Bird, Mesa quiet talk from Western with VB victory

PHOTO BY DANIELLE STOMBERG—Mesa State’s Jessica Bird spikes the ball as two Western State players try to block the ball during Friday night’s game at Brownsen Arena.



And you thought the Mesa State-Western State rivalry was reserved for the football and basketball teams.

Nope. In-your-face volleyball was in order Friday night at Brownson Arena, and Jessica Bird wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It felt like the first two games were really comfortable,” the senior middle blocker said after the Mavericks’ 25-16, 25-18, 25-27, 25-22 victory. “That third game they got in our heads and that fourth game was just that really intense battle. Those are the best, especially when you win them.”

The Mavericks (12-11, 10-6 RMAC) were in control the first two games, making only two hitting errors in the first and five in the second. About the only errors the Mavericks were making were at the service line — they had a dozen service errors in the match — but Western State, too, was having problems serving, with seven errors.

But with the balanced attack of Bird, Gabrielle Lovato, Alisan Tompkins and Tessa Andrews, the
Mountaineers never knew where to focus their block.

They did get their share, with one solo block and seven more on double blocks, and when they stuffed a Mesa State attack, they let the Mavs know about it.

“They were talking,” Bird said. “It was intense, but I like that.”

In the fourth game, after a Mesa State timeout, Bird responded to the talk, taking a long pass over the net and slamming it straight down to tie the game at 17-17.

Corinne Cascioppo, who made her first appearance in the fourth game, had a couple of kills, one on another long pass, for a 20-18 lead.

Andrews recorded a kill and Lindsey Jefferson had a solo block for a 22-20 lead that really got the Mavericks fired up. Western came back to tie it at 22-22 with a double block on Lovato, who came right back and scored on the next point, hitting through a double block for a 23-22 lead.

Andrews blocked Western’s Jamie Hamsa on the next point to give the Mavs match point — their first of the game, but third of the match — and unlike in Game 3, the Mavs didn’t waste the opportunity.

With Mesa’s senior libero Ashley Loftsgard on the serving line, the Mountaineers set up an attack for Erin Osleson, but it was rejected by Lovato.

“That was very nice,” Lovato said of the final point. “We just kept playing and ended up coming back. We have confidence in ourselves and our teammates. We started working as a team and got the win.”

Western’s defense braced itself against Lovato’s hard-driving jump serve, allowing her only two aces, but couldn’t stop her attack, and the left-handed hitting Andrews was a big weapon on the right side. Lovato and
Bird had 14 kills each, Tompkins had 13 and Andrews 12.

“I have a good problem with this team,” Fleming said. “Meagan (Bosch) is coming back from an injury and Tessa has filled her shoes and isn’t giving Meagan her spot back.

“I’ve got Bria and Corinne and Ali (on the outside), and Brittany (Benningsdorf) was available tonight for the first time. We’ve got good problems at the end of the year.”

Fleming liked the way his team responded after Western fought off two match points in the third game to extend the match.

“I told them the scoreboard shouldn’t change what we are as volleyball players,” he said. “Hopefully we learned that lesson tonight. When we play in a good rhythm, we play well. That starts with our defense. We set the tone tonight with what we did on defense.

“When it’s 20-all in the third, it shouldn’t change what we are, and it did a little bit tonight, but the kids made nice adjustments in Game 4.”

And he liked how they responded when things got intense.

“It’s Western State-Mesa State. To me, that’s fun,” he said. “It can get overboard and I don’t think Western got overboard at all. It just adds to the rivalry. Those matches are more fun to win.”


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