‘Dirt Devils’ keep ball alive: Mavs’ back-row players proud of floor burns

Photo by Dean Humphrey—Megan Rush, Whitney Howard and Meredith Dolny, the back row—- Sent as Mesa vb back row 9-30-9



Men’s Soccer

The Mavericks (1-7-1, 1-3-0 RMAC), who have already lost three players to season-ending injuries, will be without Ryan McClanahan against the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs at 4 p.m. on Friday. The sophomore midfielder received a red card in Mesa’s loss to Regis on Sunday and has to sit out one game.

He can play against CSU-Pueblo at 3 p.m. on Sunday at Walker Field.

UCCS (3-4-1, 1-2-1 RMAC) defeated CSU-Pueblo 4-3 last week before losing 3-0 to Colorado School of Mines. Pueblo (5-4-0, 1-3-0 RMAC) rebounded from its loss with a 5-1 victory over Colorado Christian.

Women’s Soccer

Mesa has hit a snag in offensive production, being shut out in three of its past four outings and has only scored three goals in the past five games.

The Mavericks (6-4-0, 3-3-0 RMAC) host a New Mexico Highlands team (2-8-0, 2-4-0 RMAC) that has allowed 14 goals in RMAC games at 7 p.m. on Friday. Regis (6-2-2, 3-1-2 RMAC) visits Mesa at noon Sunday. The Rangers have scored 21 goals in six RMAC games, but are 1-1-1 in their past three games.

Mesa will be halfway through the 16-game RMAC schedule by the end of the weekend. The Mavericks are currently in fifth place in the RMAC. Six teams qualify for the RMAC tournament.

Cross Country

Fresh off their victory in the Western Slope Open, the Mavericks will see how they measure up against Division I competition Saturday morning in the University of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain Shootout in Boulder.

The Mavericks, who moved up one spot to 15th in the national rankings, have been fighting sickness, including sophomore Alexis Skarda, who won the Western Slope Open last week.

Eleventh-ranked Western State, Colorado Christian, Metro State and Regis are also entered.

Men’s Tennis

Seniors Jordan Chomko and Nick Provenza will attempt to win a second Intercollegiate Tennis Association Central Region doubles title this weekend in Kearney, Neb.

The ITA Central Regional begins Friday and continues through Sunday. The singles and doubles champions advance to the ITA Small College National Championship Oct. 15-18 in Mobile, Ala.

Mesa State plays Nebraska-Kearney in a nonconference dual at 12:30 today.

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.”


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