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Volleyball Opens Mountain West Conference Play This Friday At Air Force
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  09/23/2003
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Sept. 23, 2003

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THIS WEEK IN LOBO VOLLEYBALL:

TEAMS: New Mexico (3-10) at Air Force (9-4)

WHERE: East Gym (1,000) - USFA, Colo.

WHEN: Friday, Sept. 26, 7 p.m.

LOBOS OPEN CONFERENCE PLAY THIS WEEKEND - The New Mexico volleyball team (3-10) will open Mountain West Conference action this Friday, Sept. 26 at Air Force (9-4). The Lobos swept the Falcons last season for two of their three conference wins in 2002. Air Force is a much improved team in 2003, however, as the Falcons have already surpassed their win total from last season (8-22, 0-14 MWC). UNM posted a 3-11 mark last fall in MWC play to finish seventh.

ARCHRIVAL NEW MEXICO STATE TAKES ROUND ONE - In the first of two matchups this season, New Mexico State swept the Lobos (30-27, 30-27, 30-21) Monday, Sept. 22 at Johnson Arena. UNM hit for a season-high .346 attack percentage, but the Aggies pounded 60 kills and hit .397 in the win. The two rivals will meet again Tuesday, Oct. 21 in Las Cruces.

UNM MAKES STRIDES IN SECOND HOME TOURNAMENT - Although UNM came away winless from last weekend's Albuquerque Marriott Lobo Volleyball Tournament, New Mexico stayed competitive in every match against three quality volleyball teams: Ohio (9-3, receiving votes in USA Today/AVCA Top 25 Coaches Poll); Kentucky (8-4); and Sacramento State (7-6, 2002 NCAA Tournament participant). Kelly Therkelsen and Monica Meihack earned All-Tournament honors for UNM.

"I felt like we broke new ground last weekend," said UNM head coach Kelley Sliva McKee. "We played significantly better - the best volleyball of the year - against three top-notch opponents."

LINEUP SHUFFLE - Head coach Kelley Sliva McKee mixed up her starting lineup at the Washington State Cougar Invitational (Sept. 12-13) and has been pleased with the progress of her team ever since the change.

Sliva McKee installed junior Monica Meihack at libero to stabilize the Lobo defense and passing game. Meihack is UNM's top passer and was rewarded for her efforts when she named the top libero at the Albuquerque Marriott Lobo Tournament. Meihack was last year's setter and recorded 1,249 assists in 2002, the second most in a Lobo season. UNM's digs per game have risen from 7.86 to 12.42 since Meihack has started at libero.

Freshman Lindsay Smith, a talented recruit who has the ability to set up a very up-tempo offense, is now the starting setter. Smith has stepped up to the challenge, collecting over 30 assists on five occasions, including a career-high 49 vs. Ohio.

AMAZIN' ANNA - Senior Anna Reines leads the team in kills (3.54 pg, ninth in the MWC) and points (184.5) through the first 13 matches. Reines is a dominant outside hitter who polished her game in the offseason by participating on the USA Select Team at the Spring Cup in Brno, Czech Republic. Reines earned all-tournament honors at the Fresno State Invitational and the Comcast Lobo Invitational. She pounded a season-high 23 kills vs. Saint Louis Sept. 13 and hit .364 (10K-2E-22A) vs. New Mexico State Sept. 22.

The Big Lake, Minn., native transferred from the University of Minnesota after one season and has been a presence on the court ever since for the Lobos. Reines led the team in attack percentage (.257) and kills (3.86 pg) last season. For her efforts, Reines became the first Lobo since 1998 to earn first-team all-conference honors.

ACES WILD - New Mexico is tied for first in the conference in service aces with Air Force (2.02 pg). UNM posted a season-high 13 aces vs. Alcorn State Sept. 6. The Lobos currently have 91 aces for the season; the school record stands at 292 (1981).

YOUNG GUNS - This year's Lobo squad features nine freshmen to go along with one senior (Anna Reines), two juniors (Monica Meihack, Adah Burke) and one sophomore (Chelsea Sondrup). Reines, Meihack and Sondrup all started last season for UNM. Seven of the nine freshmen have seen action thus far in the season.

HEAD COACH Kelley Sliva McKee - Kelley Sliva McKee begins her second season at the helm of the Lobo volleyball program. Sliva McKee came to UNM after spending nine years at Northern Arizona University. Her career record stands at 156-135 after guiding the 2002 Lobos to a 10-21 record. While at NAU, Sliva McKee took the Lumberjacks to their first NCAA Tournament appearance (1999) and earned two Big Sky titles (1999 tournament and 2000 regular season). She was named the 1999 Big Sky Coach of the Year.

TOURNAMENT RECAPS:

FRESNO STATE INVITATIONAL RECAP (Aug. 29-30) - A young UNM team faced a tough challenge in its first weekend of the season at the competitive Fresno State Invitational. The Lobos opened against host FSU in a hostile environment, falling in three games in the first match. Fresno State, who won the tournament championship, participated in the 2002 NCAA Tournament.

After the late match on Friday, the Lobos had to play in the early match Saturday against Cal Poly, another team that played in last year's NCAA Tournament. UNM came out on fire, hitting .375 in the first game, but still fell to the Mustangs 30-21. Cal Poly edged UNM 31-29 in game two before claiming game three to sweep the match.

The Lobos captured their first game of the season in the opening frame vs. Idaho State, 30-26. UNM couldn't maintain the advantage, however, and lost the next three games to the Bengals. Anna Reines pounded 17 kills for the match to go along with eight digs and two service aces. Reines earned all-tournament honors.

SHOWING SIGNS OF IMPROVEMENT (Sept. 5-6) - The young Lobos showed their potential in just the second weekend of the season by winning all three matches in their own Comcast Lobo Invitatational Sept. 5-6 at Johnson Arena, claiming the tournament title for the second straight year.

The Lobos swept Delaware (32-30, 30-23, 30-19) for the championship in the tournament finale. With both teams entering the match at 2-0, UNM dominated the Blue Hens, showing no doubts who the best team was in the invitational. The Lobos produced a season-high 12.5 team blocks against UD, shutting down its offense the entire match. Freshman Jennifer Heasty led the way, stuffing the Blue Hens for eight block assists.

UNM outlasted Youngstown State in the tournament opener, beating the Penguins in five games. After leading two games to none, the Lobos lost games three and four before taking the fifth and decisive game, 15-13. UNM easily defeated Alcorn State in four games in the second match of the tournament.

The Lobos placed four players on the Comcast Lobo Invitational All-Tournament Team, including Chelsea Sondrup, who was named the Tournament MVP. Anna Reines, Jennifer Heasty and libero Adah Burke joined Sondrup in earning tournament honors.

LOBOS FACE STIFF COMPETITION AT COUGAR MANIA INVITATIONAL (Sept. 12-13) - New Mexico came away winless against three top-notch opponents at the Washington State Cougar Mania Invitational (Sept. 12-13).

On Sept. 12, UNM gave No. 22 Loyola Marymount all it could handle in the first game, but the Lobos fell just short 31-29. The Lions regrouped to take game two 30-20 and game three 30-24 for the sweep.

The weekend didn't get any easier as the Lobos had to take on host Washington State - an Elite Eight team in 2002 - on its home court Sept. 13. The Cougars came away with the victory in three games (30-25, 30-21, 30-22). In the tournament finale, the Lobos won their first game of the weekend against Saint Louis, but it wasn't enough as the Billikens prevailed in four games (27-30, 21-30, 30-24, 28-30).

SCOUTING REPORT: AIR FORCE FALCONS (9-4)

Air Force enters conference play with a 9-4 record. The Falcons posted a six-match winning streak from Sept. 5-19 and are a perfect 3-0 on their home court this season. AFA lost two of three matches last weekend at the Portland State Invitational, defeating Eastern Illinois while falling to San Francisco and Portland State.

Air Force is second in the MWC in assists (14.27 pg) and tied for second with a .251 attack percentage. Delavane Diaz tops the conference in kills (5.00 pg) and points (5.56 pg) and Kristin Huitt is tied for the league lead in assists (12.96 pg).

HEAD COACH - Penny Lucas-White (13th year)

SERIES HISTORY - UNM leads 10-1. The Lobos have won eight consecutive matches over the Falcons, with their only loss coming Oct. 15,1999 at Air Force.

2003 Team Season Highs

Kills - 62 vs. Youngstown State (9/5) Attempts - 157 vs. Youngstown State (9/5); vs. Saint Louis (9/13) Hitting % - .346 (45K-8E-107A) vs. New Mexico State (9/22) Assists - 55 vs. Ohio (9/20) Service Aces - 13 vs. Alcorn State (9/6) Digs - 56 vs. Sacramento State (9/20) Block Solo - 3 vs. Cal Poly (8/30) Block Assists - 25 vs. Delaware (9/6) Total Blocks - 12.5, vs. Delaware (9/6)

2003 Individual Season Highs

Kills - 23, Anna Reines vs. Saint Louis (9/13) Attempts - 50, Anna Reines vs. Saint Louis (9/13) Hitting % - .455 (12K-2E-22A), Chelsea Sondrup vs. New Mexico State (9/22) Assists - 49, Lindsay Smith vs. Ohio (9/20) Service Aces - 4 (Four times) Digs - 19, Monica Meihack vs. Sacramento State (9/20) Block Solo - 1, Several times Block Assists - 8, Jennifer Heasty vs. Delaware (9/6) Total Blocks - 8, Jennifer Heasty vs. Delaware (9/6) Points - 23.5, Anna Reines vs. Saint Louis (9/13)

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