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Aug 20, 2013

Mountain West Preseason Volleyball Release

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Stevens: New Mexico Lobos Volleyball 2013 Season Preview

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Redshirt junior Chantale Riddle and senior Miquella Lovato have been tabbed by the 11 Mountain West volleyball coaches as two of the top returning players in the conference for the upcoming season as both made the 2013 All-MW Preseason Team as announced by the league office on Tuesday.

The Lobos were picked by MW coaches to finish fifth among the 11 league teams.

Last season's MW co-champions took the top two spots in the preseason poll with San Diego State picked as the overall favorite and Colorado State slated to finish second.

UNLV and Utah State are predicted to finish third and fourth, respectively. Spots No. 6-11 are predicted as follows: Fresno State, Boise State, Wyoming, San Jose State, Air Force and Nevada.

Head coach Jeff Nelson felt good about the Lobos' middle-of-the-pack spot, especially considering the how the second half of the conference season went for UNM in 2012.

"We got some respect in this poll -- we were just four votes away from being third and we finished seventh last year and had a lot of injuries and a lot of kids that have had to rehab to come back," Nelson said. "I think teams gave us a lot of credit and a lot of respect."

Five points separated spots No. 3 to No. 6, which Nelson says is a testament to the level of play that can be expected in conference.

"The conference is deep and really balanced," Nelson said. "I thought San Diego State would get the nod and they did. I just don't think there's an easy night [match] anymore. We're going to have to teach our kids, particularly the freshmen who haven't been through it yet, how tough it is and how tough it's going to be this year."

New Mexico boasts seven returning letterwinners and welcomes six freshmen, including two high school All-Americans in Julia Warren and Devanne Sours. Head coach Jeff Nelson has dubbed this year's freshmen class as one of the best in program history.

The Lobos and the Aztecs were the only two teams to have more than one student-athlete named to the preseason All-MW team, each having two. San Diego State senior Johnna Fouch, a two-time All-MW honoree, earned Preseason Setter and Player of the Year honors while Aztec senior and outside hitter Raegan Shelton also made the list.

Colorado State's Deedra Foss (Jr., S), Fresno State's Korrin Wild (Sr., OH) and UNLV's Madeline Westman (Sr., MB) round out the preseason team.

Six of the seven members are returning 2012 All-MW team members, including both Riddle and Lovato who led the conference in their respective specialties last season.

"They're both very deserving," he said. "Offensively, Chantale is the premiere returning hitter in the conference and Miquella returns after leading the conference in digs last year. I think it's pretty cool we've got the top offensive player returning and the top defender. I think it's exciting and I think most coaches would be happy building off that."

A native of Roswell, N.M., Riddle earned All-District first team and All-America honorable mention for her record-breaking sophomore season in which she led the Mountain West in overall matches in kills and points recording 515 (4.19/set) and 599.0 (4.87/set), respectively, and was No. 8 in blocks with a season total of 131 (1.07/set). She also led the league in conference play in kills (260 tot., 4.13/set) and points (305.5 tot., 4.85/set) and was No. 10 in blocks (67 tot., 1.06/set).

The right-side hitter also broke and/or worked her way into the top-10 in New Mexico and Mountain West history in a number of categories with her efforts last season, most notably for her 515 kills (set the MW sophomore record and ranks second in UNM history) and her 599.0 points (set UNM record).

Riddle finished 2012 with 299 digs, 32 set assists, 17 solo blocks, 114 block assists and 10 ace serves and was flawless on serve receive.

Lovato transitioned from a defensive specialist to full-time Libero for the Lobos last season and led the league in digs-per-set in conference matches, averaging 4.71 over 51 sets played. The Pojoaque, N.M., native finished the regular season tied for second in digs among all MW players in overall matches, averaging 4.39/set.

Despite missing five matches and part of another, Lovato recorded 465 digs in 2012, enough to rank her No. 3 in UNM program history for single-season digs. She added 67 set assists and six ace serves.

"Miquella is looking as good as she's ever looked out on the court," Nelson said. "She's healthy and revitalized and is helping people in the back row and telling them where they need to be. She's talking a lot more and taking on a new role for us."

With almost two weeks of practice in the books, Nelson feels like his team is coming along nicely.

"There aren't as many unknowns [in regards to personnel], except for the freshmen, but they've been playing pretty awesome and I think two or three of them will be in the starting group this weekend against the alumnus."

The annual match between former and current Lobos begins at 6 p.m. MT on Saturday, Aug. 24 and will be held in Johnson Gym. Admission is free.

2013 Mountain West Conference Preseason Poll

TeamNo. (1st place votes)Points2012 Overall RecordMW Record2012 Final RPI
San Diego State*+ 1 (9) 99 23-8 13-3 43
Colorado State*+ 2 (2) 90 21-8 13-3 35
UNLV 3 70 18-11 10-6 86
Utah State 4 68 21-9 Western Athletic, 15-3 99
New Mexico 5 66 20-13 7-9 115
Fresno State 6 65 18-13 9-7 90
Boise State 7 51 17-15 8-8 141
Wyoming 8 37 21-11 8-8 92
San José State 9 27 14-16 Western Athletic, 9-9 184
Air Force 10 17 9-21 3-13 181
Nevada 11 15 4-25 1-15 240

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

2013 Preseason All-Mountain West Volleyball Team

Deedra Foss Jr. S Colorado State
Korrin Wild Sr. OH Fresno State
Chantale Riddle Jr. RS New Mexico
Raegan Shelton Sr. OH San Diego State
Madeline Westman Sr. MB UNLV
Setter: Johnna Fouch Sr. S San Diego State
Libero: Miquella Lovato Sr.. L New Mexico

Preseason Player of the Year: Johnna Fouch, San Diego State

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