Two experienced setters give Mesa volleyball team ability to adapt on court
Options are a good thing.
They’re especially good after a season in which there weren’t many options. Case in point: Colorado Mesa University’s volleyball team.
Just about every time Dave Fleming looked around last fall, a player he really could have used was injured. His starting setter was lost for the season midway through the first weekend with a torn Achilles tendon.
Midway through the season, the freshman who was thrust into the starting setter’s role swung into the gym on crutches, then slipped them behind the bench, limped onto the court — and played.
“There will be no crutches this year, I promise,” said Jordyn Moody, who used crutches during the day to keep some weight off an injured knee, the result of a burst bursa sac. “I will not crutch to the court ever again. I’d never been hurt before, so apparently they all wanted to happen at the same time and get them all over with.”
Moody is healthy again and understands the rigors of college volleyball.
Krista Ubersox, who returned after four years to complete her eligibility last year, played only a couple of matches last fall before the Achilles injury. She, too, is healthy, giving the Mavericks two experienced setters.
That gives coach Dave Fleming his first option: which offense to run?
He could run a 6-2, which has his starting setter rotating out when she gets to the right side of the front row for a right-side attacker, with a setter subbing into the back row. Or he could stick with his preferred offense of one setter playing all six rotations, as long as it’s a good blocking matchup in the front row.
The two setters, though, have different styles. Moody sets a lower ball with more tempo, creating a faster offense. Ubersox sets higher, especially to the outside.
Either style, senior right-side hitter Kelly Regimbal said, is fine with her.
“Most of the hitters get practice with both setters,” she said. “We’re used to both of them. I like higher sets, so I don’t have a problem with either one of them. Each of them connects with different hitters; it goes both ways. It might depend on what hitters are on the floor.”
Fleming said the Mavericks will likely begin in a 5-1, but could switch to a 6-2 on the fly.
“(Audrey) Steinkirchner is an awful big block, and if we run into a really good left-side that’s matched up with our starting setter, throwing her in there and putting the setter in the back row isn’t a bad idea,” he said.
Steinkirchner, a 6-foot-2 freshman from Palisade, is adapting to the speed of college volleyball and using every inch of her jumping reach of 9 feet, 9 inches, but Fleming said she’ll be an impact player for the Mavericks with her ability to play all through the rotation.
Senior libero Megan Rush said although the majority of names are the same on the roster, the players have changed from last year’s 11-17 team.
“I think we changed a lot of our attitudes in the spring. (Last season) sucked, but at that point, you have to learn from it,” she said. “I think we all changed a lot in the spring ... People that came in this year are going to have a huge impact on that turnaround. It’s very, very competitive this year.”
Moody said the Mavericks have and haven’t forgotten last season.
“We’re forgetting about it in the sense that we’re not dwelling on it, but we’re not going to forget how it felt,” she said. “I don’t see that happening again.”
Things are so competitive on the floor that early this week, Fleming still wasn’t sure of his starting rotation for today, when the season opens at the Oredigger Classic in Golden.
Regimbal and Rush have their spots locked down.
Casey Ball, a 5-11 sophomore transfer from Missouri Southern, will be one outside hitter. Haleigh Higgins, a junior out of Central High School, and freshman Christian Otzen are other options on the outside, as is 6-1 junior Rebecca Sellers, who has been slowed by a thumb injury.
Defensively, Fleming has the option of sending in Sunni Rae Baird and Tiffany Petersen to serve and keep balls in play.
“I think that’s one area we’ve improved a lot on since last fall, team defense,” Fleming said. “From blocking to floor defense, we’re quite a bit better than we were at this time last year. That’s going to create more opportunities for our hitters.”
One aspect isn’t an option: Fleming’s team will attack from the middle out.
The only player to graduate last year was all-conference middle Antoinette McCormick.
Abby Ney, a 5-10 freshman middle from Rocky Mountain High School in Fort Collins, Rachael Beaty, a 6-1 senior, and Melissa Hess, a 6-2 sophomore, are in the mix.
“We haven’t filled (McCormick’s) shoes yet, but we feel pretty good about the middle. We always want to establish the middle,” Fleming said, using a football analogy. “You establish the run, and it’ll open up the passing game.”