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UNM’s Ashley Rhoades attempts to spike the ball Saturday at Johnson Gym against Nebraska. The number five ranked Cornhuskers swept the Lobos, 3-0.

Cornhuskers shuck front-court defense

It was a tale of two games for the UNM volleyball team.
The Lobos beat the University of South Florida in three of four games, 27-29, 25-19, 25-19, 25-21 on Friday night in the MCM Elegante Lobo Classic at Johnson Center.

The next night, Nebraska, the fifth-ranked team in the nation, beat the Lobos in three games, 25-16, 25-17, 25-17.

The Cornhuskers’ size and strength overpowered the Lobos’ front-court, with 46 kills and 10.5 team blocks, compared to 24 kills and two blocks for the Lobos.

“If we played our best, I don’t think we would’ve won,” head coach Jeff Nelson said. “But I do think we could’ve done some things better.”

The Lobos armed themselves against Nebraska’s power by setting up their defense deeper than usual, and it allowed the Cornhuskers to find gaps for easy points.

Nelson said he knows how good Nebraska is, and that the Lobos didn’t do well to help their chances against the powerhouse.
“I was really disappointed in Kelly Williamson,” Nelson said. “We told her all night she had to play high, and she wanted to play their game and hit the ball straight down.”

Nelson said he was displeased the team didn’t stick to the game plan.

“Ashley [Rhoades] and Kelly are really experienced,” Nelson said. “But they got in their own heads tonight.”

Williamson had a hard time getting balls past Nebraska’s 6-foot-5 Morgan Broekhuis and 6-foot-4 Brooke Delano, recording just six kills out of 33 total attacks.

“I need to perform better, and I know that,” Williamson said. “That’s going to be my goal for next weekend.”

Rhoades finished the match with a team high: nine kills out of 28 total attacks.

“Our hitting was not up to par,” Rhoades said. “Our defense was awesome, it’s just our hitters weren’t putting it away.”
Nelson said he, too, felt the back-court was the one area where the Lobos performed well.

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“The passing and the defense was outstanding,” Nelson said. “Miquella [Lovato], Allison [Buck] and Cara [Fisher] all came up with some amazing digs.”

In game one, when Nebraska was leading 17-10, Lovato made three consecutive fully-extended diving digs that ended with a point for the Lobos. The crowd of 4,112 went into a frenzy, but the Cornhuskers were too much.

Buck led the team with 12 digs; Lovato finished with five.
The Lobos are 1-1 after their first tournament, and Mariah Agre said this weekend was a good learning experience.

“It gave us a really good insight as to what we need to do for the rest of the season — what our weaknesses are, what our strengths are,” she said.

Buck and Rhoades were named to the All-Tournament team for their play over the weekend. Nebraska’s Broekhuis was named Most Valuable Player.

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