Lobo Volleyball Releases Fall 2013 Schedule

June 10, 2013

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- University of New Mexico volleyball seventh-year head coach Jeff Nelson has announced the 2013-14 schedule, a slate featuring four NCAA Tournament participants and 11 teams with 20-plus wins in 2012.

While composing this fall's agenda, Nelson wanted to do two things: challenge his Lobos -- a healthy mix of returners and newcomers -- and help them build confidence in preparation for Mountain West play.

"With six starters returning and a really strong recruiting class, I think this schedule bodes well," Nelson said. "There are some tough teams early so we'll be tested and there are some opportunities to get some wins.

"I like that two of our first three weekends are at home. I think that will give us a chance to settle in and play. We play well in Johnson Center, have incredible fan support and the kids like playing here."

The Lobos open with three consecutive tournaments, the first at the University of Arkansas the last weekend in August, and the other two -- the Sheraton Airport Lobo Classic and the Sheraton Airport/Comcast Lobo Invitational, happening Sept. 6-7 and Sept. 13-14, respectively -- at home in the Johnson Center.

All three tournaments will have three teams in addition to UNM and follow a round robin format.

A tentative schedule for the Arkansas Invitational has New Mexico playing UMKC in its first match of the season in Fayetteville, Ark., on Friday, Aug. 30. The Lobos also face Arkansas later that night before closing out the tournament with a match against Northwestern State on Aug. 31.

The Sheraton Airport Lobo Classic draws UC Riverside, Idaho State and Georgia Tech, while the Sheraton Airport/Comcast Lobo Invitational features Towson, Abilene Christian and Northern Arizona.

Other non-conference contests include single matches at New Mexico State and at Texas Tech on Sept. 23 and Oct. 23, respectively.

"We'll be facing some really strong teams early in tournaments, specifically Arkansas, Idaho State, Georgia Tech, Towson and Northern Arizona who all had great seasons last year," Nelson said.

Arkansas was an NCAA Tournament team in 2012 and posted an overall record of 22-10 while going 13-7 in Southeastern Conference play. The Razorbacks' final RPI (Ratings Percentage Index), a ranking system based on wins, losses and strength of schedule, last season was 32, the highest final RPI of any team on the Lobos schedule this season.

"Our match with Arkansas is definitely going to be one of the premiere contests of the season," Nelson said. "Meredith Hays, who was a standout at New Mexico State, transferred to Arkansas and will be a familiar face to us. Arkansas was already good and Hays is a great player, so it will be a good challenge for us."

Idaho State, Northern Arizona and Towson each had 20-plus win seasons and did well in their respective conferences.

The Bengals went 23-8 overall and 16-4 in Big Sky Conference play last season. Idaho State lost to Northern Colorado, 3-2, in the Big Sky Tournament Championship, just missing out on an NCAA Tournament berth.

The Lumberjacks finished their season 24-7 and 15-5 in Big Sky play and were knocked out of the conference tournament by Idaho State in the semifinals.

Towson posted a 25-4 overall record while going 12-0 in the Colonial Athletic Association in regular-season play. The Tigers were robbed of an NCAA spot as Hofstra upset them in the semifinals of the CAA Tournament.

Mountain West play will again be ripe with competition for the Lobos who open on the road at Air Force on Sept. 19 before hosting Wyoming and Colorado State for its MW home-opening weekend Sept. 26 and Sept. 28, respectively. In between the Air Force trip and conference home-opener is the Rio Grande Rivalry match held at NMSU.

League play continues with a pair of road games the first weekend in October at Utah State and Boise State with San Diego State and UNLV coming to Albuquerque the following week. The Lobos then head to California to face Fresno State and San Jose State, followed by a trip to Texas Tech for a one-match break from league play on Oct. 23.

UNM hosts Nevada the last weekend in October to cap the first round of MW matches and opens the second round with a two-game road trip at UNLV and San Diego State. The Lobos play nine league matches in November, capping the regular season at home against San Jose State on Nov. 27.

Nelson is expecting all the MW matches to be competitive.

"Our rivalry with Colorado State is always premiere -- at home and away -- and draws big crowds," he said. "San Diego State, UNLV, Fresno State, Boise State and Utah State will all be pretty solid. Wyoming is a bit of an unknown with a new coach as a coaching change can sometimes yield extreme results, but I am certain there are going to be some great matches in conference play."

Colorado State and San Diego State were Mountain West regular-season co-champions last year with the Rams earning the league's automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament and the Aztecs getting an at-large bid to the Dance.

The Lobos finished seventh with a 7-9 mark in MW matches last season. UNM had key wins against Colorado State and Wyoming at home the first weekend of league play.

The addition of Utah State and San Jose State moves the team total to 11, something Nelson feels strengthens the conference but also presents some challenges in schedule composition.

"It's going to be interesting this year and next with 11 teams in the conference and figuring out how to best construct your schedule because we lost a weekend of play that we had against outside opponents," Nelson said. "What would've been a weekend to go out and play matches that were good for our RPI or good to help younger players gain confidence is lost -- now we jump right into conference.

"I think the change will make the Mountain West stronger, but it's something we'll have to adjust to...having that fourth weekend in previous seasons was nice."

Utah State finished 21-19 overall and was 15-3 in the Western Athletic Conference, which earned them the distinction of regular-season champs. The Aggies were upset by NMSU in the conference tournament title match and missed a trip to the NCAA Tournament.

San Jose State went 14-16 last season and was an even 9-9 in the WAC.

"I think the Mountain West is really establishing itself as one of the top conferences outside of BCS, not just in volleyball, but in all sports," Nelson said of the changes. "It's really a strong conference and a league that can have a lot of success across the board."

**Please note: Schedule changes happen. Please visit the schedule page on the Lobo volleyball page at GoLobos.com for the most up-to-date version of the 2013 UNM volleyball schedule.

Quick Info on 2013 Non-Conference Opponents:

Team 2012 Record Conference, Record 2012 Final RPI
UMKC 17-13 Summit League, 9-7 142
Arkansas* 22-10 Southeastern, 13-7 32
Northwestern State 20-13 Southland, 12-6 127
UC Riverside 8-24 Big West, 2-16 261
Idaho State 23-8 Big Sky, 16-4 87
Georgia Tech 19-12 Atlantic Coast, 10-10 87
Northern Arizona 24-7 Big Sky, 15-5 83
Abilene Christian 12-19 Lone Star, 8-12 N/A
Towson 25-4 Colonial Athletic Association, 12-0 75
New Mexico State* 22-11 Western Athletic, 12-6 85
Texas Tech 14-18 Big 12, 2-13 96

Quick Info on 2013 Mountain West Conference Opponents (in order of 2012 final standings):

Team 2012 Overall Record MW Record 2012 Final RPI
San Diego State*+ 23-8 13-3 43
Colorado State*+ 21-8 13-3 35
UNLV 18-11 10-6 86
Fresno State 18-13 9-7 90
Wyoming 21-11 8-8 92
Boise State 17-15 8-8 141
New Mexico 20-13 7-9 115
Air Force 9-21 3-13 181
Nevada 4-25 1-15 240
Utah State 21-9 Western Athletic, 15-3 99
San Jose State 14-16 Western Athletic, 9-9 184

* indicates 2012 NCAA Tournament Participant
+ indicates 2012 Mountain West Co-Champions
Italics indicates new to MW in 2013