June 14, 2012
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - University of New Mexico sixth-year head volleyball coach Jeff Nelson has announced the 2012-13 schedule which opens with four tournaments and features a total of 34 matches, half of which will be played at home.
The Lobos' regimen includes match-ups with two teams that made trips to the 2011 NCAA Tournament - Maryland-Eastern Shore and Colorado State--and 11 squads that posted winning records last season.
Nelson believes this year's schedule is a nice fit for his Lobo squad.
"I think it's a good schedule for the young team that we have," Nelson said. "It affords us to pick up some wins and also grants us opportunities for some great matches. We have some teams that are perennial NCAA Tournament teams, namely Oklahoma and Texas Tech from the Big XII. We'll also host our in-state rival, New Mexico State, which is always a good match."
New Mexico alternates the first four weekends of the season at home and on the road.
UNM opens its season at home with the three-team Lobo Classic, hosting Southern and Duquesne Aug. 24-25.
"Right from the opening weekend we're going to be tested and then kind of build into our season and get better and better with a young group," Nelson said. "I think the schedule allows us that and it's a really good schedule for where we're at right now."
The weekend of Aug. 31-Sept. 1 the Lobos travel to Savannah, Ga., for the Tiger Invitational hosted by Savannah State University. UNM will face 2011 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Champs Maryland-Eastern Shore while in Savannah. The Hawks posted a program-best 24-7 record last season, making the NCAA Championship tournament for the first time in program history.
Georgia Southern, Portland and UC Santa Barbara come to Albuquerque Sept. 7-8 for the Lobo Invitational. The Gauchos finished 19-12 and second in the Big West in 2011.
"UC Santa Barbara at home will be an exciting match--that whole tournament, with Georgia Southern and Portland, will all be good matches," Nelson said.
New Mexico's final regular-season tournament is at the University of Oklahoma. While in Norman, the Lobos play Arkansas-Little Rock, Southern Methodist and Oklahoma. The Sooners finished fifth in the Big XII last year, posting an overall record of 21-12, and an even 8-8 mark in league matches.
New Mexico begins Mountain West play at home against 2011 MW regular-season and tournament champions Colorado State. The Rams' season ended at the NCAA quarterfinals with a 3-1 loss to Hawai'i, leaving CSU with a record of 24-6 overall and 12-2 in conference play, dropping just two league matches (at TCU and Wyoming).
"The Mountain West is going to be tough again," Nelson said. "San Diego State, Colorado State and Wyoming will all be good this year, which affords us some great matches within the conference."
The Lobos host MW foe Wyoming for its second conference contest in 2012. The Cowgirls finished 21-11 overall last year and posted a program-best 9-5 finish in conference play. Wyoming also beat New Mexico three times in 2011--twice in the regular season (3-0 and 3-2)--and in UNM's opening match of the MW Championship (3-1).
The Lobos continue conference play the rest of September and on in to October with home and away matches against Fresno State, UNLV, Boise State, Air Force Academy, San Diego State and Nevada.
TCU becomes a member of the Big East Conference on July 1, but the addition of former Western Athletic Conference members Fresno State and Nevada make for nine MW volleyball schools. The Bulldogs finished 14-15 last year and 7-7 in the WAC, while the Wolf Pack posted a 5-21 overall record and 2-12 in league play.
The Lobos have an 8-7 series record against Fresno State and the two matches against Nevada will be the first time the Lobos and the Wolf Pack meet on the volleyball court.
"We welcome both Nevada and Fresno State to the Mountain West," Nelson said. "Nevada is coached by Ruth Lawanson. She's a great person and she actually used to play for me in the pro league back in the `80s, so we have a really good relationship. I'm looking forward to those matches and doing some new things this year."
New Mexico has a few non-conference contests interspersed throughout the second half of the schedule, including a home and away matchup with CSU Bakersfield--the Lobos go to Bakersfield on Sept. 26 and welcome the Roadrunners on Nov. 11.
Rio Grande Rival New Mexico State comes to Albuquerque on Oct. 23. The Lobos lost to the Aggies in 2011 in Las Cruces, 3-1. New Mexico also travels to Lubbock, Texas, to face another Big XII opponent in Texas Tech on Nov. 9.
The Lobos close the regular season with matches at Wyoming and Colorado State on Nov. 21 and 23, respectively.
A note on attendance...
University of New Mexico volleyball hopes to remain in the top 20 nationwide in attendance for the third season in a row as Lobo fans will have 17 opportunities in 2012 to watch the Lobo volleyball team compete at home.
UNM has led the Mountain West conference in volleyball attendance for the past two seasons, finishing No. 16 and No. 12 in the nation for attendance in 2010 and 2011, respectively. Last season, the Lobos drew an average of 2,184 fans per match for a grand total of 26,211. An impressive 33,181 fans entered Johnson Gym in 2010 to watch Lobo volleyball, a match average of 2,212.
The Lobos posted a 14-15 overall record in 2011, and a fifth place finish in MW play with a 6-8 mark.