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Ashley Rhoades (4) prepares to set the ball in a game against the alumni last month at Johnson Center. The Lobos host the Comcast/Sheraton Lobo Invitational this weekend.

Breaking the slow start habit

For the UNM volleyball team, the third time will hopefully be the charm.

After losses in the championship matches against Nebraska and Northern Arizona University (NAU) in each of the team’s first two tournaments, the Lobos host the Comcast/Sheraton Lobo Invitational this weekend as they try to win their first tournament of the season.

The Lobos have made a habit of starting slow. In four of their five matches this season the Lobos have lost the first game, and of those matches their overall record is 2-2.

Senior Kelly Williamson said the slow start probably cost the team in the final match last weekend.

“We should’ve won our NAU game in four,” Williamson said. “We’d probably be in a better place if we were 4-1 right now.”

Head coach Jeff Nelson said in order to succeed his team has to come out ready from the start.

“We’ve got to do a better job in game one,” Nelson said. “It puts a lot of pressure on us. We’re starting a couple freshmen, and I just don’t think that’s where we want to be.”

Senior Allison Buck, who was named defensive player of the tournament last weekend, said as one of the leaders she has to hold her teammates accountable for their play on the court.

“We have to realize when we warm up before the game, that’s our warm-up,” Buck said, “We need to really step it up.”

Williamson said the team has practiced in a fast-paced offense and has played games to seven points, instead of the usual 25, to get a sense of urgency and prepare for this weekend.

“In volleyball, you can’t wait to see how your opponent is going to show up,” Williamson said.

Portland State, UC Irvine and Montreal will show up to take on the Lobos on Friday evening.

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Portland State has started the season with a 4-4 record but has faced a couple of nationally ranked teams including No. 8 Washington and No. 16 Oregon. The Lobos are 2-2 all-time against Portland State.

UC Irvine is coached by Paula Weishoff, who as a player, won three national titles at the University of Southern California (USC) and played for the U.S. Olympic women’s volleyball team in three times. Led by sophomore Aly Squires, the Anteaters are 3-3 this season and will face the Lobos for the first time.

Montreal and UNM will play each other for the first time, and although all statistics for the game will count, including a win or loss, it won’t hurt the Lobos’ Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), which can affect a team’s entrance or seeding into the NCAA tournament.

Nelson said Montreal is one of the best teams in Canada and was ranked No. 1 at one point last season.

“It’s a match that really helps us for the rest of the season because it’s a very high level of play and a very good team,” Nelson said.

Williamson said she knows Montreal plays a different style but isn’t quite sure what to expect.

“I’ve actually never played any Canadian team before, so this is intriguing,” Williamson said. “I’m just excited coming back to Johnson Center and showing our fans that we’ve improved since they last saw us against Nebraska.”

Up Next:
vs. UC Irvine
Friday 7:30 p.m.
Johnson Center

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