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ALBUQUERQUE — Fifteen University of New Mexico volleyball student-athletes reported earlier this month for team meetings before holding the first practice of the 2013 season in the Johnson Center on main campus.
The Lobos, who will have two practice sessions almost every day for the next couple of weeks, reported from as close as a few miles from campus to as far away as Norway and Australia.
Seventh-year head coach Jeff Nelson said the first session was spent getting as many touches on the ball as possible.
“It was exciting to see. It was good at times and it was frightening at times because we have six freshmen, but overall, there were a lot of really good things,” Nelson said. “We saw a lot of good things from each of our newcomers this morning and Devanne Sours, Julia Warren, Danielle Ortiz, Lise Rugland, Cassie House and Maddie Mayfield all had their first practice as a Lobo.”
Ortiz, a former All-State libero for Los Alamos, earned a walk-on spot with the Lobos this spring.
“It was exhilarating,” House said of officially donning Cherry and Silver.
Warren, who knew she wanted to be a Lobo all through high school, echoed House.
“I can’t even believe I’m here already and I’m very excited to see where I can help this team,” Warren said.
Seven letterwinners, including six starters, from last year’s squad will help guide the incoming class. A pair of redshirts — Elsa Krieg (torn ACL) and Sara Stelzer (concussion) — are also healthy and ready to contribute. Redshirt freshman Ashley Kelsey will miss her second season due to another torn ACL suffered during spring training.
Senior Miquella Lovato felt the level of competitiveness go up a few notches with the blend of returners and newcomers. The three-year starter and 2012 Mountain West Designated Libero of the Year says the team will use the weeks leading up to the first match of the season to focus on getting familiar with each other.
“Every one of us was the best player on our high school team so now we need to focus on putting our talents together and learn how to play as a complete team,” Lovato said.
New Mexico opens against Missouri-Kansas City Aug. 30 at the University of Arkansas Invitational in Fayetteville. The Lobos face the Razorbacks at 6 p.m., that evening and play Northwestern State Aug. 31 to round out opening weekend.
The Lobos’ home opening weekend, Sept. 6-7, will draw UC Riverside, Towson and Idaho State for the Sheraton Airport Lobo Classic.