New Mexico Lobos Volleyball – 2014 Lobo Classic
Friday: Lobos 3, Seattle 0 (25-18, 25-19, 25-15); Texas 3, Lobos 0 (21-25, 13-25, 17-25)
Saturday: 1 p.m., Lobos vs. UTEP; 3:30 p.m., Texas vs. Seattle.
By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- When you invite a member of college volleyball’s royalty into your gym – the No. 2 ranked Texas Longhorns -- you really can’t complain much about the 3-0 outcome.
Sure, Jeff Nelson’s Lobos wanted to beat No. 2 Texas Friday night in Johnson Center, but the point of this venture into the upper echelon of college volleyball was to learn, get better and grow into a New Mexico team that can win the Mountain West Conference.
Texas definitely helped that Lobo cause.
“All this can do is make us better,” said Nelson. “Our goal is to win the conference. This is the best we’ll see. We won’t see anything close to this the rest of the year.
“If we can get tougher and better from this, it’s worth it.”
Said Lobo Simone Henderson: “I thought we did really well. Playing Texas just makes you better for the next game.”
The Lobos played Texas tough in the first game losing 25-21, but fell into a 16-4 hole in the second game to lose 13-25 and go into intermission down 2-0. The final game was 25-17 for Texas, but the Lobos had a lot of impressive moments.
“You saw why people think they are the best team in the country,” said Nelson. “We held them to .209 hitting which is about 100 points lower than they usually do and they still beat the heck out of us.”
The Lobos have beefed up their middle game at the net and it showed. UNM had 16 block assists to 14 for Texas. The Longhorns added one solo block, so UNM won that statistical defensive battle at the net.
The Lobos’ big problem Friday night was on the attack. They hit .029 over the three games and were minus (-) .028 in the second game. The Lobos had 26 kills on 103 attack opportunities. Texas had 44 kills and 50 digs to 37 digs for UNM.
“We needed to play better backcourt defense and we didn’t attack well,” said Nelson. “I was happy with the approach in game one. In game two, we didn’t look like we belonged and then in game three we started to look like we belonged again.
“Simone Henderson had an amazing day today. She is a great addition to our team. What an awesome thing that she can come out in her first matches here and have a day like this. She was definitely a bright spot.”
Henderson, a junior transfer, was the only Lobo on the night to reach a positive number in hitting. She went 6-of-12 to finish at .500. UNM’s Chantale Riddle had six kills, but finished at minus .034 in her hitting percentage. Hannah Johnson had 22 assists and 11 digs and Ashley Kelsey added 10 digs. Riddle assisted on six blocks and Henderson assisted on four. Henderson had six block assists earlier on Friday in UNM's 3-0 win over Seattle. The Lobos play UTEP Saturday in Johnson Center.
The Lobos actually had a lot of impressive rallies and scoring opportunities, but a lot of those chances didn’t turn into points for the obvious reason: the Lobos were attacking No. 2 Texas.
The Longhorns got 12 kills from Pilar Victoria and nine kills from Haley Eckerman. Pilar added12 digs and Texas got good backcourt defense from Nicole Dalton with 12 digs and Cat McCoy with 12 digs.
Nelson’s goal in bringing in Texas was to form a talented classroom in which to push his Lobos to a higher level, but Nelson also likes to treat the fans in Johnson Center. The attendance was 3,875.
“It was crazy awesome,” Nelson said of Friday night’s environment. “It didn’t matter what the score was people were into it. There was great energy and it was as fun as it’s ever been in here. It was really fantastic.”
Said Henderson of her first Johnson Center experience: “It was amazing. It was awesome. It was a very fun game and it was a great turnout.”
First Set: (Texas 25, UNM 21): Texas dominated at the net early, jumped to a 5-0 lead, convincing Nelson to bring his Lobos to the sidelines for a huddle. It was a good timeout. UNM came back a little more poised and cut Texas’ lead to 5-3. The Longhorns went up 7-4, but UNM battled into ties at 7-7, 8-8 and 9-9. The ‘Horns drifted up 15-10 and Nelson went for another timeout. The Longhorns went up 18-10 before a Henderson smash broke Texas’ run. Still, that eight-point hole allowed Texas to cruise into the 24-21 final.
Texas had 16 kills to six for the Lobos. UNM got three kills from Riddle and Texas’ Victoria Pilar had five kills. Texas hit .158 and UNM hit .029 (9-of-35). Texas had 17 digs and UNM had ten.
Second Set: (Texas 25, UNM 13): Texas controlled the scoreboard early again jumping up 9-2 before Nelson asked for a break in the action. The pause wasn’t as helpful this time as Texas pounded to a 16-4 lead that created a second UNM timeout. UNM cut its hole to 20-10, but Texas rolled to the convincing 25-13 win.
The Longhorns’ hitting percentage improved going from .158 to .257. UNM dipped from .029 to minus .028. Texas went into the break with 30 kills to 16 for the home team. Texas had 27 assists to 14 for the Lobos. Riddle had no kills in the second set. Henderson went into the halftime break with six kills and a .600 percentage. She was the only Lobo hitting above .167.
Third Set: (Texas 25, UNM 17): The Lobos came out on the short end of this set, too, but the point of the match also came out of it – a long rally kept alive by Riddle diving into a table to keep a ball alive. UNM got the point and the Johnson Center crowd of 3,857 went wild. However, Texas got the win to close out the match 3-0. UNM got as close as 18-15. UNM is now 1-1 on the season and Texas is 2-0.