In the middle
Hess helps Mesa volleyball team win home opener
Colorado Mesa University wasn’t going to let its first volleyball match on the newly renovated floor in Brownson Arena slip away.
The Mavericks defeated Fort Lewis 18-25, 25-18, 25-13, 25-17 in front of 786 fans in their home opener Tuesday night.
“We’ve been so far away for so long,” Mesa’s Melissa Hess said. “This first home game, especially getting a win, is such a confidence booster and energy for the whole team.”
The junior middle blocker added the Mavericks weren’t going to let this one get away after failing to close out their last match Saturday at CSU-Pueblo, a five-game loss.
“After the last match, playing in Pueblo, we knew we couldn’t play like that again,” she said. “We play Maverick volleyball, which is all-out relentless. This game we came out really strong. We need to stay like that for all our other matches.”
Hess led the Mavericks (9-2, 2-1 RMAC) with 17 kills and a .519 attack percentage. Outside hitter Christian Otzen had 13 kills. Mesa hit .244 as a team.
“Our middles have been on fire,” CMU coach Dave Fleming said. “Both of them were in the top five in the RMAC in hitting percentage. We want to get them the ball. If we can establish the middle, it will open up the rest of our offense. Hess has been playing great all year. She got us out of some tough binds tonight.”
Hess credited her teammates.
“Being a middle and getting a lot of good swings like that is awesome,” Hess said. “I have so much pride in my team for giving me so many great passes and my setter for getting me great sets. They couldn’t get any balls I was hitting. It’s all thanks to my team.”
CMU’s Jordyn Moody had 48 assists, and Sunni Rae Baird had 20 digs.
Hannah Starbuck and Madi Bickle each had 11 kills to lead Fort Lewis (1-10, 1-2 RMAC). Central High School graduate Ashley Wells added 10 kills and 10 digs for the Skyhawks.
The Mavericks used the energy of their home opener to build a 9-2 lead, but that energy caused them to start missing once they settled into the match.
Fort Lewis went on a 10-0 run to take a 22-17 lead and closed out Game 1. Wells served during that run. Mesa had six attack errors during the stretch.
“It might have been the first match at home, that big adrenaline rush and coming down from that,” Fleming said of the collapse. “All it was was one person going back and serving us off the court.”
The Mavericks couldn’t shake Fort Lewis in the second game, but Mesa had an answer anytime the Skyhawks tried to put together a rally.
Hess led the Mavs in the second set with five kills. Erin Perez had three kills and a service ace.
“It helps a lot,” Hess said of playing at home. “I think we got down a little bit. I think we got comfortable. We knew we had to come back and fight harder and we couldn’t get down like that again. All the momentum from the second game really took on to the third and fourth.”
Mesa went on a 8-0 run early in the third game for a 17-7 lead. Hess had three kills during the run. Mesa closed it out 25-13.
Both teams battled to take control of the fourth game until Otzen, Audrey Steinkirchner and Hess combined for five kills to spark a 10-0 run for a 19-9 lead. Abby Ney threw in a service ace.
“Our pins (outside hitters) were struggling early,” Fleming said. “They were just tight and a little early on their approaches. That’s just finding a rhythm at home when you get the adrenaline flowing.”
Colorado Mesa plays Saturday at Western New Mexico University in Silver City, N.M. then returns home the next weekend against Adams State on Friday night and Western State on Saturday.