Nov. 5, 2009
Thursday: Lobos 3, Utah 1
Saturday: BYU at Lobos, 7 p.m., Johnson Center
Online: GameTracker, live video, results on GoLobos.com
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
One Utah team down. One to go. It probably can't get much harder Saturday when the Brigham Young Cougars follow the Utah Utes' footsteps into Johnson Center. The Utes were tough.
"It was intense. It was fun. It was everything it could be," said Lobo senior Anna Lehne of New Mexico's hard-fought 3-1 win over Utah Thursday night in Johnson Center.
There were several huge pivotal points in this match, tons of key points and momentum shifts galore. But the key moment when urgency was backed by talent and courage came in Game Three when Utah was up 22-18 and about to dump the Lobos into a 2-1 hole.
Oh, there was a 2-1 hole for somebody to fall into, but it was Utes who took the tumble. UNM scratched and clawed and broke the Utes' back with a 27-25 win. They took Game Four 25-20. It was a good comeback for a Lobo team that lost the first game 25-23. Only once before this season has UNM rallied from a first-game defeat to win a match.
It's a good trait to have, but coach Jeff Nelson probably would be happier with a Game One win, especially at home and probably Saturday against a Cougar team that beat UNM in Provo.
"Tell our fans how much we need them on Saturday," said Nelson, who saw his Lobos jump to 17-8 overall and 8-5 in the Mountain West race. "I think (tonight) was a great battle. We went with the theme, 'We want to go for it.' It was so loud in here. (Our crowd) makes such a big difference for us."
Said Lehne: "We had so much fire (tonight)."
The Lobos hope the crowd and the fire return for BYU's visit. The Lobos' loss to BYU probably goes down as an upset, even though it happened on Utah soil.
"We want to tell them, 'It was a fluke and this is our gym,'" Lehne said of BYU's visit. Nelson said his Lobos probably hit "our low" a few weeks back. He said his Lobos are showing good intensity and energy. They definitely showed it in Game Two as the Utes appeared poised to grab the win, up 22-18.
"They jumped on us," said Rose Morris, who had 16 kills and 10 digs in the match. "But it never felt like we were going to lose Game Three."
Well, the Lobos didn't lose it. But it definitely had Nelson on his feet more than once and also had him balancing on the edge of his seat. "I need water," Nelson said at the end of the four-game win.
The fourth game wasn't exactly easy for UNM, but compared to Game One and Game Three, you almost expected coach Nelson to be sipping iced tea and munching on popcorn.
The Lobos took control early, went up 16-12 and held a firm 22-17 lead when Utah called timeout. New Mexico stayed up 23-18 and pushed it to match point when Utah misplayed a serve.
That bulge was enough to ride to victory and Morris sealed the 25-20 win with a spike from the left side. UNM got the 3-1 lead and their heads turned toward BYU. Lehne had a solid game for the Lobos with nine kills to one error.
Ashley Rhoades had eight kills as did Lisa Meeter, who also padded her stats with 18 digs. Taylor Hadfield had nine kills. Jade Michaelsen had 45 assists and eight digs. Allison Buck had 20 digs and Amy Wong had 12 digs.
New Mexico hit .187 on the night and Utah hit .114. In the four games, there were 32 ties and 14 lead changes.
"We raised our level tonight," said Morris, one of three seniors to be honored on Seniors Night Saturday along with Lehne and Allie Suiter.
OK, now to the third game. If your heart can take it. The first game was good. The third game was great.
This one see-sawed down into extra points before the Lobos pulled out the 27-25 win. Of course, it was huge, handing UNM momentum and a 2-1 lead going into Game Four. The Lobos also pulled themselves out of a bad 22-18 hole to storm to the win.
In Game Three, the Lobos had leads of 8-6 and 14-12 before the Utes threw out a five-point rally to slip up 20-16. Utah outscored UNM 8-to-2 during that turnaround. The Utes had control of the game as it headed into the 20s, which is key. They then went up 22-18 and appeared poised to muscle to the road win. But the Lobos had no quit in them.
It was UNM's turn to hammer out a run and the Lobos rallied to tie the game 22-all. Utah had its chance looking at game point at 24-23. The Lobos then shook out of a 25-all score to get a block from Rhoades and a spike from Meeter to grab the 27-25 win.
In Game Two, the Lobos definitely needed to steal momentum away from the Utes, who won the first game 25-23. The Lobos made a firm statement that the quality of volleyball would go up in Johnson Center. They simply pounded Utah, 25-13, in Game Two.
The second game was never in question. The Lobos jumped up 2-0 and then 8-3, which pulled Utah into a timeout, down five. It was the largest deficit of the match up to that point.
The Lobos had a good grip on this game and were not going to lose it. They cruised ahead of Utah 16-6, 18-8 and 20-9 when Utah called another timeout. There wasn't much Utah could do about this game, but the Utes probably were hoping to go into the break off some better volleyball.
Rhoades came out of the break with a hard spike and UNM breezed to a 25-13 win. The teams went into the two-game break tied 1-1. UNM's hit only .067 in the second game, but the Utes staggered to minus 286. The Lobos played a bit better in Game Two, but the Utes' collapse also was a factor on the scoreboard.
The Lobos controlled the first game early, but never more than two points before Utah tied the game 8-8 and then took a 9-8 lead. Meeter hammered one to tie it at 9-all and UNM bounced to leads of 14-11 and 16-13 . The Utes rallied into a 17-16 lead.
The Utes stayed up 18-17, 19-18 and 20-19 before the Lobos slipped ahead 21-20 on a Morris spike. Then it was Utah's turn to grab a 22-21 lead on a block. Nelson called a timeout. It was a fiery finish. Rhoades floated a long hit into a deep corner to make it 22-all. Utah went up 23-22 before Meeter threw down a savage spike to tie the game 23-all.
Then fortune went to the Utes' side. The Lobos went into the net to hand Utah a 24-23 lead and the Utes nailed the win off a spike that UNM blocked, but it went out. The Lobos recorded a .163 hitting percentage in the first game to .227 for Utah. Meeter and Morris had four kills and three Utes had four kills. The errors favored Utah with seven for UNM and six for Utah. The Utes won a lot of little battles statistically and won that first game by a small margin.
Lobo Notes: This was the first sweep of Utah in home-and-home competition since 1996 ... Michaelsen moved into fifth place on the career assist list with her fifth assist of the night passing All-American Karen Saavedra-Warnock.