Rhoades is Golden

Courtesy of UNM Sports Information Department

Rhoades Golden in U.S. Open Volleyball Championships

Rhoades’ Team USA Blue squad wins 26-24 in Golden Set playoff for title

Dallas, Texas – When Ashley Rhoades gets ready for fall camp in about eight weeks, she will have some pretty cool bling around her neck.  Rhoades, who was one of 36 collegians selected to the 2011 U.S. Women’s National A2 Program roster, helped her team to the gold medal with a 26-24 win in a Golden Set tiebreaker.

Rhoades was a starting middle blocker for Team USA Blue, who went 8-1 in the four-day event, held in Dallas, Texas.  USA Volleyball considers the event as the National Championship for the sport of volleyball in the United States.

The championship was decided with a Golden Set, basically a one-set winner take all.  Rhoades’ squad forced that Golden Set with a 19-25, 25-23, 25-18, 25-23 win over Team USA Red in the semifinals.  That win avenged Team USA Blue’s only tournament loss.

In the Golden Set, Team USA Blue was down 24-22, and fought off two championship points, reeling off four straight points to win the gold medal 26-24.

Rhoades was coached at the tournament by Fran Flory from LSU.  Rhoades’ teammate Tara Murrey from the University of California was named tournament MVP.  Rhoades was originally selected back on March 21 after tryouts in Colorado Springs at the Olympic Training Center in late February. The rosters were stocked with players with remaining collegiate eligibility, and Rhoades was the only Mountain West player selected, and one of three players to come from non-BSC conferences. A record 204 athletes participated in the three-day tryouts, representing 81 different college programs

The four-day event was held at the Dallas Convention Center, and the teams trained for a week in Dallas prior to the event, staying in the dorms at the University of Texas-Dallas.

“It was an amazing experience to get to play with and against all of these great players from around the country,” said Rhoades.  “I had great teammates and coaches.  It was really fun and exciting to win it.”

Rhoades, who has helped lead the Lobos to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances, will benefit greatly from the experience, said Lobo head coach Jeff Nelson, who will enter his fifth season in 2011.

“Our entire program is so proud and happy for Ashley,” he said, adding, “She has no doubt gained a ton of confidence playing at a high-level and with tons of pressure.  Congratulations to Ashley and her team.”

Ashley Rhoades (red headband) claps as one of her teammates receives her gold medal and award (photo Bill Kaufman/USA Volleyball)