in game one"
UNM came out impassioned in the second set, taking an early 6-1 lead that forced SJSU head coach Oscar Crespo to call a timeout and regroup. Redshirt freshman Chantale Riddle showed up in a big way for the Lobos with four kills in the second set. She would have had even more if it weren't for the Spartans excellent defense. Riddle and Rhoades both helped end the second set emphatically as each recorded block assists for the Lobos' 24th and 25th points. UNM took the set 25-17 to even up the match, 1-1.
Rhoades continues to impress match after match, and it's evident that the 5-foot-10 senior from Rio Rancho is on another level when it comes to athleticism.
"I thought Ashley Rhoades, particularly, blocked really well," Nelson said.
The third set proved to be another drag-it-out, knock-down battle between the Lobos and Spartans. Each team traded leads numerous times in the early going. Coach Nelson called a timeout with the Lobos leading, 14-12, to ensure his team focused on closing out the set. The team responded nicely as the Lobos went on an 11-5 scoring run to claim the set, 25-17 and take a 2-1 advantage in the match. Both Sophomore Ashley Newman and senior Kelly Williamson were solid, recording four and five kills, respectively, for the Lobos during the set.
After a slow start to the tournament, UNM's Williamson seemed to regain that confidence and swagger she had coming into the season. Williamson showed great effort in the third and fourth sets and her play proved to be a major factor in the Lobos winning the match. Williamson finished the night with 14 kills and nine digs. As impressive as Kelly's stats were, it was more her attitude and confidence that the rest of the Lobos seemed to thrive off of. With Williamson taking charge, the Lobos won the third set 25-21 and took the match, 3-1, over the Spartans.
"Kelly really lit it up in the third and fourth sets," Nelson said. "I think once she got going everyone else was a lot less tentative.
With the victory, the Lobos are undefeated in the tournament at 2-0 and improve to 3-1 on the season. The Lobos have one more match today against host Northern Arizona. The match will be a primetime affair between the schools, taking place at 8 p.m. MT. The contest will be broadcast live on NAU TV and can be watched here.