Mavs fall to Mines in RMAC

GOLDEN — Colorado Mesa University’s volleyball team came into Tuesday night’s RMAC tournament contest at No. 12 Colorado School of Mines playing with nothing to lose.

It showed in the first set of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference quarterfinal, as the eighth-seeded Mavericks led 21-20, forcing top-seeded CSM to call a timeout.

That’s when the momentum shifted. Mines senior Jackie Stabell started a five-point swing with a thunderous kill, and the Orediggers went on to take the set and eventually the match with a 25-21, 25-22, 25-19 victory at Lockridge Arena.

Colorado Mesa coach Dave Fleming said once his players realized they were in the match, they began to tighten up.

“I think that hurt us and I think that’s kind of right where the point where it was ‘hey, wait a minute, we’re competing with them,’ ” Fleming said. “I think we just paused right there instead of sticking a dagger in their heart; and they answered, too.”

Mines (24-5), the RMAC regular-season champions, earned the right to host this weekend’s tournament semifinals and championship. The Mavericks (17-11), who won their last four matches to qualify for the tournament, had hoped to keep that momentum going but struggled to recover after dropping the opening set.

“Definitely having the four-game winning streak boosted our confidence,” said CMU sophomore Melissa Hess, who tallied a match-high 12 kills. “Coming in here we knew they were going to be a good team, it was going to be a good game and it was going to be a hard team to beat. But everyone came in here with the right mind-set;  we just lost it.”

Freshman Christian Otzen had 10 kills and eight digs for Colorado Mesa. Megan Rush had 16 digs and Tiffany Petersen added 10, and Jordyn Moody led the way with 28 assists.

Stabell, who earlier in the day was selected the RMAC Player of the Year, led Mines with 10 kills despite the Mavericks doing a good job containing for much of the evening at the net. Middle blockers Melanie Wannamaker and Holly Hutchison combined for 16 kills.

“We definitely knew that she was a good hitter and she was going to come out swinging. We knew that she just wasn’t going to crumble,” Hess said of Stabell.

“We had to honor her and the middle at the same time, and the middles did a very good job. It was very difficult to block both of them.”

The Mavericks fell behind by five points midway through the second set before battling back behind the play of Kelly Regimbal to tie the score at 16-16. The Orediggers recovered, eventually going up 24-19 before CMU fought off set point three times. A combined block from Hutchison and Danielle Johnson-Hazlewood, though, on a kill attempt by Otzen ended the comeback bid.

Colorado Mesa stayed in range of the Orediggers for much of the third set, but on match point, Hess’ kill attempt went long.

Rush, a second-team all-RMAC selection, will graduate along with Regimbal, Rachael Beaty and Krista Ubersox.

Fleming said it will be tough to replace the four seniors, who he called “the rocks” when the team bounced back from a seven-match conference losing streak.

The core of the team will return, though, including Otzen, who led the Mavericks with 271 kills this fall. Hess and Abby Ney will be back in the middle, with Moody also returning at setter.

“We’re getting a lot of revenge. We’re getting Casey (Ball) back (from a knee injury) and that’s going to be a huge help for us,” Hess said. “We’re still going to be pretty young.”

All-RMAC

Libero Megan Rush was the only Maverick to make the all-conference team, announced Tuesday.

The senior from Chandler, Ariz., made the second team, wrapping up her career with 1,409 digs, 514 this season.

Mines’ Jackie Stabell was selected the Player of the Year, with Nikki Kinzer of CU-Colorado Springs the Defensive Player of the year, Adams State’s Gabrielle Rifilato the Setter of the Year and Colorado Christian’s Taylor Sturms the Freshman of the Year. The Orediggers’ Jamie Skadeland is the Coach of the Year.

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