Loftsgard focused on keeping Mesa State volleyball aloft
As the serve goes up, one thought races through Ashley Loftsgard’s mind.
As the Mesa State College volleyball team’s libero, she’s the Mavericks’ “first contact” designee. She takes that job seriously.
“Get every ball up, touch every ball, nothing touches the ground,” Loftsgard said of her position. “It’s kind of a challenge between their hitter and me. ‘What can you bring? You can’t get anything by me, I’m going to get everything up.’ ”
When the ball is in the air, Loftsgard, who, along with middle blocker Jessica Bird, plays the final home matches of her career this weekend, has a one-track mind.
She’s so focused on the ball, nothing gets in her way. She’s gone into the stands, the team bench, the scoring table … and a couple of weeks ago, she bowled over a line judge at CU-Colorado Springs.
“There was a ball their outside hit and I think Ali (Tompkins) dug it on the back side,” Loftsgard said. “They have a basketball hoop over the floor because they have such a small gym. It hit the top (of the backboard) and I went to follow it. It came down, but it changed directions, so when I went to change direction the line judge couldn’t get out of the way in time and I didn’t know she was there.
“She kind of caught my foot and I hit her and I just rolled. … It knocked me a little goofy for a little bit but I’m all right now.
“Unfortunately, she happened to get between me and the ball, and that’s not a good place to be.”
Loftsgard has only seven kills in her career. That’s OK with her — she enters this weekend with 1,492 digs, including an RMAC-leading 677 her sophomore season, taking pride in confounding opposing teams’ hitters.
The Mavericks (11-11, 9-6 RMAC) play Western State (9-15, 8-8 RMAC) tonight and Fort Lewis (16-8, 11-5 RMAC) on Saturday, still with a shot to win the RMAC West Division.
Loftsgard was a defensive specialist at Middle Park High School in Granby and moved to libero at Mesa State when the NCAA added the position. Her freshman season she backed up Kehau Rigador, then won the starting job as a sophomore.
The Mavs know with Loftsgard in the back row, the chances of the serve being passed to setter Tara King, allowing them to get into their attack, are about as good as they get.
Over her career, 95 percent of all serves she’s taken (2,638) have been passed successfully.
“That’s what she’s out there for,” Mesa State coach Dave Fleming said. “We want her to get her hands on as many balls as she can and she does a good job with that.”
Loftsgard admits she’s sometimes too much of a perfectionist and knows she doesn’t have to take every serve, but digging up ball after ball is her way to help the Mavs.
“I believe if I can take that first ball I can relieve Ali or Bria (Gabrielle Lovato) to go hit so it doesn’t take them out of the offense,” she said. “They can release to their approach. If I can help them out it’ll hopefully cause
a ripple effect.”
And when she digs up an attack from the opponent’s top hitter?
“It’s an adrenaline rush,” she admitted. “To have a hitter go up and hit a ball and think it’s going to go down ... not today. It gives me such a rush.”
She enjoys it when people ask her about the libero position and when little girls ask why her uniform is different than her teammates.
And she wouldn’t trade that different jersey for anything.
“It’s just been a fun position. I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” she said. “I’d rather be 5-5 and not touch the front row instead of 6-4 and jumping every day.”
The Mavs’ little libero will be chasing down every serve, every attack the rest of the season, no matter who or what is in her way.
“It’s just my ball,” she said. “My ball.”