Former PHS star leads Mavericks in loss

Former Palisade volleyball standout Audrey Steinkirchner was nearly redshirted by Colorado Mesa University volleyball coach Dave Fleming.

He decided not to do it and reaped the benefits Thursday despite Grand Canyon University edging the Mavericks 25-20, 25-17, 20-25, 13-25, 21-19 in the first game of the Holiday Inn/Crossroads Fall Classic.

“She’s a shot changer. It’s impossible to hit around her,” Fleming said.

Steinkirchner had four blocks in her first home game as a Maverick and notched six kills.

“The first couple weeks were completely nerve-wracking, but after a game like this, you feel the love. Nothing gives you nerves,” Steinkirchner said.

CMU has an almost entirely new squad this year, after the 2011 squad ended with a 11-17 record. Games where the team fell behind are what separates this young squad from last year’s group, according to senior libero Megan Rush.

“This team has a totally different fight in them,” Rush said. “If this was last year’s team, going down 0-2 in a game like this, we would have been crushed. We would have handed it to them, rolled over. This team has a love for competition we couldn’t seem to find last year, and it really shows when we can come back and fight in the fifth game.”

Fleming said new additions such as Steinkirchner and sophomore transfer Casey Ball helped promote a new culture and allowed his staff to implement defensive changes for the program.

“It’s a different way we’ve approached it,” Fleming said. “We’ve really focused on team defense, and I think that shows. Megan does a great job leading that. She just does not let balls hit (the floor).

“We keep coming back to making things happen versus letting things happen. I think last year’s team would have let this game happen. I think Grand Canyon came out and punched hard, and we threw a pretty solid counter.”

Grand Canyon pulled away in the first game and never trailed in the second. But in the third game, the Mavericks started to find their rhythm, going up 13-3 and never looking back. Until the fifth game, the team who scored first won the game.

The Mavericks scored first in the fifth game and went up 3-0. But Grand Canyon chipped away, eventually tying the game 12-12, and taking the lead 19-18, before closing the final game.

CMU faces Fort Hays State at 7 p.m. today at Brownson Arena before playing two games Saturday to close out the tournament.


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