Senior Ashley Rhoades has led the volleyball team in kills and matches started this season.
Rhoades, a senior middle blocker from Rio Rancho, said she is familiar with head coach Jeff Nelson’s expectations of seniors on the team.
“We have to come out and everyone has to work hard, so I know I have to carry my load and finish the season strong,” she said.
This year, Rhoades has been an important asset to the Lobo volleyball team’s success offensively and defensively.
She is one of only two players to have started all 27 matches for the Lobos and has a team high of 403 kills this season.
On Oct. 1, she scored a career-high of 31 kills and 36 points in a conference victory over Boise State. She also recorded two solo blocks and six block assists in that match.
As a junior, Rhoades led the team defensively, with 115 blocks on the season, and she has excelled in the classroom, being named to the Academic All-Mountain West Conference Team.
Rhoades, an art studio major, was a starting middle blocker for Team USA Blue in the 2011 USA Volleyball Open National Championships and was awarded a gold medal.
In high school she made a name for herself when she was named 5A Player of the Year and led Rio Rancho High School to three state championships.
“I think I’ve been very successful,” she said. “Going into my senior year, I just put everything that I learned from my freshman year to my junior year and put it all into my senior year. I expect to play hard every single game.”
On Saturday, Rhoades played her final regular-season game at Johnson Center, in which the Lobos fell to No. 23 Colorado State.
“I’m going to miss a lot of things, but I think the one thing I’m going to miss the most is my team,” she said. “I really love my team to death.”
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Rhoades’ next game will be in the MWC tournament this weekend against Wyoming. If the team loses, her career with the Lobos will be over.
Nelson said Rhoades’ performance this season has been inconsistent, but that the team relies on her to get a lot of blocks and kills.
“Ashley has put up the big numbers this season,” Nelson said.
Despite the 3-2 loss to CSU on Saturday, Rhoades said the senior game has been one of the highlights of her time playing for the Lobos.
“This game was very exciting, especially the first set,” she said. “I really appreciate the senior night that I had.”
Rhoades suffered an elbow injury during the game, but after a quick trip to the training room, she was back on the court with a standing ovation from the crowd.
She said she came back even though she was hurt because in the close game the team really needed her.
“I did it for the girls,” she said. “I knew the girls needed me, so I just did everything I needed to do to get back out on the court.”