Sept. 22, 2010
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
When Lobo volleyball coach Jeff Nelson talks about his Lobos being in "a pretty good place," he doesn't necessarily mean the scenic city of San Diego. But, if you can't be in Johnson Center, that might be a good as place as any to start the Mountain West Conference wars.
The Aztecs are good, not great, and carry a 5-7 record at the 8-5 Lobos. The MWC opens Thursday with Lobos vs. Aztecs and Wyoming at Utah.
"Conference is always how you judge yourself year to year," said Nelson. "We expect to do well in the conference and we expect to make the postseason.
"But this year the conference might be looking at two or three (NCAA) bids instead of four, so it's important to stay at the top of the conference."
Colorado State was the preseason pick to win the MWC and Nelson says nothing has changed there.
"They are the favorites. They are the frontrunners," he said of the No. 18 ranked Rams. "But there is a pack of strong teams behind them. The conference is very solid, very deep. I think the top six, seven teams can all beat each other. We need to be consistent and steady."
The Lobos also are a capable bunch and have sharpened their teeth and their game on some of top teams in the West, including No. 1 Stanford and No. 5 Hawaii.
"We played this schedule to make our program and our team better and hopefully we'll see the fruit of that," said Nelson.
The surprise team in the MWC is Wyoming, which carries a 14-1 mark into Salt Lake City to battle the 5-7 Utes. The Cowgirls haven't exactly played a challenging schedule, but if they can win at Utah, the rest of the league might sit up and take notice.
Wyoming -- 14-1
Colo St -- 9-2
TCU -- 9-5
LOBOS -- 8-5
SDSU -- 5-7
Utah -- 5-7
BYU -- 3-9
UNLV -- 3-9
Air Force -- 2-9
The Lobos go at the Aztecs behind this week's MWC Player of The Week, UNM senior Lisa Meeter. The 5-foot-10 hitter was a savage at the nets last week and is closing in on 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs as a Lobo. Her overall game is one reason the Lobos carry a four-match win streak into San Diego.
"I've been pleased with our consistency the last four or five matches," said Nelson. "I've also been pleased with our ability to come back. We have three times lost a first game and came back to win the matches.
"We are such a good passing team. Allison (Buck) and Lisa and Miquella (Lovato) are so consistent. We are moving the ball around fast, playing as a team and keeping the other teams off balance. It's what we do best."
The formula in volleyball for winning a MWC title is exactly the same as it is in MWC basketball: protect the home court, get a split or better on the road. To win on the enemy's court, it usually takes a team playing with confidence and orneriness. The Lobos have both.
They are coming off a tournament win at the Hilton Inn Invitational in South Fla. "We looked at it as a tournament in which we could win, if we played well," said Nelson. "We are playing with confidence right now, going into conference and that's important.
"Our motto the last couple of weeks has been `Fight." We want to fight a little harder, play with a little more drive and emotion. I think the first couple of weeks it was like we were all waiting for something."
On the Lobos: New Mexico received votes in the 2010 AVCA Preseason Poll (40th) and the Aug. 30 poll (27th) ... UNM will face 10 teams receiving votes in the preseason poll this season ... The Lobos were picked fourth in the 2010 Mountain West Conference Preseason Poll, eight points out of second ... Senior setter Jade Michaelsen was named to the All-MWC Preseason Team ... Michaelsen and senior outside hitter Lisa Meeter are the team captains for 2010.
On the Aztecs: The Aztecs started the season 5-1 before losing their next six, including top 25 matches against Hawaii, San Diego and Minnesota. Kyley Sexton leads the team with 3.40 kills per set. Johnna Fouch leads the league with 10.95 assists per set, while Kristi Jackels leds SDSU in digs with 3.66 per set. Andrea Hannasch leads the front row defense with 1.24 blocks per set.