Mavs can’t find spark in five-game loss to Metro

The right combination was out there somewhere, but Mesa State College volleyball coach Dave Fleming sure couldn’t find it.

He tried a different lineup in each game Friday night, searching for an elusive spark.

The spark flickered long enough to push the RMAC match against Metro State to five games at Brownson Arena, but in the fifth, it went out again in a 25-16, 25-23, 16-25, 17-25, 15-6 loss to the Roadrunners.

“That’s one of the things we talked about (after the match), you have to want to bring it from zero-zero,” Fleming said.

“We’ve been in a lull since Adams State and Colorado Christian, and we didn’t play that well against Pueblo. But then you see how well we play when we do bring it.”

Mesa State (8-7, 6-2 RMAC) made error after error, mainly on the defensive side, thanks to some tough serving early by Metro State libero Amy Watanabe, who uses an unorthodox running serve that went every which way except the way the Mavs expected.

It had the Mavs’ all-conference libero, Ashley Loftsgard, and their defensive specialist, Meredith Dolny, lunging at balls.

Even when Watanabe wasn’t serving, the Mavs’ passing was anything but sharp, which didn’t allow them to get into any kind of attack.

“The first ball sideout, the first three touches when they’re serving, it doesn’t have to be a kill, but you can’t have errors,” Fleming said.

After dropping the first two games, the Mavs regrouped behind some great serving of their own, namely Gabrielle Lovato, who recorded 10 aces, bullets that caromed off the Roadrunners into the stands and had the crowd of 518 whooping every time she stepped to the line.

As for her serving style, it’s pretty simple: “Just hit it as hard as I can,” Lovato said.

The fourth game was where Lovato was at her best. After Loftsgard served seven straight points for a 7-1 lead, the
Mavs kept building the lead. A kill by Antoinette McCormick made it 10-4 and gave the Mavs the serve.

Lovato served three straight aces, the first knocking Bri Morley back a step, the second bouncing off Ngoc Phan, who hit the floor trying to receive the ball, and the third caroming off Morley into the stands.

With the Mavs up 13-4, Metro called time, and, as often happens in volleyball, Lovato’s next serve sailed long.

Still, the Mavs stayed on the attack and evened the match, with Lovato serving two more aces, one that hit just in front of the baseline and another that bounced into the stands.

King had a solo block to get it to game point, but the Roadrunners fought off four before Alisan Tompkins recorded one of her two kills of the match.

Metro State, though, built a quick 9-4 lead before Lovato could get to the line, and the Roadrunners were able to get her serve in play and scored on it, then won five of the next seven points to finish it off.

“The two things that stick out to me are (Metro’s) .429 (hitting efficiency) in Game 5 and .387 in Game 2,” Fleming said. “We’ve got to take things away from them, which means we have to block well and we have to defend well.

Three-eighty-seven and .429 isn’t going to beat anybody. That’s the bottom line.”


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