The UNM volleyball team is finally over the tournament hump.
The Lobos won their first tournament of the season at the Comcast/Sheraton Lobo Invitational over the weekend, going 3-0 against UC Irvine, Portland State and Montreal.
In two previous tournaments the Lobos had failed to finish first, but head coach Jeff Nelson said everything came together this time around.
“I thought today, for the first time, we were able to keep our composure through three games,” Nelson told GoLobos.com. “It was really important because we hadn’t been doing that very well.”
Nelson said his team’s best performance of the season came against Portland State.
In that match, the Lobos overpowered their opponents and forced the Vikings to commit 30 errors, compared to the Lobos’ eight.
In game two, the Vikings took a 4-0 lead. From there, the Lobos went on a 19-2 run, including 15 consecutive points, to win the game and eventually sweep Portland State 25-8, 25-14 and 25-16.
The domination of play from Lobos early on allowed freshmen Elsa Krieg and Jayla Trombley, who hadn’t had much playing time, take the court late in the match.
“It was really fun to see them … come out and be able to show off their skills,” senior Kelly Williamson said.
The Lobos’ match against UC Irvine was the only one that went on for more than three games.
The Lobos went back and forth with the Anteaters. In the fifth, deciding game, Ashley Rhoades took it upon herself to lead the team to a win.
“I don’t want to lose, and I know my team doesn’t want to lose,” Rhoades said. “I felt like I had to get it done and I just turned it up and the team followed me.”
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Rhoades had the game-winning kill to finish with seven in the final game. Mariah Agre went to Rhoades throughout, which was what Nelson had instructed her to do.
“I told Mariah going into game five, ‘You set the person who is hot,’ which was Ashley.” Nelson said. “You set them until they stop her, and they didn’t stop her.”
The Lobos won the match 25-15, 22-25, 25-15, 20-25 and 15-9.
The Lobos beat Montreal Saturday in three games, 25-19, 25-22 and 25-16, to win the tournament and improve to 6-2 this season.
In all, Rhoades led the way offensively this weekend, compiling 48 kills, followed by Williamson’s 28.
Nelson said Williamson struggled in past tournaments, but this weekend she got better in each game she played.
“She’s slowly finding her way back, and when she does, I think we’ll really be dangerous,” Nelson said.
Allison Buck, Rhoades, Agre, and Chantale Riddle made the All-Tournament team, with Buck named MVP of the tournament.
“It’s nice to win a tournament,” Rhoades told GoLobos.com. “But we have to treat this as a learning experience. We have to get better and push ourselves to get better for conference and the NCAA tournament.”