Mavericks ready for the next test
Mesa volleyball team eager to face Lopers
Shortly after the Mesa State College volleyball team knocked off 18th-ranked Metro State last weekend in Denver, the joyful Mavericks turned their focus to fifth-ranked Nebraska-Kearney.
“We’re so ready for Kearney,” senior Ali Tompkins said. “You hear so much about them. When you play them, they are solid and always on. It’s not a roller coaster ride. We’re confident and ready to play them. Right after Metro’s win, we said we’re ready for Kearney. It’s going to be a great game.”
Mesa State (12-8, 10-1 RMAC) hosts Kearney (20-1, 11-0 RMAC) at 7 p.m. Friday at Brownson Arena. Chadron State (4-14, 4-7 RMAC) visits Mesa at 5 p.m. on Saturday.
Tompkins would never admit it, but she’s a big reason the Mavericks enter the matchup with Kearney with first place in the RMAC on the line.
“Ali plays all the way around for us,” Mesa State coach Dave Fleming said. “It’s a no-brainer, if she’s playing well, we’re playing well. I didn’t know Whitney (Howard) was going to get defender of the week. I told the girls Monday we may never get a player of the week, but I think we have the best defense of the teams I’ve seen in the RMAC. Ali’s a big part of that.”
Tompkins, an outside hitter, is third on the team in digs (162).
“They just come to me,” she said. “I’m not as good as Whitney and the girls that can read it. I’m lucky if I get a touch, but I like defense. When the block is there, those balls are the easiest. Our block was there this (past) weekend.”
She’s also a force on the attack. She is second on the team in kills (204).
“She’s as physically gifted as any outside hitter in the RMAC I’ve ever seen,” Fleming said. “She’s not always on, but she tends to find the right time to be on.”
She’s been on lately, with Mesa winning 11 of its past 12 matches, including sweeps of Regis, Colorado Christian and Metro State on the road last weekend.
“It was a huge win, both of them, Regis and Metro,” Fleming said. “If you told me we’d go to Denver and go 9-0, I’d tell you were crazy.
“I think we’re playing where I’ve always thought we should be playing. The way I look at it, we haven’t accomplished anything yet.
“Ten and one in the middle of the year is great, but it’s not where we want to be. What we accomplish is always going to be judged on what we do at the end of the year, but I’m real happy where we are and what we’ve accomplished so far.”
A big reason the Mavericks have turned around a slow start against some of the best nonconference competition in the nation is confidence.
“No one’s surprising us,” Fleming said. “We’ve seen really talented teams on the other side of the floor.
“When we go into Metro and Regis, it’s ‘All right, we’ve seen that before, there’s no need to panic.’ If you look at our RMAC players of the week, we’ve had five different kids listed. I think that speaks well for the balance on our team.”
What the Mavericks have done, though, has probably surprised many across the conference. Mesa was picked to finish seventh in the RMAC.
“Everybody’s looking at the RMAC standings surprised where we are, but there aren’t too many in this gym surprised,” Fleming said.
That includes Tompkins.
“Our whole team, everyone’s been playing a role on the team and I think it’s our team camaraderie,” Tompkins said. “We’re all friends. We hang out. We’re always together. It’s like we’ve been playing together for years.”