Oct. 23, 2010
Albuquerque, N.M. --- After an opening set in which the only thing that went right was Jade Michaelsen breaking the UNM career assist mark, the Lobos regrouped, and hustled and scrapped their way to a 13-25, 25-18, 25-23, 25-23 win over the Utah Utes, putting the Lobos into a tie for second place halfway through conference play. The win was marked by terrific defense, as Mariah Agre and Allison Buck both set career-highs in digs, and Lisa Meeter added a season-high in digs as well.
In all the Lobos picked up 95 digs, a high total for a four-set match. Michaelsen and Meeter both had double-doubles in the win as well. The day started out about Michaelsen, who entered the match needing three assists to better Allison Torres' 3,794 assists. Michaelsen, who wore a pink jersey along with her teammate as part of the teams' Think Pink promotion, picked up the record on an Ashley Rhoades kill to make it 9-7 Utah, but that was all New Mexico mustered in an opening set that was strangley reminiscent of New Mexico's opening set against BYU two nights earlier.
Fortunately for New Mexico and head coach Jeff Nelson, the rest of the night went the same way as the Lobos swept the next three sets for the match. On Saturday however, it was defense that set the tone and was the story. The Utes, who entered alone in second place, unleashed 185 attacks on the day, and New Mexico racked up 95 digs and 9.0 blocks. The defensive efforts were led by Mariah Agre and Allison Buck, who were wizards all day long. Agre, who had a career-high 15 digs on Thursday, had 21 on Saturday, and that wasn't even the best mark for the Lobos.
Buck, a libero, was sensational, diving all over the back line in mustering a career-best 24 digs. Lisa Meeter had 15 kills and 18 digs as UNM nearly had three 20-dig players in the match.
UNM evened the match up in set two by hitting .455, winning that set easily 25-18. From there it was nip and tuck. In the third, UNM went up 24-18 after a Rachel Barber kill, but with Stephanie Neely serving, Utah reeled off four straight points to make it 24-23 before Rhoades and Kelly Williamson blocked a Morgan Odale attack for the set.
In the fourth set it looked all Utah, as the Utes led 21-16 before UNM went on a monster 10-2 run to close the match. It started innocently enough with a Utah service error. After a prolonged rally highlighted by two diving digs by Buck and Agre, Michaelsen dumped one over to make it 21-17. A Utah attack error was followed by Utah's last timeout, and that meant there was no way to stop New Mexico's momentum after that. Utah had a second straight error followed by a Williamson kill to make it 21-20 Utah.
Rhoades was blocked by Danielle Killpack to make it 22-20 Utah, but the Lobos went right back into scoring mode. Williamson, who would finish the day with 14 kills, made it 22-21 with a kill before a Michaelsen ace tied the match at 22-all. A Utah error was followed by a kill by Williamson to make it 24-22. Utah fought off one match point before Williamson punctuated with win with her 14th kill of the day.
Neither team hit particularly well, with Utah outhitting the Lobos .168 to .144, but UNM had 95 digs to 74 for the Utes. Utah was plagued with 10 service errors. Along with Williamson's 14 kills, Meeter had 15 to go with her 18 digs as she was an emotional spark plug during the day. Ashley Rhoades also had 12 kills.
Lost in the day was Michaelsen, who set the record for career assists in front of solid contingent of friends and family. Michaelsen ended the day with 46 assists and 11 digs for a double-double as well. Michaelsen now has eight matches plus the postseason to distance herself in the record books from Torres, who fell to second.
The Lobos travel to UNLV next Thursday and then at Air Force on Saturday.
NOTES: Michaelsen now has 3,838 career assists ... each team had a side out percentage of 61% ... the team raised $4,700 for the UNM Children's Hospital for cancer research. The team raffled off an iPod Touch, an iPad and had a silent auction with a variety of gift packs ... New Mexico is now tied with Utah for second place at 5-3 ... New Mexico is a perfect 6-0 in four-set matches.