Nov. 12, 2011
New Mexico Lobos Volleyball -- At Mountain West Championships
When/Where: Fri-Sat-Sun -- Johnson Center
Friday: Noon, SDSU vs. UNLV; 2:30 p.m., TCU vs. Boise State; 6 p.m., CSU vs. Air Force; 8:30 p.m.; Lobos vs. Wyoming.
Saturday: Semifinals 5 p.m., 7:30 p.m.
Sunday: Championship at 6 p.m.
TV: Friday/Saturday on The Mtn-TV; Sunday on CBS Sports Network
It's often said that "it would be nice if life had a rewind button." Maybe that goes for Lobo volleyball, too.
For Jeff Nelson and his New Mexico Lobos volleyball team, the rewind button becomes a reality this week when the Mountain West Conference Volleyball Championships hit Johnson Center.
But will that rewind button prove to be a good thing or a bad thing for the Lobos?
One thing is for certain, the Lobos will have the chance to change a few little things that led to 3-2 losses last week to Wyoming and Colorado State -- losses that ended UNM`s regular season, but losses that also bring a confident bunch of Lobos into tourney play.
The Lobos open the MW tourney at 8:30 p.m. Friday against Wyoming. If the Lobos win, they will likely play No. 1 seed Colorado State which is expected to cruise past Air Force at 6 p.m., on Friday.
1. CSU -- 12-2 (19-5)
2. SDS -- 10-4 (17-8)
3. TCU -- 9-5 (22-6)
4. WYO -- 9-5 (20-10)
5. UNM -- 6-8 (14-13)
6. BSU -- 6-8 (16-14)
7. UNLV -- 4-10 (12-16)
8. AFA -- 0-14 (3-24)
The Lobos lost at Wyoming 3-0 and lost at Colorado State 3-0 earlier in the season, but took both the Cowgirls and the Rams to a fifth game last week in Johnson Center. The Lobos for sure get one more shot at the Cowgirls with a chance to get another shot at CSU.
"I liked the way we played, I liked how aggressive we were and I liked the way we battled, and I think it is going to help us (in the tourney)," Nelson said.
The Lobos, 14-13 and 6-8 in league play, can't rely on an at-large bid in order to return to NCAA play. They need to win the MWC tourney and grab the Mountain's automatic bid. It won't be easy.
The Lobos were swept by Wyoming and Colorado State and on the other side of the bracket are two more teams that swept the Lobos in 2011 -- San Diego State and TCU.
The No. 2 seed Aztecs open the tourney at noon on Friday expecting to get past No. 7 UNLV. TCU, the No. 3 seed, meets No. 6 Boise State at 2:30 p.m., in Johnson Center.
The Lobos will carry the No. 5 seed into the tourney against No. 4 Wyoming. The Lobos swept UNLV, Boise State and Air Force in regular-season play.
This is the first time that the Conference has conducted a postseason tournament since 2007.
Colorado State 3, Lobos 2 (25-19, 14-25, 19-25, 25-22, 11-15)
The University of New Mexico volleyball team experienced a wave of emotions Saturday when its three seniors played in their final regular-season match at Johnson Center. The Lobos gave everything they had against Colorado State, but came up just short as they lost a hard fought match to the Rams, 3-2.
It was evident that the underclassmen wanted to send seniors Allison Buck, Ashley Rhoades and Kelly Williamson off with a win, and they almost did. Trying to defeat CSU is no small task; however, as the Rams came into the match as the top team in the Mountain West, while receiving votes in the AVCA Coaches top-25 poll nationally.
This season hasn't gone the way the Lobos expected, but taking two teams (Wyoming and CSU) that beat them, 3-0, ealier in the year to five sets and having a chance to defeat both of those squads has the Lobos looking up. Especially, since they host the conference tournament and Wyoming and CSU stand in UNM's path to the championship game on Sunday.
"The first time we played both of them we lost 3-0," head coach Jeff Nelson said. "This time we lost by a combined total of six points. I feel confident about it and maybe next time we will win 3-0."
A smile came to Nelsons' face after the match when asked to reflect on what his seniors have meant to him.
"They all have different qualities. Kelly (Williamson) has led by example with her academics, Allison (Buck) has been the glue and has been tough, and Ashley (Rhoades) has put up the big numbers. They have just all contributed in a huge way."
Each senior addressed the crowd after the match thanking the fans and everyone involved with the Lobo volleyball program. It was a heart felt sentiment that had every athlete on the team in tears.
"It was very emotional," Williamson said of senior day. "We love playing in Johnson Center and the fact that we get to play the conference tournament here is so exciting."
Game One: Lobos 25, Colorado State 19
The Lobos came out inspired in the first set, showing no hesitancy as they went right at the Rams. Maybe it was because it was senior day and the Lobos wanted to give their seniors a nice send off, or maybe it was the challenge of playing the top team in the conference; whatever the reason, it certainly helped jump start the Lobos as they beat CSU, 25-19, in game one. Williamson had a great start to the match, recording five kills on a .357 hitting percentage. Fellow senior Buck picked up 10 digs in the set, effectively making her the all-time career digs leader in UNM history. Buck surpassed Gayle Tripp, who previously held the record with 1,578 digs.
"I don't want to take it away from Gayle," Buck said about becoming the new record holder, "because Gayle was my inspiration and my role model. I wanted to be just like her. So, being able to break her record is a once in a lifetime experience that I will remember for the rest of my life."
Game Two: Colorado State 25, Lobos 14
The Lobos did a complete 360 in the second set, as CSU took control of UNM. The Rams beat the Lobos by a score of 25-14. Megan Plourde and Dana Cranston led the way offensively for the Rams as both recorded four kills during the set. Williamson was the top striker for the Lobos once again, adding another five kills to her total. Things were tied up at one apiece heading into game three.
Game Three: Colorado State 25, Lobos 19
Neither team wanted the other to take a 2-1 lead after this set, and both CSU and UNM played like it. The two teams stayed deadlocked up until Colorado State broke a 12-12 tie by way of a Plourde kill. The Lobos would battle back, however, to tie the Rams three different times at 17 all, 18 all and 19 all. Unfortunately, the Lobos wouldn't score again after recording their 19th point. CSU took the set, 25-19, and gained match control, 2-1, heading into game four. Williamson continued to lead the Lobos in kills and Rhoades was second on the team.
Game Four: Lobos 25, Colorado State 22
The Lobos and Rams played this set similar to the last. The score stayed fairly even, never swaying too far in either teams' favor. The biggest lead of the set came when CSU went up 19-16. UNM was able to close the gap, however, and took the lead, 22-21. From there, the Lobos didn't look back, allowing CSU to score just once more before taking the set, 25-22. Things were all tied up at two games apiece heading into the fifth and final game. Rhoades came up huge for the Lobos, helping record two block assists with teammates Chantale Riddle and Ashley Newman, for the Lobos 24th and 25th points. Williamson led the Lobos with 18 kills at this point in the match and was followed by Rhoades and Riddle, who each had nine. Allison Buck was also up to 20 digs in the match after the fourth set.
Game Five: Colorado State 15, Lobos 11
The Lobos came out fighting in the fifth set. CSU and UNM were neck and neck at the halfway point, with CSU up, 8-7, as the teams changed benches. The Lobos quickly tied it up at 8-8, but saw CSU pull ahead once again. Like a pendulum effect, UNM was able to close the gap to 12-11 in CSU's favor. From there, the Lobos weren't able to find another score as CSU went on to take the set, 15-11, and the match, 3-2. Williamson finished the night with a game-high 21 kills, while Buck recorded a game-high 23 digs. Buck now has 1,593 digs in her career as she continues to add to her all-time UNM record total.
"We proved today how scrappy we can be and I expect every single person to step it up in practice this week and carry it on to this weekend," said Rhoades.
The Lobos drop to 14-13 on the season and 6-8 in Mountain West play.
The Lobos will next play host to the MW volleyball tournament, which takes place Nov. 18-20. UNM opens with Wyoming at 8:30 p.m. on Nov. 18 in its first round match at Johnson Center.
For tournament ticket information call the Lobos ticket office at 505-925-LOBO (5627) or click here.