Stevens: Lobos Look To Win Game One -- And A Tourney
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  09/08/2011
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Sept. 8, 2011

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Tournament Central

Lobo Volleyball - Comcast/Sheraton Lobo Invitational

Friday:7:30 p.m., Lobos vs. UC Irvine; 5 p.m., Portland State vs. Montreal 

Saturday: 1 p.m., Lobos vs. Portland State; 7:30 p.m., Lobos vs. Montreal; 10:30 a.m., UC Irvine vs. Montreal; 5 p.m., UC Irvine vs. Portland State.
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By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

Are Jeff Nelson'sLobos punishing him, making their coach sweat and squirm on the bench? Well, yes. -- kind of. However, it's not on purpose. It's not a spiteful thing. It's more of a spike thing!

The New Mexico Lobos volleyball team has rolled out an annoying habit/trend so far in the 2011 season and it's not exactly making things easy on Nelson. Or on the Lobos.

If the Lobos can change that pattern, they might also change another trend that doesn't make Nelson or his Lobos happy: Coming in second in volleyball tournaments.

Here's the trend:
Game One vs. USF: USF 25, Lobos 22
Game One vs. Nebraska: Cornhuskers 25, Lobos 16.
Game One vs. San Jose State: SJS 25, Lobos 22.
Game One vs. Northern Arizona: NAU 25, Lobos 17.

Yep, the Lobos have a nasty habit of losing the first game, falling into a hole, and then trying to battle out of that pit. Sometimes the Lobos climb out of the hole; sometimes they don't. The Lobos battled back to beat USF and San Jose State, but lost to Nebraska and NAU.

The 3-2 Lobos did pound Hampton in Game One , but Hampton was the sacrificial lamb of the NAU Invite and UNM rolled to a 3-0 win. UNM was runner-up to Nebraska in the MCM Elegante Lobo Classic and runner-up to NAU in its invite in Flagstaff.

"We have to do a better job in game one," said Nelson. "It puts a lot of pressure on us."

And on Nelson.

So are the problems in Game One stemming from Lobos coming out a little too nonchalant or maybe not being fired up enough emotionally? Whatever the reason, UNM is starting slowly and Nelson is in a hurry to correct the problem.

"We have to emphasize a little more urgency, especially from our seniors," said Nelson.

Of course, there are statistical problems in Game One. Nebraska threw down a .333 hitting percentage to the Lobos' .103. South Florida out hit UNM .149 to .061. San Jose State posted a .195 hitting percentage to .065 for the Lobos. Northern Arizona had an amazing .500 hitting percentage (16-2) compared to UNM's .122.

This brings up the obvious: UNM needs to do better at the net in Game One both in pounding the ball and in defending the shots from the other team. Also obvious: If you are pounding winners, your opponent doesn't have as many opportunities to attack.

Nelson said two priorities heading into this weekend's Comcast/Sheraton Lobo Invitational are starting matches with a sense of urgency and doing a better job at the net.

The Lobos will be eyeing some good competition this weekend in Johnson Center: UC Irvine, Portland State and Montreal, one of the best teams in Canada.

The Lobos of 2011 look to be another complete Nelson team backed by good defense and good passing. Allison Buckrecorded 50 digs in UNM's three matches in Flagstaff and has pushed her way into the Top 10 in Mountain West career digs with 1,142.

Buck was named to that tourney's all-tourney team along with Ashley Rhoades and Mariah Agre. Agre set a new career high in assists with 57. "I saw a huge progression in her from week one to week two," Nelson said of Agre.

Rhoades had 47 kills at NAU and has 70 on the season for a .273 percentage. She tops the Mountain West in kills per set at 3.63. She set a career single-match high for kills with 25 against Northern Arizona on Sept. 3.

Kelly Williamsonis No. 2 on the squad with 64 kills, but is hitting at a .096 clip. "Kelly has struggled early in all of our matches and we need to get her going."

If you have seen Williamson play volleyball, you know this won't be a problem. UNM is hitting .168 as a team compared to .140 for opponents. UNM is outscoring the enemy in the second, third and fourth game -- but not the first.

The Lobo defense, paced by Buck's 75 digs, has been solid all season. Agre has 47 digs, Williamson has 37, Cara Fisher has 31 and Miquella Lovatohas 29 digs.

Mountain West Notes: Colorado State made an early statement that it still is the team to beat in the Mountain with a 3-2 win over the Nebraska team that swept UNM 3-0. ... UNM had 4,112 in Johnson Center for the battle with Nebraska. CSU set a MW single-match mark with 6,750 coming to Moby Arena to watch the Rams upset Nebraska. ... TCU is undefeated at 6-0 going into its weekend matches. ... CSU is ranked No. 14.

Thursday, September 25
7:00 PM - 
at San JosÚ State
Saturday, September 27
3:00 PM - 
at Nevada
Thursday, October 02
6:30 PM - 
vs. Utah State
Saturday, October 04
12:00 PM - 
vs. Boise State
Thursday, October 09
7:00 PM - 
at San Diego State
Saturday, October 11
7:00 PM - 
Thursday, October 16
7:00 PM - 
vs. Colorado State
Saturday, October 18
2:00 PM - 
vs. Wyoming
Monday, October 20
7:00 PM - 
vs. New Mexico State