CMU, Colorado Christian battle in RMAC opener
One of the best defensive teams plays one of the best hitting teams in a must-win situation when Colorado Mesa hosts Colorado Christian in the first round of the RMAC tournament at 7 tonight at Brownson Arena.
Colorado Christian (19-10, 13-6 RMAC) is second in the RMAC with a .239 hitting percentage. Mesa (21-7, 13-6 RMAC) is first in the RMAC in hitting percentage defense at .142.
“(The Cougars) are a great team, but I’m excited to play them because of that,” CMU senior captain Sunni Rae Baird said. “I’m sure we’ll have super-long rallies, big swings and big digs. They’re pretty balanced.”
Baird, the libero, is a big reason for the Mavericks’ solid defense and success as team, CMU coach Dave Fleming said.
“I challenged Sunni earlier in the year and told her you’re not the best passing libero I’ve ever had,” Fleming said. “At the end of the day, you want them to get the most wins and she deserves a lot of credit for that. She’ll go down as one of the leading liberos in program history based on wins.”
Baird has more wins in a season than any libero in the program since Fleming took over in 2005.
Both teams are on the bubble for getting an at-large bid into the NCAA Division II tournament next week and need to win this match for a chance of getting into the tournament. Colorado Mesa is ranked eighth and Colorado Christian is 10th. Eight teams qualify for the tournament out of the South Central Region, made up of teams from the RMAC, Heartland and Lone Star conferences. The tournament champions from the three conferences get three of the eight bids.
“I’m amped,” Baird said. “I’m amped we get them at our house. I think that’s great for us. The best thing about the conference this year is anybody can be beat on any given day. If we play to the best of our ability we’ll come out with a W.”
Mesa, which ranks second in the RMAC in assists (13.07 per set), kills (14.21) and third in digs (17.37), is home because it won its final two home matches of the regular season last weekend, including a five-set win over New Mexico Highlands.
“(Last weekend) reminded us how we can fight,” Baird said. “When we’re good, we’re good. I think we needed that five-game match and learn from that and remember to love each other and fight through adversity.”
For the Mavericks to advance, they will have to beat Colorado Christian for the first time since 2008.
The Cougars have won the past four meetings with Mesa, going back to 2009. None of the current CMU players have beaten Colorado Christian. The Mavericks are 10-7 all-time against Colorado Christian.
“Since (Verlyn) Rosenthal has been there, they’ve been a tough match,” Fleming said. “I think it’s gone four or five games every time.”