Nov. 25, 2003
The 2003 New Mexico Lobos featured the youngest roster of any team in the Mountain West Conference, if not all of school history, en route to a 4-25 (1-13 Mountain West) season. More importantly, however, was the foundation laid by nine freshmen in rebuilding the Lobo volleyball program back to elite status - a program that has appeared in seven NCAA Tournaments and has earned three Sweet 16 berths.
Second-year UNM head coach Kelley Sliva McKee and her staff (Assistant coaches Brent Aldridge and Chelsea Robb) have instilled positive energy into the program, and are determined to bring a winning team to Albuquerque. The encouraging fact is Sliva McKee's track record for success. The 11-year head coach built a winner from the ground up in her nine years at Northern Arizona, amassing a 143-104 (.579) mark, including a berth in the 1999 NCAA Tournament and two conference titles (1999 Big Sky Tournament and 2000 Big Sky regular season). After getting settled at NAU, she led her teams to five straight winning seasons before her departure, going 90-45 during that span.
While the record may not show it, progress was made during the 2003 campaign. Sliva McKee and her staff had the chance to develop their young players all season long against one of the top volleyball conferences in the country.
The Lobos showed their promise in the second weekend of the season by capturing their second consecutive Comcast Lobo Invitational. UNM swept Delaware in the championship game in a dominating performance by the front line, led by freshman Jennifer Heasty's season-high eight blocks. The Lobos placed four players on the all-tournament team, including sophomore Chelsea Sondrup, who was named tournament MVP. UNM put two Lobos on the all-tournament team for the Albuquerque Marriot Lobo Invitational (Kelly Therkelsen, Monica Meihack).
New Mexico fell on hard times as it began the conference season, going up against tough competition while battling injuries and fatigue. With such a young squad, one thing the Lobos couldn't afford was injuries, but unfortunately UNM was not immune to the injury bug. The Lobos lost 6-2 freshman middle blocker Megan Morris for the season after the first tournament and were without the services of freshman outside hitter Lauren Dunsmoor for the second half of the season. Sophomore middle Chelsea Sondrup and freshman outside hitter Georgia Whitson also played through injuries much of the season.
The Lobos stayed together, however, and the hard work paid off with their first conference win of the season on Nov. 6 with a convincing 3-1 win over UNLV. The competitive spirit stayed right through the last match of the season. Heading into the Mountain West Conference Tournament, UNM had to face the only team in conference history to go through the MWC league season undefeated - the top-seeded Colorado State Rams. The Lobos were unfazed by the task and surprised everyone in attendance, including the Fox Sports television announcers, and gave the Rams a very hard fought match. In perhaps a sign of times to come, the Lobos ended the third game of the match on a 16-6 run to shock the Rams, 32-30. It was only one game. And the Rams went on to win the match three games to one. But a glimmer of hope was exposed, and that spirit will undoubtedly stay with the young Lobos throughout the spring, the summer, and into the promising 2004 season.
LOBO SEASON IN REVIEW QUICK HITS - While the young Lobos grew up in the 2003 season, several players recorded impressive individual accomplishments. Here's a look at the top performances of the season:
* Senior Anna Reines set a school record with 36 kills on Nov. 14 at Wyoming. She finished her career fifth in school history with 1,089 kills and fourth with 2,769 total attempts. Reines was third in league matches in points (4.09 pg) and kills (4.64 pg).
* Junior Monica Meihack, the starting setter, tallied a career-high 65 assists at Wyoming Nov. 14.
* Junior defensive specialist Adah Burke was the top defensive player for the Lobos in 2003, averaging 2.88 digs per game. Her 3.23 digs per game in conference play was good for third in the MWC. Burke shined off the court as well, garnering Academic All-America District VI second-team honors.
* Sophomore Chelsea Sondrup tallied her 200th career block in just her second season as a Lobo. Sondrup heads into her junior season with 210 career blocks.
* Freshman Jennifer Heasty recorded a season-high eight blocks in the Comcast Lobo Invitational title game, leading UNM to its second straight tournament championship.
* New Mexico established season highs for kills (76), assists (68) and total attempts (182) at Wyoming Nov. 14.
* UNM set a season high with 13.5 team blocks and 27 block assists in its MWC Tournament match vs. top-seeded Colorado State.
* The Lobos were second in conference matches in aces with 1.68 per game and averaged 1.81 per game for all matches. UNM set a season high with 16 aces in a win over UNLV Nov. 6, which was the fourth highest total in New Mexico history.
MOUNTAIN WEST TOURNAMENT: LOBOS TAKE THIRD GAME FROM TOP-SEEDED COLORADO STATE, BUT STILL FALL IN FOUR GAMES - Top-seeded and 14th-ranked Colorado State extended its winning streak to 18 matches as it defeated eighth-seeded New Mexico in four games (22-30, 24-30, 32-30, 18-30) in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Volleyball Championships Nov. 20 on the campus of San Diego State University. New Mexico shocked the Rams with a 32-30 win in game three, and it marked only the eighth time this season that the Rams have surrendered a game to a MWC opponent.
Anna Reines collected 14 kills and three blocks in her last career match as a Lobo to lead the offense. Reines closes out her career 1,089 kills, which is fifth all-time in the UNM record books.
The Lobos recorded a season-high 13.5 team blocks and 27 block assists at the net, including six block assists by Jennifer Heasty and five each from Kelly Therkelsen , Monica Meihack and Chelsea Sondrup. Sondrup hit .273 and tallied 13 kills, five digs and three service aces. Meihack paced the offense with 30 assists and nine digs to go along with her career-high five blocks.
"Our serve feeds our blocking game, and we did both pretty well against a good team in that match," said UNM head coach Kelley Sliva McKee. "We were very resilient, steady and calm for most of the match. I think we grew up a lot tonight and took a huge step as a team. We were disappointed after the first two games, because we felt we were only a couple of points away from winning either of those games. But we stayed patient and came out strong in the third game. Unfortunately, we couldn't get it going in the fourth game."
CSU featured a balanced attack with four Rams in double figures in kills, including Tess Rogers, who had a team-high 18. The Rams hit .306 to the Lobos' .181 and recorded 21 more kills.
Similar to their first contest against the Rams, the Lobos came out ready to play in the first game. Although CSU quickly went up 6-1, UNM responded with a 5-1 run and then tied the game at 9. The Rams followed the run by taking a 13-9 lead, but the Lobos bounced back to tie it once again at 19. After hanging close for most of the game, UNM fell victim to an 8-3 Colorado State run to close the game at 30-22. Reines put down four kills and Sondrup had three in the game for UNM, while CSU hit .357 and only committed three errors.
New Mexico got off to a blazing start in the second game, jumping out in front of the Rams to lead for the first half of the match. After the score was tied at 3, UNM went on an 8-5 run, good for an 11-8 advantage. CSU took its first lead since the 2-1 mark at 14-13, but the Lobos remained close, taking back the lead at 16-15 and tying the game at 19 after a brief Ram lead. The close game soon imploded for UNM as it was jolted once again by a late-game run by Colorado State. With the game tied at 20, the Rams proceeded to roll on a 10-4 spurt to win the game 30-24 and go up 2-0 heading into intermission. UNM struggled offensively in the second game, hitting at a .038 clip with eight kills compared to CSU's .500 percentage and 17 kills.
The Lobos and Rams were once again close throughout the first portion of the third game, but after UNM was within one point at the 9-8 mark, CSU leaped out to a seven-point lead at 17-10 keyed by an 8-2 run. The Rams then led by a six-to-eight point margin until UNM rattled off a 10-3 run to cut the lead to one point at 27-26. After a CSU point, UNM tied the game for the first time at 28-28. Each team then split the next four points to keep the game tied at 30, but two consecutive blocks by the Lobos capped the incredible comeback to stun the Rams, 32-30. UNM ended the game on a 16-6 run. The Lobos hit an impressive .520 with 15 kills and only two errors in the game, and in the process limited the high-balanced attack of the Rams to a .225 hitting percentage. UNM also registered 5.5 team blocks in the game, including three block assists from Reines and Therkelsen.
Colorado State returned to form in the fourth game and looked like the team that plowed through the conference season undefeated for the first time in MWC history. The Rams quickly built their lead to 13 points at 18-5 and proceeded to cruise to a 30-18 victory.
AMAZIN' ANNA - Senior Anna Reines closed out her career in 2003 as one of the top offensive players in Lobo volleyball history. Reines walks out of Albuquerque fifth in the UNM record books with 1,089 career kills and fourth with 2,769 total attempts.
Reines, a dominant outside hitter, polished her game in the offseason by participating on the USA Select Team at the Spring Cup in Brno, Czech Republic. The hard work paid off, as she earned all-tournament honors at the Fresno State Invitational and the Comcast Lobo Invitational.
Some of her top performances this season include a school-record 36 kills and season-high 39 points at Wyoming Nov. 14; 26 kills and 30 points vs. UNLV Nov. 6; .364 attack percentage (10K-2E-22A) vs. New Mexico State Sept. 22; and 16 kills and career-high four block solos at New Mexico State Oct. 21. Reines collected her 1,000th career kill vs. UNLV. Her 36 kills against Wyoming also established a new career high and was the highest amount of kills for any Mountain West player in conference matches this season.
The Big Lake, Minn., native transferred from the University of Minnesota after one season and was a constant presence on the court in her three years as a Lobo. Reines led the team in attack percentage (.257) and kills (3.86 pg) in 2002, and for her efforts, she became the first Lobo since 1998 to earn first-team all-conference honors. She shined off the court as well, earning Academic All-Mountain West honors in 2001 and 2002 while also appearing on the Academic All-District VI ballot in 2003.
SET ME UP - Junior setter Monica Meihack paced the Lobo offense in 2003, leading the team with 6.41 assists per game. Meihack played libero for eight matches (Sept. 12-26), and responded well to her position change as she earned top libero honors at the Albuquerque Marriott Lobo Tournament and improved UNM's digs per game from 7.86 to 12.44. But after tallying the second most assists in a Lobo season in 2002 with 1,249, head coach Kelley Sliva McKee decided it was time to put Meihack back into her normal position. Meihack recorded a career-high 65 assists at Wyoming Nov. 14.
Freshman Lindsay Smith, a talented recruit who has the ability to set up a very up-tempo offense, filled in nicely when Meihack was at libero. Smith stepped up to the challenge, collecting over 30 assists in six of her eight starts, including a career-high 49 vs. Ohio.
BURKE NAMED TO ACADEMIC ALL-AMERICA DISTRICT VI TEAM - Junior Adah Burke was named to the Academic All-America District VI volleyball second team Nov. 12 as selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). Burke, who had the highest GPA in the district, boasts a 4.040 GPA in Mathematics.
Burke was the top defensive specialist for the Lobos, leading the team with 2.88 per game. The Las Cruces, N.M., native was third in conference matches with 3.23 digs per game. She registered a career-high 23 digs at New Mexico State Oct. 21 and was named the top libero at the Comcast Lobo Invitational Sept. 6.
In order to be nominated for the CoSIDA All-Academic team, a student-athlete must be a sophomore in athletic and academic standing, have at least a 3.20 GPA and be a starter or important reserve on the team. Once nominated, a vote is taken by members of CoSIDA to determine who is named to the team.
ACES WILD - New Mexico was second in conference matches with 1.68 aces per game and averaged 1.81 for all matches. UNM posted a season-high 16 aces vs. UNLV Nov. 6, which was the fourth highest total in school history and highest amount for any MWC team this season. The Lobos served 179 aces for the season; the school record stands at 292 (1981).
BLOCK YOU VERY MUCH - Sophomore Chelsea Sondrup, who set the Lobo single-season mark for block assists (131) in her freshman campaign, once again led UNM in blocks this season. Sondrup had 73 blocks (four solo, 69 assists) and was second on the team in kills (228; 2.30 pg) and points (289). Sondrup tallied two of UNM's four double-doubles in 2003 (career-high 14 kills and 12 digs at New Mexico State Oct. 21; 10 kills and 10 digs at Wyoming Nov. 14).
Sondrup also set two UNM single-match block records against SMU Sept. 20, 2002 for blocks (14) and block assists (13). She currently has 210 blocks for her career.
THERKELSEN MAKING PRESENCE KNOWN - Freshman Kelly Therkelsen had a solid start to her Lobo career in 2003, ranking third on the team with 66 blocks and fourth in kills (165) and points (213.5). Therkelsen was named to the Albuquerque Marriott All-Tournament Team after posting 29 kills and 17 digs in the the tournament, including a career-high 13 kills vs. Ohio. The Eagan, Minn., native is a very versatile player, as she also had 30 assists, 62 digs and 15 service aces.
HEASTY LEADS LOBOS AT THE NET - Jennifer Heasty led the Lobo outside hitters and middle blockers in attack percentage (.224) and was second in blocks (72). She hit a career-high .786 (11K-0E-14TA) against BYU Oct. 2 and also hit .583 vs. rival New Mexico State. The Westminster, Colo., native collected a season-high 13 kills and 15.5 points at Air Force Sept. 26 in her first career MWC match. In the Comcast Lobo Invitational tournament-title game, Heasty racked up a career-high eight block assists to secure the win over Delaware.
WHITSON COMES ON STRONG IN SECOND HALF - After playing sparingly in the first half of the season, freshman Georgia Whitson came on strong in the second half for the Lobos. Whitson was fifth on the team in kills (124; 1.63 pg) and points (149). She put down a season-high 12 kills vs. UNLV Nov. 6 to go along with 13 points and registered a season-high five blocks in her other matchup against the Rebels Oct. 11. Whitson is one of three Lobos from the state of New Mexico, hailing from Taos.
DOUBLE DUNSMOOR - Freshman Lauren Dunsmoor collected two of UNM's four double-doubles in 2003. Dunsmoor collected 14 digs and 10 kills vs. Sacramento State Sept. 20 and tallied 12 digs and 12 kills in her first career MWC match Sept. 26 at Air Force. Unfortunately, the Lobos were without her services the second half of the season due to an injury.
YOUNG GUNS - This year's Lobo squad features nine freshmen to go along with one senior (Anna Reines), two juniors (Monica Meihack, Adah Burke) and one sophomore (Chelsea Sondrup). Reines, Meihack and Sondrup all started in 2002 for UNM. Eight of the nine freshmen saw action on the court in 2003.
The Lobos were the youngest team in the Mountain West Conference with nine freshman, three of whom started. BYU had seven freshman on its roster, while San Diego State and UNLV each had six.
LOBOS DEFEAT ALUMNI - The Lobo volleyball program welcomed back 13 former players for the annual Alumni Match Oct. 25 at Johnson Arena. In a controlled scrimmage with referees, this year's Lobos defeated the alumni three games to one in a competitve match.
UNM JAMS JOHNSON - Lobo fans came out in force as a season-high 1,339 fans showed up for this year's Jam Johnson Oct. 3, but it wasn't enough to propel UNM as it fell to Utah in three games (30-19, 30-21, 30-12). The Utes hit an impressive .512 for the match and collected 52 kills on only eight errors. Freshman Georgia Whitson led the Lobos with 11 kills.
ARCHRIVAL NEW MEXICO STATE GETS THE BEST OF THE LOBOS - The Aggies of New Mexico State swept the intrastate rivalry against UNM this season, but not without a fight from the Lobos.
UNM came close to pulling off an upset over NMSU in their second meeting, but lost in five games (14-30, 30-28, 23-30, 30-27, 7-15) before a crowd of 1,835 Oct. 21 at the Pan American Center.
Several Lobos put up career numbers in the five-game, two-hour match. Anna Reines collected 16 kills and a career-high four block solos to go along with eight digs. Chelsea Sondrup produced UNM's third double-double of the season and established new career marks with 14 kills and 12 digs. Defensively, Adah Burke and freshman Lindsay Smith set personal bests with 23 and 10 digs, respectively. Monica Meihack paced the offense with 45 assists.
In the first of two matchups this season, New Mexico State swept the Lobos (30-27, 30-27, 30-21) Sept. 22 at Johnson Arena. UNM hit for a season-high .346 attack percentage, but the Aggies pounded 60 kills and hit .397 in the win.
TOURNAMENT RECAPS -
FRESNO STATE INVITATIONAL RECAP (Aug. 29-30) - A young UNM team faced a tough challenge in its first weekend of the season at the competitive Fresno State Invitational. The Lobos opened against host FSU in a hostile environment, falling in three games in the first match. Fresno State, who won the tournament championship, participated in the 2002 NCAA Tournament.
After the late match on Friday, the Lobos had to play in the early match Saturday against Cal Poly, another team that played in last year's NCAA Tournament. UNM came out on fire, hitting .375 in the first game, but still fell to the Mustangs 30-21. Cal Poly edged UNM 31-29 in game two before claiming game three to sweep the match.
The Lobos captured their first game of the season in the opening frame vs. Idaho State, 30-26. UNM couldn't maintain the advantage, however, and lost the next three games to the Bengals. Anna Reines pounded 17 kills for the match to go along with eight digs and two service aces. Reines earned all-tournament honors.
SHOWING SIGNS OF IMPROVEMENT (Sept. 5-6) - The young Lobos showed their potential in just the second weekend of the season by winning all three matches in their own Comcast Lobo Invitatational Sept. 5-6 at Johnson Arena, claiming the tournament title for the second straight year.
The Lobos swept Delaware (32-30, 30-23, 30-19) for the championship in the tournament finale. With both teams entering the match at 2-0, UNM dominated the Blue Hens, showing no doubts who the best team was in the invitational. The Lobos produced a season-high 12.5 team blocks against UD, shutting down its offense the entire match. Freshman Jennifer Heasty led the way, stuffing the Blue Hens for eight block assists.
UNM outlasted Youngstown State in the tournament opener, beating the Penguins in five games. After leading two games to none, the Lobos lost games three and four before taking the fifth and decisive game, 15-13. UNM easily defeated Alcorn State in four games in the second match of the tournament.
The Lobos placed four players on the Comcast Lobo Invitational All-Tournament Team, including Chelsea Sondrup, who was named the Tournament MVP. Anna Reines, Jennifer Heasty and libero Adah Burke joined Sondrup in earning tournament honors.
LOBOS FACE STIFF COMPETITION AT COUGAR MANIA INVITATIONAL (Sept. 12-13) - New Mexico came away winless against three top-notch opponents at the Washington State Cougar Mania Invitational (Sept. 12-13).
On Sept. 12, UNM gave No. 22 Loyola Marymount all it could handle in the first game, but the Lobos fell just short 31-29. The Lions regrouped to take game two 30-20 and game three 30-24 for the sweep.
The weekend didn't get any easier as the Lobos had to take on host Washington State - an Elite Eight team in 2002 - on its home court Sept. 13. The Cougars came away with the victory in three games (30-25, 30-21, 30-22). In the tournament finale, the Lobos won their first game of the weekend against Saint Louis, but it wasn't enough as the Billikens prevailed in four games (27-30, 21-30, 30-24, 28-30).
UNM MAKES STRIDES IN SECOND HOME TOURNAMENT (Sept. 19-20) - Although UNM came away winless from the Albuquerque Marriott Lobo Volleyball Tournament, New Mexico stayed competitive in every match against three quality volleyball teams: Ohio (receiving votes in USA Today/AVCA Top 25 Coaches Poll); Kentucky; and Sacramento State (2002 NCAA Tournament participant). The Lobos won game three in both matches against Ohio and Sacramento State. Kelly Therkelsen and Monica Meihack earned All-Tournament honors for UNM.
2003 Team Season Highs
Kills - 76 at Wyoming (11/14) Attempts - 182 at Wyoming (11/14) Hitting % - .346 (45K-8E-107A) vs. New Mexico State (9/22) Assists - 68 at Wyoming (11/14) Service Aces - 16 vs. UNLV (11/6) Digs - 65 at New Mexico State (10/21) Block Solo - 5 at New Mexico State (10/21) Block Assists - 27 vs. Colorado State (11/20) Total Blocks - 13.5 vs. Colorado State (11/20)
2003 Individual Season Highs
Kills - 36, Anna Reines at Wyoming (11/14) - * School record Attempts - 69, Anna Reines at Wyoming (11/14) Hitting % - .786 (11K-0E-14A), Jennifer Heasty vs. BYU (10/2) Assists - 65, Monica Meihack at Wyoming (11/14) Service Aces - 4 (Seven times) Digs - 23, Adah Burke at New Mexico State (10/21) Block Solo - 4, Anna Reines at New Mexico State (10/21) Block Assists - 8, Jennifer Heasty vs. Delaware (9/6) Total Blocks - 8, Jennifer Heasty vs. Delaware (9/6) Points - 39.0, Anna Reines at Wyoming (11/14)
MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT RESULTS
Nov. 20-22 * San Diego, Calif. * Peterson Gym * Hosted by San Diego State
Quarterfinals - Thursday, Nov. 20
No. 2 Utah def. No. 7 Wyoming, 3-0 No. 3 BYU def. No. 6 Air Force, 3-0 No. 1 Colorado State def. No. 8 New Mexico, 3-1 No. 4 San Diego State def. No. 5 UNLV, 3-0
Semifinals - Friday, Nov. 21
No. 2 Utah def. No. 3 BYU, 3-0 No. 1 Colorado State def. No. 4 San Diego State, 3-2
Championship - Saturday, Nov. 22
No. 1 Colorado State def. No. 2 Utah, 3-1
ALL-MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE TEAM
Delavane Diaz, Sr., OH, Air Force Carrie Bowers, Sr., OH, BYU Uila Crabbe, Sr., LIB, BYU Lauren Richards, So., S, BYU Tess Rogers, So., OH, Colorado State Katie Jo Shirley, Jr., OH, Colorado State Aspen McPartland, Sr., MB, San Diego State Megan Schauerman, Sr., MB, San Diego State Leiana Oswald, Sr., OH, UNLV Shelly Sommerfeldt, So., OH, Utah Kim Turner, Sr., MB, Utah Sara Maytorena, Jr., OH, Wyoming
Setter - Melissa Courtney, Jr., Colorado State Libero - Jackie Morrill, Sr., Utah
CO-PLAYERS OF THE YEAR: Kim Turner (Utah) Melissa Courtney (Colorado State)
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR: Lindsy Hartsock (BYU)
COACH OF THE YEAR: Tom Hilbert (Colorado State)