The 2011 season can’t come soon enough for UNM women’s volleyball. The Lobos beat the alumni team 3-1 (25-16, 25-17, 25-15, 22-25) in the Alumni exhibition game Saturday night at Johnson Center.
“I can’t tell you how much we were looking forward to playing someone beside ourselves,” said senior Kelly Williamson. “Having somebody else there to look at and be like, ‘Ugh, I want to rip you to pieces!’ is really fun.”
The Lobos came out firing behind Williamson and Ashley Rhoades’ powerful kills, and won the first three games with ease.
They and the alumni played a fourth game as per an agreement they made beforehand. This year’s alumni team had a handful of recent graduates, including Amy Wong, who was instrumental in the program’s previous wins.
“It was great to be back in Johnson Center,” Wong said. “It was fun having no pressure on our game. We lost, but we still had fun doing it.”
Given their past success, the Lobos will be under even more pressure this year to outdo themselves, and Wong said she was impressed with what she saw on the court.
“They ran a really fast offense and low-air; and for being their first match, it was phenomenal,” she said. “There’s no limit to what they’ll be able to achieve this year.”
Williamson led the Lobos with 12 kills. Rhoades, who followed with nine, finished with a .412 hitting percentage. Allison Buck led the team with 15 digs.
The three seniors led the way, fulfilling head coach Jeff Nelson’s expectations.
“I thought we moved well, we hustled, I thought we had a real good energy for an exhibition match,” said Nelson. “I thought it was a great start.”
The game was an opportunity for seven freshman to sport their UNM jerseys for the first time.
Cara Fisher finished the match with 12 digs; Chantale Riddle had seven kills and led the team with three blocks while Elsa Krieg made four kills of her own.
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“I felt the freshmen did really well,” Rhoades said “So coming in and actually seeing them play, it was exciting to see all their hard work come out on the court.”
The regular season opens next weekend at the MCM Elegante Lobo Classic. The team plays University of South Florida and powerhouse Nebraska.
Rhoades said this year’s team has high aspirations to win the Mountain West Conference championship and make noise in the NCAA tournament.
“Going into next week we have a lot of work to do, but so far so good,” she said.