The University of New Mexico’s women’s volleyball team will begin their season in Fullerton, California this weekend at the Titan Classic, where they will face Fordham University and California State University, Fullerton on Friday, Aug. 27, and the University of California, Riverside on Saturday, Aug. 28.
All four teams participating in this year’s Titan Classic could be judged in the low-to-mid-tier skill rankings based on preseason polls and past performance. This is to be expected for a UNM team that finished 4-10 last season and is predicted to finish next to last in the Mountain West preseason coach’s poll. Fordham was picked to finish fourth in the Atlantic 10 Conference, as predicted in the conference’s head coach preseason poll, after finishing 5-5 last season.
The Atlantic 10 Conference generally ranks in the middle of the historical conference relative power index (RPI), and is typically ranked lower than the Mountain West Conference. Still, for UNM to have success, they will have to match the size of 6-foot-1-inch Whitley Moody, Fordham’s outside hitter who was last season’s Atlantic 10 rookie of the year and first team as well as an American Volleyball Coaches Association All-East Region selection.
After Fordham, UNM will face two relatively inexperienced squads with Cal State Fullerton and UC Riverside. Both schools are in the Big West Conference, which is ranked higher than the Mountain West according to historical conference RPI data; Cal State is currently predicted to finish second-to-last in the Big West Conference, according to the head coach preseason poll, which is just ahead of UC Riverside, who are predicted to finish last in the conference.
Cal State Fullerton has only one senior on its team, and both Cal State and UC Riverside did not play last season. In the 2019 season, Cal State Fullerton finished 12-15 while UC Riverside went 6-22. The Lobos shouldn’t expect an easy victory against either, however, as Cal State Fullerton will be playing at home, and UC Riverside will at least be within their own state, making both games closer to away games than neutral matches for the Lobos.
This year’s Titan Classic is far from three easy wins for the Lobos, especially after struggling last season. Three wins, three losses or anything in between should be seen as acceptable with so much uncertainty amongst the four teams — although the two extremes would indicate a vastly improved UNM team or a tougher road ahead for the Lobos respectively.
Matthew Salcido is sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @baggyeyedguy