Mesa State breezes into RMAC semis

Dave Fleming never expected Friday’s first-round match in the RMAC volleyball tournament to last only a little more than an hour, and he sure didn’t expect the final score.

“Had you told me five hours ago that it would be 16-19-12, I’d have said you were crazy,” the Mesa State College volleyball coach said after the Mavericks dispatched second-seeded Western New Mexico 25-16, 25-19, 25-12 to advance to today’s semifinals against Colorado School of Mines in what was a day full of upsets in Kearney, Neb.

All four lower-seeded teams won in the first round, including No. 8 Adams State stunning top-seeded Nebraska-Kearney 3-2 in the final match of the day.

The Lopers entered the tournament ranked No. 5 nationally and No. 3 in the Central Region. The RMAC tournament champion receives an automatic bid to the regional tournament.

That spot is now up for grabs. Kearney will likely receive an at-large bid to the eight-team regional.

Fleming saw something in his team Friday afternoon.

“I could tell they had more energy than they did in Silver City,” he said of the Mavs’ four-game loss to
Western New Mexico in the final game of the regular season one week ago. “We left early from Grand Junction just so we wouldn’t get caught in that bus hangover and I could tell they had more energy.

“I figured Western New Mexico would have that same energy because they came in early for that same reason.”

The Mavericks (15-12) used that energy from the get-go. The first game was tied 8-8, but the Mavs went on a 12-5 run to take control, with Alisan Tompkins serving a pair of aces and Mesa State controlling the net.

Western New Mexico (20-8), which won the RMAC West Division to earn the No. 2 seed, couldn’t solve the Mavs’ blocking scheme, and never really threatened. The closest the Mustangs got was down two, 19-17 in Game 2, when Fleming called time.

“We were making plays and our pin hitters were really good tonight,” Fleming said. “Ali, Meagan (Bosch) and Corinne were on fire. Lindsey (Jefferson) and Jessica (Bird) didn’t get a lot of kills, but they did great things on defense, getting a lot of touches on blocks.

“During the timeout we talked about let’s get back to where we were. We were focused on telling them we were OK.”

The Mavs were more than OK. They closed out the second game by winning six of the next eight points, and the third game was never in doubt.

After a kill by Tompkins got the Mavs the serve after the first point, Ashley Loftsgard went to the service line. She didn’t come off the line until the Mavs led 12-0, when her 12th serve sailed just long.

“We’re still kind of mad at her for missing that serve,” Fleming joked. “It wasn’t just Ashley’s serving. We were making good plays on the back side. We had 26 attempts in that game. We won those 12 points by digging the ball and getting the kill.”

Tompkins finished with 16 kills and Cascioppo 12.

Loftsgard had 11 digs and setter Tara King had 33 assists, 12 more than Western New Mexico’s total, and four blocks. Mesa State had 10 total blocks, 2 solo and 16 assisted, forcing Western New Mexico into negative hitting stats.

The Mustangs had 23 kills and 24 errors for a -.010 hitting average. The Mavs hit .500 in the third game and hit .312 for the match, with 43 kills and only 13 errors in 96 swings.

Mesa State, the No. 7 seed in the tournament, plays the No. 6 seed, Mines, which upset No. 3 Metro
State in five games, at 4 p.m. today. The winner advances to the RMAC championship game and a possible spot in the Central Region tournament.

Mesa State lost a five-game match at Mines earlier this season after being five points away from sweeping the Orediggers.

“We let them know we dominated for 2.8 games and then it fell apart,” he said. “If anything, it’s a good reminder to keep closing the door and playing with a sense of purpose. You can never cruise home.”

Regis, the tournament’s fifth seed, advanced to today’s semifinals by sweeping fourth-seeded Fort Lewis.

The Rangers, No. 10 in the region, play Adams State in today’s semifinals.


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