Stevens: Lobos Look To Improve Their Standing in NCAA postseason race
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  11/17/2010
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Nov. 17, 2010

Lobo Volleyball -- On The Road
7:30 p.m. (MT), at Utah -- Salt Lake City
On The Air: The Mtn (Comcast 276, DirecTV 616)
Saturday: 7:30 p.m. (MT), at Brigham Young -- Provo
GoLobos.com: GameTracker, Recap, Stats
MWC Games Thursday: CSU at Wyo; TCU at BYU, UNLV at SDSU.

By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

A good way to get your postseason ticket to the NCAA dance punched by a fact-driven NCAA Selection Committee is to add a good finish to a good start.

Jeff Nelson's Lobos have the good start. They have a solid RPI, have played a beastly schedule, and toss out a sweet 18-8 mark accented by a Top 25 win over now No. 15 Colorado State.

Now, for the finish! The Lobos are on the Mountain West road with a Thursday game at Utah and a Saturday visit at Brigham Young. UNM ends the season in Johnson Center against San Diego State on Nov. 26.

So, are the Lobos a lock for the NCAA postseason? "I would hope we are in a good place, but we have to keep winning," said Nelson, whose Lobos are 10-3 in league play. "Anytime you aren't automatic, it can go either way."

Nelson says he has called teams together for Selection Day gatherings expecting to see their name on the NCAA bracket and ran into bitter disappointment. He says he has told girls not to gather and later had to call them with the unexpected good news.

The bet here as that eventually the Lobos will gather and the news will be good. But Nelson isn't yet ready to stop adding to UNM's body of work. There are still games to be played and won.

The Mountain West Conference's automatic bid appears destined for Colorado State. The Rams are 23-3 and 12-1 in MWC play and seemingly too good to stumble away the regular-season title. The Rams also would have to drop two games at home. There is no MWC tourney for volleyball so the regular-season queen gets the free pass to NCAA play.

However, the Lobos look to be a lock as the No. 2 team in the conference behind the Rams. Nelson probably thinks so, too, but he wants his Lobos to finish strong for a variety of reasons.

1- Nelson doesn't like to lose volleyball games.
2- Momentum is a good thing to ride into NCAA play where the competition goes up, not down.
3- A couple of road wins against tough home teams is a good confidence boost for a UNM team that could open up NCAA play on the road.

The Utes and the Cougars have been inconsistent this season, but they also have their good nights. Utah has a nice mix of young players and two quality seniors.

"Mathematically, they probably are eliminated from postseason," said Nelson. "I guess their motivation would be to try and catch up to us in the conference and take away some of our good fortune."

The Utes aren`t out of the race for second place just yet. They sit 8-4 in MWC play only a game down to UNM in the lost category. The 14-13 Utes host TCU on Saturday.

Utah has a quality net player in senior Karolina Bartkowiak, one of two MWC players in the top 10 in hitting percentage and kills per set. The Utes have an aggressive youngster in freshman Erin Redd, who leads the league in attack percentage. Utah has solid defense in the back row in senior Keisha Fisher, who leads the league this season in digs with a 4.22 average per set.

The Lobos are led up front by seniors Lisa Meeter and Taylor Hadfield, who also is one of two MWC players in the Top 10 in hitting percentage and kills per set. Senior Jade Michaelsen runs the show and is UNM's all-time career assist leader. Junior Allison Buck anchors the back row and is third in the MWC with 3.95 digs per set.

"Lisa was conference and national Player of The Week," said Nelson. "She has been amazing. She took her game up a notch."

"I think we are confident, but not overconfident. We are getting great leadership right now. Hopefully, we can continue our success and get ourselves into ever a better place for postseason."

Saturday, August 22
7:00 PM - 
vs. Alumnae (Exhibition)