Journal runs story on Lobo newcomers

Courtesy of the Albuquerque Journal

Freshmen Will Give Lobos Depth: Volleyball Newcomers Have Solid Credentials


July 20–The University of New Mexico’s 2010 freshman volleyball class faces long odds.

Despite impressive resumes that include a slew of prep championships and individual awards, the Lobos’ five incoming freshmen might be hard pressed to earn significant court time this fall.

“Yeah, when you’ve got six starters returning from an NCAA (Tournament) team, there’s only so much time available,” UNM coach Jeff Nelson said. “But these (freshmen) are used to success. I think all five can push for playing time in different situations.”

If nothing else, the five newcomers offer depth at every position. Having seen the freshmen compete in camp and open-gym settings, senior All-Mountain West Conference setter Jade Michaelsen believes they can provide more than that.

“These girls are good,” Michaelsen said. “They’ll challenge us at practice and make us better. Personally, I like the idea that someone will be pushing for my job. I can’t afford to back off.”

The 2010 Lobos will be tested by a loaded schedule featuring the likes of Stanford, Hawaii, USC, Michigan State and UC Santa Barbara. If the freshmen do earn playing time, it’s likely to come in pressure situations.

“We know we’re facing a really big challenge,” freshman Lexi Ross said. “The goal for me is to accept the challenge, really improve and help this team do well.”

Here’s a quick introduction to UNM’s 2010 freshman class:

LEXI ROSS (6-foot-1 middle blocker/outside hitter) What she’s done: Ross, from Lakeridge High in Lake Oswego, Ore., excelled in several prep sports, earning 11 career varsity letters. She was a state javelin champ as a junior, helped her volleyball team to the second round of Class 6A playoffs in 2009 and was a first-team All-State middle blocker. She may compete in track at UNM.

Why she’s here: Ross opted to make an unofficial visit to UNM after Lobo assistant coach Lisa Beauchene approached her after a club tournament. “I fell in love with the weather, the people and the team,” Ross said. “People back home were split. Some said, ‘Really, you’re going to New Mexico?’ But the ones who’d been here said, ‘Sweet, you’re going to New Mexico!'”

ASHLEY NEWMAN (6-0 outside hitter) What she’s done: Newman, an Albuquerque native played volleyball at St. Pius and helped the Sartans to a Class 4A runner-up finishes each of the last two seasons. She played club volleyball for the Tribe and New Mexico Juniors, long anticipating a college career in another state.

Why she’s here: After visiting other schools including Rhode Island and Tulane, Newman made a last-minute decision to take a look at UNM. “I thought, ‘OK, so I’m here and this team is better than any other team I’ve visited,” Newman said. “Do I really want to leave?” Regardless how much court time she sees this season, Newman plans to be a positive influence. “I want to encourage the girls like they’ve encouraged me.”

JULIANE HANNA (5-10 outside hitter) What she’s done: Hanna’s prep volleyball career in Virginia was stellar. Her Louden County team reached four state championship matches and won the last three. She was her state’s Gatorade Player of the Year after racking up 76 aces, 312 kills and 204 digs as a senior.

Why she’s here: “Because there were no horror stories about this team beating up freshmen,” Hanna said with a laugh. “Actually, I liked the dry heat, loved the food — especially green chile — and the team was real nice.” A strong hitter with good leaping ability, Hanna hopes to make a splash at UNM. “I know the team’s doing good as it is, but I want to contribute,” she said.

MARIAH AGRE (5-11 setter) What she’s done: Amassed 965 assists for San Diego’s Elsinore High, which won the California Interscholastic Federation’s southern section title last season. She was a second-team All-CIF setter as a senior. Agre also competed for a strong Temecula Vipers club team.

Why she’s here: Agre said playing for Nelson, a former setter with an aggressive style, felt like a good fit. “When I came on a visit I loved it here,” she said. “I loved the heat, I made friends quickly, there was nothing I wanted to change.” Agre later discovered family ties to UNM. Her grandfather was a professor and her aunt attended the school. In addition to pushing Michaelsen at setter, Agre hopes to earn playing time with a strong serve and back-row defense.

MIQUELLA LOVATO (5-1 libero/defensive specialist) What she’s done: Helped Pojoaque High capture last season’s Class 3A volleyball championship and finish undefeated against New Mexico schools. The ultra-quick libero was a five-year starter and was named All-State in volleyball and softball as a senior. Lovato also was a standout shortstop.

Why she’s here: A fan of Lobo volleyball, Lovato often came to watch home matches and was impressed by the program’s recent improvement. “That made a big impact on my decision to play here,” she said. “I wanted to be part of this.” Pojoaque’s proximity didn’t hurt either. “Albuquerque’s far enough from home but still close enough to my family and friends,” she said. Lovato’s defensive skills could earn her backrow rotations sooner rather than later.

NOTES: Two of last season’s UNM freshmen will not be back in uniform this fall.

Melissa Rohr, a Cibola graduate who was honored as the team’s top freshman in 2009, left the program for personal and family reasons, Nelson said. She’s still attending UNM but has decided not to play volleyball.

Jackie Rodriguez, a Rio Rancho High grad, will remain with the program in a student-assistant role.


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