Back on the attack
Mavs sweep Fort Lewis, close in on tourney bid
They understood the stakes, had four seniors determined not to lose the final home match of their careers, and they were fed up with that blasted losing streak.
So, the Colorado Mesa University volleyball players did something Tuesday night they hadn’t done in a while. They won.
The Mavericks ended a seven-match losing streak by beating Fort Lewis College 28-26, 25-14, 25-18 at Brownson Arena and gained a firm grasp on the final playoff spot in the upcoming RMAC tournament against the team vying to take it from them.
Now, the Mavericks (14-10, 8-8 RMAC) lead the Skyhawks (10-14, 6-10) by two matches in the standings with three matches remaining.
Although Colorado Mesa no doubt needed a win to stem the mounting frustration and raise their spirits going forward, the Mavericks didn’t lack confidence.
“Before the game, we knew we were going to win, and we knew we were going to win in three,” said senior right-side hitter Kelly Regimbal, who matched freshman middle hitter Abby Ney with a team-high nine kills. “We feel like we’re back. I think we finally found our confidence again and the mind-set of knowing we’re going to win instead of hoping.”
Colorado Mesa coach Dave Fleming saw it, too. His players had a different mentality than the one that pervaded the past three weeks.
“I think in previous matches we were hoping it would happen,” he said. “Tonight we made it happen.”
The Mavericks took control of game 1 with Rachael Beaty delivering kills to put them ahead 17-12 and 20-14, the latter leading Fort Lewis to call a timeout. Then, Melissa Hess, back in action after missing two weeks with an ankle injury, found an opening in the middle of the Fort Lewis side for a kill and 24-19 lead.
What happened next was frightening for a team that could have lamented: Here we go again. Fort Lewis rallied to take a 25-24 lead, but a kill by Ney evened the score, and the Mavericks eventually put away the Skyhawks with consecutive kills by Regimbal and Haleigh Higgins, also back from an ankle injury.
Regimbal spoke of Colorado Mesa understanding all it takes to turn things around in those tough situations is one ball.
“We ended up getting that and finishing,” she said.
Games 2 and 3 were absent such drama.
The serving of freshman Christian Otzen and two kills by Regimbal fueled a four-point burst to an 11-3 lead. The Mavericks moved ahead by double digits at 17-7, and a textbook set and swing — Jordyn Moody placed her pass perfectly for Ney’s attack in the middle — put Colorado Mesa up 19-9.
The game ended on a pair of kills by Audrey Steinkirchner, a freshman from Palisade. After her first swing was dug up by Fort Lewis, she was set up again and put it down for the 24th point. She then blasted a pass into a Skyhawks’ block for the game point.
Fleming lauded Steinkirchner’s kills to close game 2, saying that’s the way the Mavericks want to close games — they made the point happen rather than their opponent making a mistake.
Game 3 was similar to the second game, and for all of the power Regimbal displayed on her swings all night, she crossed up Fort Lewis with a little finesse on the right side, tipping a ball to an opening down the line for 23-16 lead.
Four serves later, a more common occurrence ended the match: the senior tandem of Regimbal and Beaty teamed up on a block.
“Not only was it our last home match, but this was pretty much the determiner of the rest of the season,” Regimbal said, referring to the likelihood the Mavericks will play in the RMAC tourney. “Had it gone the other way, I would’ve been devastated. I’m glad everyone stepped up and did their job tonight.
“Everyone just played the way they normally play, and everyone played relaxed ... and had that confidence.”