Stevens: Lobos Eye No. 5 Nebraska, South Florida
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  08/25/2011
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Aug. 25, 2011

Shuttle to/from Johnson Center Two shuttle buses will provide free service from the G-lot shelter near Lomas and University (north of Lomas, east of University) and to the UNM Book Store. The service begins at 5:30 p.m. and returns fans to the G-lot shelter for one hour after the conclusion of the Lobos' game Saturday vs. Nebraska.

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    Friday: 7:30 p.m., Lobos vs. South Florida; 5 p.m., Nebraska vs. NMSU
    Saturday: 7:30 p.m., Lobos vs. Nebraska; 5 p.m., NMSU vs. South Florida
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    Tickets: $5 adults ($8 tourney pass), $3 youth.

    By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

    Their history, their tradition, their NCAA prowess, their gaudy list of blue-chip athletes, suggests that the Nebraska Cornhuskers are a beast of a volleyball program. So, can the Lobo beauty slay the beast? Or can those Aggie types from Las Cruces be giant slayers?

    "I don't think beast is the right word," said Lobo Coach Jeff Nelson. "But they are big, strong and physical."

    To a lot of opponents who stand across the net from Nebraska, what the Cornhuskers do to a volleyball can be beastly - or nasty. For sure, Nelson's Lobos are the darlings of Johnson Center and this will be a test, a challenge, a beastly mountain to climb. South Florida won't go down easy either.

    The No. 5 ranked Cornhuskers are royalty of college basketball. They are the second winningest program in D-I history behind UCLA. They have nine players on their 2011 roster, who were Volleyball Magazine Fab 50 selections, a list the reflects the top 50 players in a recruiting class.

    Nebraska has powered its way to 17 straight NCAA regionals and expects to ride the All-American talents of 6-foot-4 Brook Delano and 6-1 Hannah Werth into NCAA play again. Nebraska has had an All-American on its roster every season since 1983.

    Yep, you don't have to cull much at Nebraska. They are royalty of this net game and their lineup is dotted with blue-chip talent.

    Nebraska has enjoyed 149 consecutive sellouts at home and was No. 2 in the nation in attendance in 2010, but has decided to visit Johnson Center because of the competition offered by the Lobos and New Mexico State.

    "I know their tradition, but this is the kind of match we want early in the season," said Nelson, the 2010 Mountain West Coach of The Year. "We want to expose (our freshmen) to the top level and get them out there and get them after it."

    Nelson's plan was similar in 2010. He lured might Stanford into the MCM Elegante Classic and his Lobos fell in three straight games. But they learned things and carried those lessons deep into a Mountain West season.

    "I think (playing Stanford) made us a lot better for the second half of the conference," said Nelson. "Nine of our players were here for the Stanford match last year.

    "Stanford started 6-6, 6-6, 6-5 across the front. I was happy with the way we battled. I don't think I've ever been afraid to play anybody. I think it's fun."

    The fun begins Friday when Lobos battle a solid South Florida team ("They will come at us with everything they have," said Nelson) and the NMSU Aggies go at the Cornhuskers. The teams switch opponents on Saturday.

    The joint - Johnson Center - should be rocking: With Lobos, with Aggies.

    "We have both New Mexico schools in here," said Nelson. "All New Mexico fans can come and find a team."

    Nelson expects a somewhat unnatural bond to form this weekend in Johnson Center with Aggies cheering for Lobos and Lobos cheering for Aggies. "We're all from New Mexico (this weekend)," he said.

    "New Mexico State is a great team. Their team is so gritty and tough. You know they are going to come after you. They are tough kids, who play hard."

    Said Lobo Kelly Williamson: "It's an amazing experience (to play Nebraska). It's a challenge to us right off the bat."

    Thursday, August 20
    6:30 PM - 
    vs. Cherry vs. Silver
    Friday, August 28
    8:00 AM - 
    at Belmont
    3:00 PM - 
    at Albany
    Saturday, August 29
    5:00 PM - 
    at Ball State