The UNM volleyball team hosts a wealth of national talent this weekend in the MCM Elegante Lobo Classic.
The Lobos will play University of South Florida on Friday and Nebraska on Saturday at Johnson Center.
The Lobos have been practicing since the spring, and Kelly Williamson said the players are finally ready to take the court.
“I’m excited,” Williamson said. “We’re definitely looking forward to it.”
USF is coming off a 10-16 record last season, and Nebraska is coming off a 29-3 season. Nebraska, currently ranked 5th in the nation, made it to the third round of the NCAA tournament before they fell to Washington.
The Lobos are coming off a 20-10 season with a 12-4 conference record and are picked to finish second in the conference behind Colorado State.
The game against USF will be the first of the season for both teams with neither team having an experience advantage as both are led by three seniors.
Nebraska’s first game of the season will be against NMSU on Friday in the early game before UNM plays University of South Florida (USF).
The Lobos beat USF on their home floor last year in front of a sold-out crowd, and head coach Jeff Nelson says the match-up against them will be intense.
“We’re expecting them to go after us here,” Nelson said.
Nelson started his coaching career at Nebraska, and he said he knows firsthand how big the volleyball tradition is there.
“They’re big, they’re strong, they’re physical, but it’s the kind of match we want early in the season,” Nelson said.
Nelson believes that playing against a powerhouse like Nebraska at the beginning of the season will help them make a run at the postseason. He also said it will be a good experience for the six freshmen on the team.
Elsa Krieg is one of those freshmen.
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“I’m nervous but it’s like an excited nervous,” Krieg said. “It’s going to be great experience for us. We’ll get to play a really high level of volleyball and pick up our level of play.”
Nelson says that high ranking teams like Nebraska are going to start to want to schedule UNM early in the season to get used to playing in a loud, hostile environment.
“We’re starting to get a pretty good reputation for having big crowds and big fans,” he said. “They wanted a match like that before they moved into the new Big 10.”
The Lobos have never beaten a top ten team before. Despite that fact, the team is not intimidated by having No. 5 Nebraska come to their home court. As a matter of fact, they are pretty excited about it.
“Having Nebraska in our gym is going to be very exciting and fun,” senior Ashley Rhoades said. “It’s always exciting have top ten teams here in Johnson.”