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Lobo Volleyball Hosts MCM Elegante Lobo Classic
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  08/23/2007
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Aug. 23, 2007

MCM Elegante Lobo Classic Tournament Central

MCM Elegante Lobo Classic Game Notes
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This Week in Lobo Volleyball
Matches #1-3 - MCM Elegante Lobo Classic
Friday-Saturday, Aug. 24-25 • Johnson Center

Friday's Schedule:
5 p.m. - Grambling State vs. San Jose State
7:30 p.m. - New Mexico vs. Florida Atlantic

Saturday's Schedule:
10 a.m. - San Jose State vs. Florida Atlantic
12:30 p.m. - New Mexico vs. Grambling State
5 p.m. - Florida Atlantic vs. Grambling State
7:30 p.m. - New Mexico vs. San Jose State

Live Stats, Audio and Video: Link on www.golobos.com

Against Florida Atlantic (0-0): This will be the first meeting between the Lobos and Florida Atlantic. The Owls, coached by Jody Brown, were 11-18 last season and finished fourth in the Sun Belt Conference East Division. FAU returns four starters, including setter Casey LaRocca who averaged 11.11 assists per game.
Against Grambling State (0-0): This will also be the first meeting between the Lobos and Grambling State. The Lady Tigers, coached by Kim Young, were 15-17 last season and won the Southwestern Athletic Conference West Division. Grambling returns five starters, but must find a replacement for SWAC Player of the Year Lacey Cormier.
Against San Jose State (0-0): The Lobos hold a 4-3 advantage in matches against San Jose State. The Spartans, coached by first-year head coach Oscar Crespo, were 19-12 last season and finished tied for fourth in the Western Athletic Conference. Four starters return for San Jose State, including outside hitter Jennifer Senftleben who averaged 4.05 kills per game last season.

UP NEXT: The Lobos host Long Island on Tuesday, Aug. 28 at 7 p.m. in the Johnson Center. Head coach Jeff Nelson will be a guest speaker at the Tucanos Media Luncheon at 11:30 a.m., also on Aug. 28, at the L.F. "Tow" Diehm Athletics Facility. Nelson will also be speaking at the Comcast Coaches Luncheon at the Hilton Albuquerque at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 29.

QUICK HITS
• PLAYING AGAINST THE BEST ... The Lobos will play 11 matches this season against teams that participated in the 2006 NCAA Tournament - BYU, Utah, Colorado State, New Mexico State, Long Island, Iowa State, Arizona State and San Diego.

• YOUNG PUPS ... In addition to a new coaching staff this season, the Lobos will have a senior-less roster ... First-year head coach Jeff Nelson will direct six juniors, four sophomores and five freshmen.

2007 Lobo Volleyball In-Match Promotions: !!Prizes Galore!!
Every match fans have a chance to win lots of fun prizes!

Every 2007 UNM match Sweet Tomatoes Pocket Change Challenge Tucanos Scoot & Serve Challenge

Saturday, Aug. 25, 7:30 p.m. vs. San Jose State MCM Elegante Serving Challenge (Gift certificate for a stay at the MCM Elegante)

2007 Lobo Volleyball Season Outlook

A new era begins in New Mexico Lobos volleyball in 2007 under the direction of first-year head coach Jeff Nelson.

Nelson joins the Lobos' program after four seasons directing the University of San Francisco Dons. Nelson compiled a 76-51 record, including the Dons' first NCAA Tournament appearance in 2003. Nelson has a 12-year collegiate record of 242-147, which includes eight seasons (1995-2002) and five NCAA bids as the head coach at Texas Tech.

"There have been some really fun things just in coming to New Mexico," said Nelson. "There is a great volleyball community, a lot of people that know about Lobo volleyball already. Some times you have to battle with identity, but that is already in place here."

At Nelson's hiring, Vice-President of Athletics Paul Krebs explained why Nelson was the best choice for the Lobos.

"Jeff was a proven winner at a Big 12 school and he did a tremendous job of energizing the volleyball program at the University of San Francisco," said Krebs. "We look forward to Jeff leading the Lobos."

Nelson will be leading a program that finished eighth in the Mountain West Conference last season, but has been picked fifth by the league's coaches going into the 2007 season, the highest pick for UNM in MWC history. The Lobos return 10 players, including UNM's first-ever MWC Player of the Week Jeanne Fairchild, and added five newcomers.

"The new era is exciting," said Nelson. "Having the administration committed to the program always helps. We have a staff that has worked together and we were fortunate to have this past spring with the team."

The Team

It is a recharged Lobo volleyball team expected to take the court in 2007. Nelson and his staff were left with outstanding student-athletes and brought in several exciting freshmen.

"We put this team through some tough paces in the spring and played some really tough matches," said Nelson. "We did everything we could to prepare. I think we are at a really good place coming into this season. I'm excited about everything."

The Lobos have two solid setters in junior Sarah Kwasigroch and redshirt freshman Jade Michaelsen. Kwasigroch finished the 2006 season ranked sixth in the Mountain West with 10.57 assists per game. Kwasigroch is the more experienced of the two, has strong skills and provides great leadership on and off the court. She was one of only two players to play in all 101 games last season for the Lobos. Michaelsen, an athletic player with good skills, used last year to adjust to the college game and develop her leadership skills.

"We have great options with our setters," said Nelson. "Sarah has been a starter for two seasons and with improved consistency will be able to take the team to a new level. Jade gives us the option of slipping into a 6-2 or a modified 5-1."

Outside hitter, right-side, and middle blocker will be deep positions on the front row.

Junior Jeanne Fairchild leads the pack of outside hitters. Fairchild, considered to be the most athletic player on the team, led the squad in 2006 with 3.33 kills per game and 330.5 points. Fairchild is a solid all-around player coming up with 22 aces, 102 digs and 33 total blocks.

"Jeanne will be our go-to player," said Nelson. "She improved her jump this spring and has the ability to hit over most blocks. She is one of the most athletic players I've ever coached."

Joining Fairchild at outside are sophomore Rose Morris and freshman Lisa Meeter. Morris was third on the team in kills per game with 2.59. She also brings solid all-around skills to the court with 147 digs and 41 total blocks. Morris is expected to contribute at right-side as well. Meeter was a multi-year all-state competitor for Colorado Springs Christian School, leading her team to three Class 3A state championship titles. She is expected to bring consistency as well as a solid all-around game to the table.

Freshmen Melissa `Mo' Middleton and Taylor Hadfield have been brought in to shore up the right-side, along with Morris. Middleton, a second team all-stater from Cortez High School in Glendale, Ariz., brings a good skill set, including good ball control and a wicked jump serve. Hadfield, a league MVP for Redwood High School in Larkspur, Calif., will also be relied on for blocking.

"This freshman class is exciting," said Nelson. "We are fortunate with all three of these players. They have great experience, great backgrounds, and they can all terminate."

Three returnees provide depth at the middle blocker position while a newcomer is expected to make an immediate impact.

Junior Joelle Ingram and sophomores Anna Lehne and Allie Suiter saw time for the Lobos last season. Ingram played in 100 of UNM's 101 games and brings experience and strength to team blocking. Ingram led the team with 113 total blocks on the season, placing her eighth in the Mountain West. Lehne was hampered last season with knee and ankle injuries that caused her to miss a majority of the season. However, in 39 games Lehne averaged 2.41 kills and 1.00 blocks per game. Suiter suffered a wrist injury late in the season and is hungry to get back on the court. She has the top hitting percentage, .221 over 80 games, among returning players and is one of the top returning blockers at 0.96 blocks per game.

Joining the program in 2007 is Eastern Washington University transfer Kerri Beck. Beck, a two-year starter for the Eagles, brings experience and a fast arm to the position. As a freshman, Beck ranked fifth in the Big Sky Conference with 1.14 blocks per game. As a sophomore, she finished sixth in the Big Sky with a .281 hitting percentage. Beck will have two seasons with New Mexico.

"Anna will be expected to anchor the middle blocker position," said Nelson. "She can hit the slide well and I see her as a mainstay there. Allie is cleared and ready to go. Joelle adds experience and strength at blocking. With the addition of Kerri, we have depth and experience at a position that we were unsure of in the spring."

Defensively, the Lobos are loaded at libero and defensive specialist. Junior Gayle Tripp ranked fourth in the league in digs (4.29 per game) and fifth in services aces (0.36 per game). Against MWC competition, Tripp led the league in aces at 0.43 per game. Along with Fairchild, Tripp played overseas this summer in the Sibillini Tournament in Italy and was named Libero of the Tournament. Freshman Kelsi Phillips, a second team all-stater for Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale, Ariz., will back-up Tripp and bring speed to the libero position.

Junior Tanna Taylor and sophomore Kat Crawley will provide experience and depth to the back row at defensive specialist. Taylor saw limited playing time in 2006 and is expected to step up her performance this season. Crawley has been deemed the most improved player on the squad since the new staff came on board. In addition to an improving work ethic, Crawley is expected to provide a spark with her strong serve.

"The thing we are looking for in this group is raising their level of consistency and being strong with the primary pass," said Nelson. "I could see Gayle having a season with 500-plus digs. We are deep in both roles which is an asset for the team."

The Season
The 2007 season marks the Golden Jubilee of the Johnson Center, home of Lobos volleyball. Over the past several months, renovations, from improved lighting to refinishing the court, have spruced up the keeper of UNM volleyball tradition for the big 50th celebration slated for Sept. 27-29.

"This team has a real attitude of `tell us what to do, we'll do it'," said Nelson about his team's mind-set going into the season. "We feel like they are ready to `run through the wall' to make it happen."

UNM will host two tournaments in the Johnson Center during the first three weeks of the season before beginning Mountain West competition. Florida Atlantic, Grambling and San Jose State will visit the Johnson Center on Aug. 24-25 for the MCM Elegante Lobo Classic, while Northern Colorado, Bowling Green and Gonzaga come to town Sept. 7-8 for the Comcast Lobo Invitational.

"New Mexico has a great fan base," said Nelson. "As the team gets better, I expect our crowds to get better. The home atmosphere should be one that is feared by opposing teams, because we have big crowds and a home gym that we can be successful in. UNM has won some big matches in the Johnson Center. We just want to move forward with the tradition."

UNM will be tested early as it faces 2006 NCAA Tournament participants in 11 matches. The Lobos will have a stretch of three consecutive matches against nationally-competitive programs in the second week of the season - Long Island, Iowa State and Arizona State. After back-to-back matches against Iowa State and ASU on Aug. 31, the Lobos will face Northern Arizona on Sept. 1 to wrap up the Hilton Phoenix/East Mesa Challenge.

The Lobos will start the third week of the season against in-state rival New Mexico State. With a match in Las Cruces on Sept. 4, the volleyball team can get the 2007-08 Rio Grande Rivalry presented by Route 66 Casino Hotel headed in the right direction for the Lobos athletics program. Each UNM sport competing against NMSU this season can accumulate points toward a traveling trophy held by the winning department at the end of the 2007-08 athletics season. A win by the volleyball team would earn 1.5 points towards the all-around trophy.

"We will be tested early, facing teams in 11 matches with NCAA Tournament experience," said Nelson. "We will have to be playing our best volleyball to have success."

Mountain West Conference competition begins on the road against 2006 MWC Tournament champion Colorado State on Sept. 15. CSU, along with perennial MWC powers BYU and Utah represented the league in the 2006 NCAA Tournament with BYU and Utah advancing to the second round. UNM's first home conference weekend will feature Air Force and Wyoming on Sept. 20 and 21.

The Lobos will sneak in a non-conference trip to the University of San Diego on Monday, Sept. 24, before getting after the first round of MWC competition. USD was an NCAA Regional semifinalist in 2006, losing to eventual national champion Nebraska.

UNM will begin its second go-through of the Mountain West on Oct. 18 and 19 with a return trip to Wyoming and Air Force. BYU and Utah will head to the Johnson Center on Nov. 2 and 3 during the second half of the conference season. The regular season wraps up on Saturday, Nov. 17 at the Johnson Center against Colorado State.

"I had a hard time picking a favorite to win this season," said Nelson. "There are a number of teams this year that are really good. I think BYU and CSU sit on top as the favorites, but I think UNLV will have a good year, and don't count out Utah. We are going to have to be on our game every night, no matter the opponent."

One of the Lobos' primary goals is to be ranked in the upper half of the league going into the 2007 Mountain West Conference Tournament, Nov. 21-24 in Las Vegas. The MWC coaches seemed to think the Lobos have the capability of achieving that goal. UNM was picked fifth in the 2007 MWC coaches preseason poll, the highest ranking the Lobos have received since the league formed in 1999.

LAST TIME OUT ... Aug. 18 - Alumni Match (W, 3-0)
The atmosphere was relaxed as the Lobos beat the Lobo Alumni in an exhibition match, 30-12, 30-24, 30-14. The match was a good warm-up for the present Lobos, who begin the 2007 season on Friday, Aug. 24, at 7:30 p.m. against Florida Atlantic in the MCM Elegante Lobo Classic.

Junior outside hitter Jeanne Fairchild led the way for the Lobos with 19 kills, 10 in Game One. Freshman Lisa Meeter started the match and recorded nine kills and eight digs, while sophomore Anna Lehne put down seven kills and three blocks. Redshirt freshman Jade Michaelsen recorded 37 assists as the setter for the Lobos.

"I think our team came out really well and got after it tonight," said first-year head coach Jeff Nelson. "I was excited about that. They had a lot of energy. We played low-error ball in Game One and that allowed us to get on top. I was afraid that they would be nervous but they went out there and had some fun."

Ten alumni took the court, including former Lobo All-American Karen Saavedra-Warnock (1985-88). Saavedra-Warnock, now a high school coach in Colorado Springs, dished out 14 assists for the Lobo Alumni. Jessica VanLannen (1998-2000) led the Alumni team with eight kills. Casey Kaveny (2001-03) contributed with four blocks, while Adah Burke (2002-04) had 10 digs.

"I am so excited for this team this year," said Saavedra-Warnock. "I just know they are going to catch on fire and get going. I'm very excited about the new coaching staff and I think the girls have adjusted well to it. I really think this program is going to thrive."

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