‘Dirt Devils’ keep ball alive: Mavs’ back-row players proud of floor burns
Floor burns are part of the job description when you play in the back row on a volleyball team.
Those scrapes, strawberries and bruises are worn as a badge of honor.
“We get that a lot, ‘Why would you want to dive on that and not fall in the snow?’ ‘’ Mesa State libero Whitney Howard said.
“We don’t even think about it. You think about the ball and that’s all that matters to us, getting that ball up.”
Meredith Dolny, a libero/outside hitter/defensive specialist, said it’s just part of the game.
“In football you learn to take a hit,” she said. “We learn how to dive.”
Dolny, Howard and freshman Megan Rush have been dubbed the “Dirt Devils.”
“We clean everything else up,” Dolny said. “(It’s satisfying) when somebody else gets the kill and we get the dig. Our teammates always turn and point to us when they get the kills.”
One of three generally is responsible for receiving the serve and getting the Mavericks into their offense.
And when the other team is on the attack, they’re on their toes — or diving off their feet — to keep the ball alive.
RMAC teams are hitting .150 against the Mavericks — hitting percentages take the number of kills, subtract the number of hitting errors and dividing that number by the number of total attacks. Mesa is hitting .202 in conference matches.
“We start every play, serve-receive or a dig,” said Howard, a 5-foot-7 junior from Bayfield.
Howard has a team-high 191 digs, Dolny 135 and Rush 64. They’ve combined for 29 of Mesa’s 63 service aces and a whopping two (both by Howard) of the Mavs’ 690 kills.
Rush, a 5-6 freshman from Chandler, Ariz., has jumped right into the fray, playing in 42 of the Mavs’ 54 games.
“I’m way more nervous in these games,” she said. “The competition is a lot better.
“The girls on the court always help when I get in. Having either one of them (Dolny or Howard) in the back row always helps passing-wise. T (setter Tara King) always calms me down at the beginning if I’m nervous.”
Mesa State’s depth and versatility has helped the Mavericks rattle off seven straight victories, including sweeping through the first half of the West Division schedule.
The Mavericks (8-7, 6-0 RMAC) have their second homestand of the season this week, playing Colorado School of Mines (11-5, 3-3) at 7 tonight and CU-Colorado Springs (8-6, 3-3) at 7 p.m. on Friday.
With all the all the attention on the front-row players, it’s the back row that often makes the difference in a match. Keeping that blue-and-white striped orb off the floor is the trio’s only concern.
King’s ability to get in position to receive their passes and set the hitters has the back-row players willing to sell out.
Bruises? Floor burns? They’ll heal — just send the ball in King’s direction.
“That really helps going after some balls you don’t think you’re going to get,” said Dolny, a 5-9 senior from Moscow, Idaho. “With T, it’s worth getting a hand on it, because she’ll be right next to you, she’ll be on the ground next to you.
“She makes it worth the floor burns.”