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Young squad must step it up

The UNM volleyball team has 11 games left in its regular season, and there’s still one starting position to fill.

This season, the Lobos have been shuffling through players trying to find the perfect complement to middle blocker Ashley Rhoades in the attack.

“We’re really struggling in the outside hitting position in terms of people stepping up and being consistent,” head coach Jeff Nelson said. “We’re still kind of playing musical chairs.”

The lack of hitting from other Lobos has made it easier for opposing teams as they double and triple block Rhoades, but Nelson said Rhoades will continue to produce.

“Ashley’s talented enough,” Nelson said. “We’re still going to expect a lot out of her, but if we can get someone else to step up, then the focus changes and she’s going to have more openings.”

With all the attention and focus dedicated to her, Rhoades is the key to helping her teammates succeed, Mariah Agre, sophomore, said.

“It gives our other hitters opportunities for more one-on-one’s,” she said.

Of the eight Lobos who have at least 20 kills, the outside hitters have the lowest hitting percentage.

Kelly Williamson, Ashley Newman and Jayla Trombley are three outside hitters that have seen action this season.

Williamson has the highest of the three with 0.138. Newman has hit for a 0.073 percentage and Trombley for -0.010.

The numbers are cause for concern, but Nelson said he knows what they will work on it.

“In practice we’re really putting a lot of emphasis on the other positions and trying to get better numbers out of those,” Nelson said.

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With only three seniors on the team, the younger players have seen lots of playing time Nelson said.

“In some instances they’ve done a real good job,” Nelson said. “It just hasn’t been consistent.”

Eight underclassmen have taken the court this season for the Lobos.

Agre said the young team is getting better as time goes on.
“We’ve had our ups and downs,” she said. “(We are) still working through things. I think at this point we’ve learned that we need to work through things faster.”

The Mountain West Conference tournament is fast approaching, and the newcomers will be just as instrumental as the three seniors in determining how far the Lobos make it in the postseason, Nelson said.

“We need all of them to play at a little higher level more consistently,” Nelson said.

The Lobos play their fifth conference game of the season against San Diego State on Sunday.

Nelson said the Aztecs are led by middle blocker Andrea Hannasch, and his squad will need to pass and serve the ball well to get the win.

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