Johnson fills in nicely to lift Mavs past Black Hills State
Kelley Johnson didn’t want to see Antoinette McCormick using crutches Saturday, but she made the most of her chance to start for the Colorado Mesa University volleyball team.
McCormick, the Mavericks’ all-conference senior middle blocker, tweaked her right knee Friday night in Alamosa and was kept out of the nonconference match against Black Hills State for precautionary reasons.
Coach Dave Fleming expects her to be ready to play this evening against Fort Lewis, but Johnson proved an able replacement.
“All of Kelley’s stats aren’t in the stat sheet. She had a lot of reactionary plays, second-contact digs, that third-contact over, just smart volleyball, and was always looking to make a play,” Fleming said.
“That’s what we need from everybody. I think she created a little spark, ‘Hey, Johnson’s up there doing this, I can do this.’ That kind of got the snowball going.”
The 6-foot-2 redshirt freshman had 10 kills and only two errors in the Mavericks’ 24-26, 25-22, 25-21, 25-17 win over the Yellow Jackets (4-8), who will replace Nebraska-Kearney in the RMAC next year. It snapped a five-match losing streak and gave the Mavericks (4-9) a much-needed boost of confidence.
“Today we had that energy, that fire in our bellies. We all had the same goal,” Johnson said. “We wanted to win and every single one of us went up and ripped the ball, every single one of us, and that made a big difference.”
After splitting the first two games, the Mavericks overcame a 12-8 deficit, pulling even at 18-18 when Rebecca Sellers’ attack landed just inside the back line. A hitting error, followed by back-to-back kills from Johnson and Kelly Regimbal, gave the Mavs a 21-18 lead.
Sellers made it 22-19 when her attack from the middle went down the line and she then served an ace. Errors by Black Hills State gave Mesa the final two points and a 2-1 match lead.
Sellers had seven of her 12 kills in the third game. Regimbal had 17 kills from all over the front line.
In the final game, the Mavericks’ reaction time was put to the test, and they came through with several instinct plays.
A long pass over the net was slammed back by Johnson for a 16-14 lead and Sellers followed with her third ace of the match.
Regimbal hit through the Jackets’ block for two straight points, and after the ball seemed to have a mind of its own after bouncing off the net on Black Hills State attacks, the Mavericks managed to keep it alive and win the point.
On one, both libero Megan Rush and setter Jordyn Moody made quick adjustments to keep the ball in the air and allow Johnson to record a kill for a 20-14 lead. The freshman followed suit on the next point, sticking out a fist at the net to keep the ball alive long enough for Black Hills to commit a hitting error.
“It wasn’t a sense of urgency, it was more a sense of aggression,” Johnson said. “No matter what you did, no matter how light the ball was coming over, how slow it was coming over, we were going to kill it back in your face.”
Another kill by Regimbal, a perfectly placed middle attack to the back line by Rachael Beaty (eight kills) and a kill by Haleigh Higgins gave the Mavs match point at 24-17.
A long dig off Tiffany Petersen’s serve floated over the net and Moody tipped it back for the win.
The Mavericks could feel their confidence start to grow as the match progressed, and hope it’s the start of something big.
“We understood we had to come together as a team,” Johnson said, “and if we wanted to turn the season around, today was the day to do it.”