Sept. 10, 2011
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The University of New Mexico volleyball team was crowned champion of the Comcast/Sheraton Lobo Invitational Saturday night after compiling an undefeated record of 3-0. The Lobos defeated the University of Montreal, 3-0, to claim the championship.
UNM was very excited to finally grab tourney gold, as the Lobos were unsuccessful in two previous attempts to begin the season. Things just seemed to finally fall into place for the Lobos during this tournament. The team has found its swagger and look to carry it around as the bulk of the season gets underway.
"I thought today, for the first time, we were able to keep our composure through three games," head coach Jeff Nelson said. "It was really important because we hadn't been doing that very well."
Game One: Lobos 25, Montreal 19
The Lobos got off to a slow start, falling behind, 7-3, to Montreal, prompting coach Nelson to call a timeout. UNM fought hard after the timeout, eventually taking the lead, 11-10, over the Carabins. Once again, Ashley Rhoades led the way offensively for the Lobos in the first set. The senior racked up five kills to go along with a hitting efficiency of .375 to help the lobos take game one, 25-19. Montreal's Sophie-Marie Nadeau was equally impressive as Rhoades offensively, recording four kills for the Carabins.
Game Two: Lobos 25, Montreal 22
The second set was deadlocked the entire time. The two teams traded leads 10 times with nine tie score before the Lobos finally took control. The Lobos spread the ball around nicely as everyone got a chance to contribute offensively. Ashley Newman recorded three kills, Rhoades added three, Williamson had four and Lexi Ross had two. The reason the lobos were able to spread it out so effectively came in part due to Allison Buck's defense. The senior had 10 digs in the set to bring her match-leading total to 16.
Game Three: Lobos 25, Montreal 16
The Lobos went into the third set ready to quench their championship thirst. This was the third championship game the Lobos had been in, and they weren't about to let this one get away like the other two did. The Lobos owned the set, beating Montreal 25-16 to claim the game in a 3-0 sweep.
"It's nice to win a tournament," Rhoades said. "But, we have to treat this as a learning experience. We have to get better and push ourselves to get better for conference and the NCAA tournament.
Four Lobos were named to the all-tournament team (Rhoades, Mariah Agre, Chantale Riddle and Buck). Buck was chosen as the tournament MVP. She earned MVP honors thanks to an incredible three game stretch defensively, where she recorded 67 digs. She had a career-high 34 digs in UNM's opening win over UC Irvine.
"It's a great honor," Buck said. "And, honestly, I wouldn't have gotten it without the help of my teammates."
Comcast/Sheraton Lobo Invitational All-Tournament Team:
Tournament Champions - New Mexico
Runner Up - UC-Irvine
Next the Lobos will travel to Pittsburgh, Pa., Sept. 9-10 where they will participate in the Pitt Blue and Gold Classic. The tournament will include host Pittsburgh, Delaware and Temple.