Sept. 9, 2011
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The University of New Mexico volleyball team was victorious in its first match of the Comcast/Sheraton Lobo Invitational. The Lobos took down the UC Irvine Anteaters, 3-2, Friday night in front of 2,192 fans.
UNM was finally able to get the “early-start monkey” off its back, as the Lobos took the first set over UC Irvine 25-17. From there the match proved to be a battle between two teams that refused to go quietly into the night.
UC Irvine and the Lobos traded games back and forth up until the 5th and final set. UC Irvine battled back to take the second set, 25-22, over the Lobos, UNM took the third 25-15, the fourth was 25-20 in UC Irvine’s favor and the fifth belonged to the Lobos, 15-9.
“Overall it was a good match for us,” head coach Jeff Nelson said. “We played incredible defense; we had 105 digs tonight.”
It wasn’t the dominating match the Lobos have been looking for all season, but it was a very good test of will against a very good opponent. And, thanks to Ashley Rhoades, UNM didn’t have to worry too much about getting a boost from its electric senior.
“We wanted to come out strong to start the match,” Rhoades said, “and I think we did that. I didn’t want to lose, and I know my team didn’t want to lose, so I just turned it up and the team followed me.”
Game One: Lobos 25, UC Irvine 17
The Lobos came out firing on all cylinders in the first set. Rhoades recorded six kills in only 10 attempts for an incredible .600 hitting percentage. Mariah Agre picked up right where she left off in the Lobos’ last tournament, serving up eight assists. It was a nice change of pace for the Lobos to win the first set, as taking game one has been their Achilles heel in previous matches this season.
Game Two: UC Irvine 25, Lobos 22
UC Irvine battled back with a vengeance in the second set. Aly Squires and Shannon Flemming led the Anteaters, both recoding four kills. The Lobos didn’t help themselves at all after committing six errors in the set. Kelly Williamson showed some life after a slow start in game one, recording five kills and five digs. Rhoades continued her aggressive attack by recording five kills as well. Unfortunatley, the two seniors couldn’t help UNM win the set.
Game Three: Lobos 25, UC Irvine 15
The Lobos obviously didn’t like the Anteaters’ taking game two because UNM came out pumped up to begin the third set. The Lobos took an early 8-2 lead in the set, prompting UC Irvine to call a timeout to regroup. The timeout didn’t do the trick, however, as the lobos kept their foot on the gas pedal, taking the set 25-15. Allison Buck, who seems to be the Lobos’ rock when it comes to consistency, continued to add statistically to her already fantastic defensive season. By the end of the third set the senior had already come up with 19 digs to help the Lobos to a 2-1 advantage.
“Allison is the best libero I’ve ever seen,” Rhoades said. “I thank the lord that she is on my team.”
Game Four: UC Irvine 25, Lobos 20
The fourth set was a dramatic one. The Lobos and Anteaters were deadlocked for the majority of the time. Just as it seemed the Lobos would call it a night and take charge, UC Irvine came alive to take the set and tie the match at 2-2. UC Irvine’s combination of Mary Carls and Kristin Winkler proved to be too much for the Lobos in the fourth set. Carls had 11 assists in the set to up her total to 37 on the night, while Winkler corralled nine digs to bring her total to 28.
Game Five: Lobos 15, UC Irvine 9
After trading games back and forth the entire match, the Lobos finally decided they have had enough. UNM finally took down the resilient Anteaters 15- to win its first match of the Comcast/Sheraton Lobo Invitational. Rhoades ended the match emphatically, soaring high above everyone else and laying down the hammer to finish off the Anteaters. Rhoades finished the match with a career-high 26 kills, with Williamson and Chantale Riddle each adding 12. Agre finished with 52 assists and Buck notched a new career-high in digs with 34, 10 more than her previous career best.
“Ashley is an amazing athlete and has the ability to come up big at any time,” Nelson said.
“I feel like we fought really hard,” Agre added. “In game four we just didn’t finish, but in game five we came out with a vengeance and weren’t letting it sit by us.”