May 7, 2013
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- For the first time in program history two Lobo volleyball players will represent the University of New Mexico as members of the U.S. Women's National Senior A2 Program.
Redshirt junior-to-be Chantale Riddle and redshirt sophomore-to-be Hannah Johnson are among the 48 players selected to participate in the 2013 program scheduled to take place in Dallas from June 25 to July 4 in conjunction with the USA Volleyball Girls' Junior National Championships.
The U.S. Women's National Volleyball Senior A2 program is available to athletes with collegiate eligibility remaining for the 2013 season and serves as a feeder program for the National Team, meaning Riddle and Johnson will be training and competing with some of the most talented collegiate players in the nation.
This is the second-consecutive year that Riddle, a native of Roswell, N.M., has made the National A2 roster. She is one of five athletes to repeat as a selectee. Last year Riddle was added to the roster a few weeks before the program after initially having been told she was an alternate.
Riddle says it was very validating to receive word that she had secured a spot on the roster and that she will carry last year's experience into the USA Volleyball program this summer.
"This time, getting the email [that said I'd made it] felt a lot better and it's a big accomplishment," Riddle said. "I was younger last year and not as competitive. I have a lot more experience now and I feel like I can play a lot better this year."
Johnson, a native of Longview, Wash., is a first-time participant.
"I got an email that said, 'Congratulations, you've made the A2 team,' and I was honestly in shock," Johnson said. "I went to tryouts back in February to get more experience and play with the best hitters. Just knowing that I made it was a big shock, and a big confidence boost."
Johnson says she's hoping the experience will help her become a more consistent player and prepare her to run UNM's offense next season.
"It's great for both of our student-athletes," head coach Jeff Nelson said. "This is a great summer experience and gets them in the USA Volleyball pipeline. It's the first time we've had two athletes make it, and for Chantale, it's the first time we've had a kid make it two years in a row.
"I'm excited for both of them and excited for what they will bring back to our program."
The A2 program coaching staff will include Andy Banachowski, Mike Hebert, Ruth Nelson and Bill Neville who will serve as team head coaches. Assistant coaches with the A2 program are Ashley Allen, Terry Condon, Linda Hampton and Marci Sanders. Technical coordinators/assistant coaches for the A2 program are Kevin Hitt, Nicki Holmes, Eugene Tichenor and Jay Van Vark.
During the six-day training period from June 25-30, the 48 athletes will be divided into four equal teams that will compete in pool play against the other A2 program teams and the top four Premier Volleyball League (PVL) teams. After pool play, the four A2 program teams and PVL teams will split into their own divisions to determine the medalist teams in the competition.
Riddle and Johnson, along with sophomore-to-be Skye Gullatt, traveled to Colorado Springs, Colo., Feb. 22-24 and were among the roughly 240 athletes who participated in open tryouts for the U.S. Women's National Team, U.S. Women's National A2 Program and the U.S. Women's Junior National Team at the Sports Center II at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. The two Lobos were informed mid-March that they had been selected to the A2 program.
Both Lobos were significant contributors for UNM last fall.
Riddle had a record-breaking sophomore season en route to being named AVCA All-America honorable mention, the youngest Lobo in program history to earn national honors. Other accolades for Riddle included being named to: COBRA Magazine's All-National second team, AVCA First Team All-West Region and Mountain West Volleyball All-Conference first team.
The 6-foot, right-side hitter was the Lobos' go-to player and led the team on offense in nearly every match this season. Riddle played all six rotations and set Lobo Volleyball program record for single-season points with 599.0 points. She also sits atop the single-season record for total attempts in both Mountain West and Lobo volleyball history and claims the MW sophomore record in that category -- Riddle took 1,351 swings last fall.
Her 114 block assists and her 131 total blocks rank her No. 4 and 5, respectively, in UNM single-season history. The standout finished with 299 digs, 32 set assists, 17 solo blocks and 10 ace serves and was flawless on serve receive in her 27 attempts.
She finished the season ranked in the top five in the region for points/set and kills/set, and was ranked 29th in the nation for points and 41st for kills.
Johnson, a 5-11 setter, played in all 127 sets last fall, splitting setting duties with Jordan Russell.
Riddle and Johnson are the only two student-athletes on the A2 roster hailing from a Mountain West institution. To see the roster and read USA Volleyball's official release, click here.