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Stevens: Lobos Say Goodbye To Seniors As UNM Surges Toward NCAA Bid
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  11/25/2010
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Nov. 25, 2010

LOBO VOLLEYBALL -- IN JOHNSON CENTER -- SENIOR NIGHT
Friday:
7 p.m., San Diego State at Lobos
GoLobos.com: GameTracker, LoboTV, Recap, Stats
Lobo Seniors: Lisa Meeter, Jade Michaelsen, Taylor Hadfield, Amy Wong (Jr.)
Sunday: 1 p.m., 2010 NCAA Selection Show, ESPNews (DirecTV 207)

By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

The Lobo family of volleyball says goodbye to four special members Friday night in Johnson Center, but the bond formed through family and teams rarely produces a clean cut.

The links and friendships shaped and treasured through heartfelt memories -- and steeled through shared competition -- are not easily set aside by time or graduation.

Therefore, the Lobos really do not say goodbye to Lisa Meeter, Jade Michaelsen, Taylor Hadfield and Amy Wong. Really, they honor them, thank them, and, of course, there is still the NCAA Tournament that surely will call to all Lobos on Sunday's NCAA Selection Day.

The season of 2010 ends on the regular-season court at 7 p.m. Friday against Mountain West Conference foe San Diego State, but the NCAA tourney looms as a future promise of extended competition.

These Lobos (19-9, 11-4 MWC) have a few more chances to stand beside each other and compete -- and the gleam of solidarity in a teammate's eyes is one of the more inspiring gifts to be found in the realm of sports.

"UNM volleyball is not just volleyball," said Michaelsen. "You come into a family. You are coming into a support system like you've never had before."

Said Wong: "I think what I'll take away most are just the memories we've made as a team."

Said Meeter: "There are little memories you just latch on to. I think that's what I'll take away the most."

So far, one of the Lobos' top memories in 2010 is pushing out a season that should carry them into NCAA play for the second straight year. The Lobos have a Top 25 win over Colorado State. They have a strong RPI (44). They have a chance to further impress the NCAA Selection Committee by beating San Diego State, which would have the Lobos ending the regular season winning nine of ten games.

Of course, the New Mexico seniors are huge reasons the Lobos' success as a program and as a singular team in 2010. "They have all been on the court for us for four years and they have provided great leadership in moving the program forward," said Lobo coach Jeff Nelson.

There are many way to judge and say farewell to seniors. If you look at the cold stats thrown out by these good Lobos over the years, the production -- and the eventually loss -- is staggering.

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The links and friendships shaped and treasured through heartfelt memories -- and steeled through shared competition -- are not easily set aside by time or graduation.
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The vivacious Meeter has smashed out 1,143 kills as a Lobo and 1,118 digs. She has been as much a gift to this program on offense as she has on defense. She is all-around. Her soft nature off the court defies the fierceness of her attacks or her bravery of her digs. The former MWC Freshman of The year is a strong candidate for MWC Player of The Year. She has three times this season been MWC Player of The Week.

"I'm in awe of how much I love the girls I play with and how much the coaching staff has done for this program and how much the players have transformed this program," said Meeter. "Being a division one athlete has just been incredible."

The cool and poised Michaelsen has pushed more assists (4,117) into the air than any Lobo before her. Her gifts to spike are soft and precise and sometimes seem to hang unnaturally in the air like puffy balloons. Michaelsen is a two-time All-MWC First Team member and should make that elite team for the third time this season. She is among three MWC student-athletes nominated for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award.

"Don't take anything for granted, `cause it does go by fast," said Michaelsen of her days as a Lobo. "My time here has been incredible. I can`t think of a better word to describe it. There have been so many great things I've been through and so many experiences that have happened that have shaped me as a person. I'm very thankful for that."

The quiet and efficient Hadfield was a 2009 honorable mention AVCA All-American. She was MWC First Team in 2009. She was named to the all-tournament team in all four of UNM's fall tournaments and has been a force of consistency at the UNM net all season.

"It's been a lot of fun," said Hadfield, one of two MWC players in the Top Ten in hitting percentage and kills per set. "It's taught me a lot about myself. I've loved the experience and it has helped me out in life in maturing."

Wong`s role has been to come off the bench this season, but has been consistent in her limited minutes. "She has been a great leader and a great person to coach," said Nelson. "We are sad she is moving on."

Said Wong, who is leaving the program with a year of eligibility remaining: "Beating CSU was probably one of the most exciting moments in my life. There is no place to play like Johnson Center."

The three Lobo seniors and Wong get one more chance to strut their stuff in front of the Johnson Center crowd that set a single-season attendance mark watching these special seniors and this special team.

"I think we are ready to go this week," said coach Nelson. "We kind of took the night off (at BYU) and BYU played very well.

"It's a special night for our seniors. They have all helped our team get back into postseason and we feel pretty good about (making it) this year."

The results against San Diego State probably won't influence UNM's at-large invite to the NCAA postseason dance, but Nelson doesn't want to face any committee coming off a loss. In addition, there is NCAA seeding to consider. The Aztecs have been inconsistent in 2010 -- lost at Air Force -- but have the talent to be very good.

"It will be a tough match," said Nelson, whose Lobos will gather on Sunday to watch the NCAA selection process fill out the 64-team bracket for 2010.

"I think our chances our good," said Nelson. "I think our RPI is where it needs to be. There aren't a lot of teams in our area getting in (the tourney) right now, so we are limited in where we go. We are hoping to get a better draw. I feel we are in a place to get a better draw and hope not to draw a No. 1 seed in the first round."

Around The MWC Nets:

  • The Lobos' win at Utah looks even more critical in the wake of Utah's 3-1 upset over the No. 14 Colorado State Rams in Fort Collins. UNM came back from being down 20-10 in the first game to hold on for a 3-1 win at Utah. UNM is 11-4 in the MWC and Utah is 10-5. A Lobo loss at Utah would have UNM in third place.
  • Colorado State won it's eighth MWC title this past Saturday with a 3-0 win over Wyoming combined with UNM's 3-1 loss at Brigham Young. The titles hands CSU the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
  • BYU freshman Jennifer Hamson was a two-time winner on Saturday. She had five rebounds and five blocked shots in BYU's 80-55 hoops' win over Washington. She was fresh enough that evening to hammer out 13 kills in BYU's 3-1 win over UNM in volleyball.
  • The MWC already has set an attendance record this season with several matches still on the slate.
  • Johnson Center fans on Friday will be able to see two of the top setters in the MWC. SDSU freshman Johnna Fouch leads the league in assists with 10.59 per set.
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