Oct. 20, 2011
New Mexico Lobos Volleyball -- On The Road
Friday: 6 p.m., Lobos at TCU -- Fort Worth
Sunday: 1 p.m., Lobos at UT-Pan American -- Edinburg, Texas
GoLobos.com: Game Story, Stats.
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
There are some things that athletes do that amaze you and you don't fool yourself into thinking you also could do them.
What Lobo Allison Buck does on the back row for the University of New Mexico Lobos' volleyball team amazes. Of course, this talented Lobo senior is not alone on the Lobo team in exhibiting the ability to stand in front of rocket spikes and turn them into Lobo opportunities.
She just happens to be the best at it.
To simplify volleyball, there are five basic areas: the serve, the dig, the set, the spike, the block. There are special skills involved in each area, but the ability to turn hammer kills into floating promises of revenge sometimes is amazing.
It is a combination of bravery, instinct and touch that, at times, can astound you. The scenario goes like this:
A monster terminator on the other team is hovering high above the net and pounds the ball on a downward angle like a fastball coming off a mound.
The average human would see this missile coming, yell, "Incoming!" and look for a foxhole to dive into because, really, there is no time to react.
Somehow, these back-row heroes react and often the reaction is a wild, one-handed stab that somehow puffs the screaming rocket into a pillow of hope for your team. One of UNM's best weapons -- and advantage -- over other teams comes from the Lobos' back row, from their defenders, from their "diggers."
Buck doesn't simply thwart a kill from the other team by simply keeping the volleyball off the floor. She often turns it into a gentle and perfect pass to Lobo setter Mariah Agre, who turns it into an assist for one of UNM's terminators. Agre gets the assist, but often half of that assist should go to Buck and the other Lobo diggers.
Buck started playing volleyball shortly after she learned to walk. OK, that's an exaggeration, but not by much. Her father, Ted, was an educator and a volleyball coach and Allison was drawn to the volleyball nets by natural progression.
Her dad was there and so were her two older sisters, Annie and Jessie.
"I was kind of a gym-rat type," said Buck. "I liked softball and basketball, too, but I was just around volleyball so much because of my family. I grew up with it and my older sisters played and pretty soon, it was my main sport. But it also was my best sport."
For sure, athletes often are drawn to the game that gives them the most return. Buck was outstanding in volleyball in the state of Washington. She was a two-time all-state player and the MVP of the Columbia Region as a junior out of Camas High. She was the MVP of the Greater St. Helen league as a senior and the colleges came calling -- most of them thinking about changing the 5-foot-7 outside hitter into a libero.
A libero is that player on the court, who wears a different colored jersey because that player plays by certain restrictions and different substitution rules.
Basically, the libero is a team's defensive ace. She is in the special jersey because she is the best at turning opposing spikes into windows of opportunity.
Buck has 363 digs going into UNM's game at TCU on Friday in Fort Worth. Mariah Agre has 204 followed by Miquella Lovatoat 178. Buck is No. 2 in the Mountain West in total digs and digs-per-game behind Sarah Joeckel of TCU.
Currently, Buck is No. 3 all-time in UNM history in digs with 1,432, trailing only Sharon Browning (1,504) and Gayle Tripp (1,578). She led UNM in digs in 2010 with 424. She also was on the 2010, 2009 and 2008 All-MWC Academic team.
Buck actually got to play outside hitter for UNM in the Lobos' game against Air Force. She recorded seven kills on 15 chances and logged a respectable .267 hitting percentage.
"It was so much fun," said Buck of her one-game shot at terminating. "It reminded me of high school, but I was playing against bigger girls than what I was used to. And Air Force isn't as huge as most teams. I'm kind of short to be a hitter in college."
Buck's move from Washington to New Mexico came off an assist from Ty Singleton, UNM's former softball coach, who had ties in Washington. Singleton put in a good word about Buck and Lobo Coach Jeff Nelson liked what he saw. Buck came for a visit.
"I was looking at other schools in Washington, but something about New Mexico just stuck in my head," said Buck. "It's been a totally different experience living in New Mexico. It's has a different culture and I come from a rainy state and I wanted to see the sun more, too."
As a senior, Buck's responsibilities go beyond digging out the other teams' dynamite. The Lobos are riding a three-game losing skid toward a TCU team that whacked the Lobos 3-1 in Johnson Center.
The Lobos need to find momentum for the upcoming Mountain West Tournament in Johnson Center, Nov. 18-20. That tourney is eight regular-season games away.
"My goal is to play my best every single game and do what I can to get the team going again," said Buck. "We are a bunch of nice girls, but we have to find that person in us that has more fight and more of a sense of urgency.
"I think once we get that from every single person on the team, we'll be very, very good."